When Hurricane Isaac hit the Gulf Coast, As the NAACP Environmental Justice Youth Ambassador for Michigan, I volunteered with Red Cross and helped put together an action plan that bridged a partnership that has been in the process of development for years. Past events have shown African American communities are disproportionately and increasingly at significant economic, political, and social risks during disasters. With Climate change resulting in an increase in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, communities of color are often injured, displaced, and criminalized in disaster situations. As a result, other members of NAACP and the National Headquarter Staff became active partners in the Red Cross disaster response management to Hurricane Isaac.
“It is imperative that NAACP continue to empower and educate communities of color to contribute to the design, implementation, and evaluation of emergency management through working for agencies such as Red Cross and even running for city council or other local, state and national governance structures where policies are made around preparedness, response, and relief.” – Dorthea E. Thomas
According to the NAACP, we are less likely to be prepared for disasters than White Americans. In my experience as a partner, I canvassed neighborhoods flooded by Hurricane Isaac to identify possible service gaps. While there will always remain room for improvement, our partnership ensured that NAACP members will no longer be left out in recovery efforts and will have received training that is consistent with other volunteers from across the country.“I envision the Red Cross and the NAACP to continue as partners in activating services to impacted neighborhoods. I also want to see us get together after each event to critique the strengths and weaknesses of the response.” said NAACP Region V Director Kevin Myles. To date, over 300 NAACP members participated in eight to ten sessions of training in Red Cross procedures for disaster relief.
It’s impossible for one organization to handle all issues that arise in the case of disaster. Unfortunately, when disasters strike we are reminded that environmental and climate injustice exist and the racism and discrimination we have seen and lived through does not eventually fade away like the impacts of a storm. The NAACP and Red Cross together is determined to advocate even more diligently in these situations to make sure that communities of color concerns are addressed and resources are distributed fairly and equitably until lives are restored. “To provide better service delivery for those affected, we are working in partnership with other organizations which can help in these large relief responses.” said Charley Shimanski, Senior Vice president of Red Cross Disaster Services. Some of the partners included AmeriCorps, Islamic Relief USA, and the National Baptist Convention. Members of the NAACP leadership were deployed to both Louisiana and Mississippi to canvass neighborhoods to address civil and human rights violations.