One Year Later – What Oil Spill?

April 11th, 2011 | Uncategorized |

Next week we will commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and BP oil spill, a disaster that killed 11 men and devastated the environment and economy of the Gulf Coast. We’ll feature daily blog posts from faith leaders across the Gulf Coast and across the country on After the Spill throughout the week, so check back often for reflections and calls to action.

However, today I’m struck by two recent New Orleans Times-Picayune articles, both of which express the enormous frustration of Gulf residents at the government, the oil industry and all Americans for our failed response to the spill. The staff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune got it right in their recent piece: “A year after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Congress has done virtually nothing to address the issues raised by the oil spill — from industry liability limits, to regulatory reform, to coastal restoration, to broader issues of energy policy.” (more…)

Call for letters from the Gulf

March 7th, 2011 | Uncategorized |

Bridge the Gulf, a storytelling initiative focused on economic and environmental justice for the communities of the Gulf Coast, is currently collecting testimonial letters to be delivered during an upcoming series of meetings with congressional leaders. Delegates will hand distribute all letters to federal entities and leaders, and a sampling from each category will be posted online for public viewing.

Faith voices are important to this conversation, and we hope faith leaders across and beyond the Gulf Coast will submit one page letters about their experiences with the oil spill and its long-term impacts. Suggested topics include the impacts of dispersants, the claims process and media coverage of the spill. Letters must be submitted by email by  this Friday, March 11.

For more information about the project and the process, visit Bridge the Gulf’s Call for Letters page.

Gulf Coast Fund Grantees and Advisors Site Urgent Need for Health Care

January 19th, 2011 | Uncategorized |

(originally posted on BPSlick)

Communities Report Growing Health Crisis Among Residents

January 13, 2011 (New Orleans) -  On Wednesday, January 12, community leaders from across the Gulf Coast attended a public hearing on the National Oil Spill Commission’s final report. The meeting was led by report Commissioners Frances Beinecke and Donald Boesch.

(photo from Bridge the Gulf)

“The key concern expressed by the community in response to the report is the overwhelming need for access to health care. Over and over, people exposed to crude and dispersants from the drilling disaster told stories of serious health issues–from high levels of ethylbenzene in their blood, to respiratory ailments and internal bleeding—and expressed an urgent need for access to doctors who have experience treating chemical exposure,” states LaTosha Brown, Director, Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health. The Gulf Coast Fund provides grants and support to over 250 community organizations in order to create a healthy and sustainable Gulf Coast. (more…)

Housing Action Tomorrow!

January 7th, 2011 | Uncategorized |

by Denise Graves, MICAH Project Organizer

On Saturday, January 8, the MICAH Project – the New Orleans chapter of the national interfaith community organizing effort PICO – joins with the New St. Mark Baptist Church in New Orleans for a Community Action on affordable housing, blight elimination and securing Community Benefits Agreements from area development projects.

The action focuses attention on families in central city and throughout New Orleans who are rendered house-poor because the majority of their money goes toward rent and mortgage costs. The grassroots leadership at New St. Mark have met with rental advocacy groups, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), planners, housing counselors, and the city, and a meeting with the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) is pending.  We have conducted congregational surveys and face to face conversations that we call one-to-ones.  Our learnings have produced three desired outcomes:

  1. bring resolution to 15 blighted properties around the church
  2. provide grassroots education, counseling and economic relief to families
  3. encourage and hold developers accountable for including the project community in employment, vendor usage and surrounding community beautification. (more…)

Unsung Heroes of the Oil Disaster

December 21st, 2010 | Uncategorized |

Wildlife Promise, the blog of the National Wildlife Federation, recently posted a list of their top 10 unsung heroes of the BP oil spill disaster as their “small way of saying thanks to these friends of Gulf Coast’s people and wildlife.” The list includes fishermen and newspaper reporters who became critical  Gulf Coast advocates, a high school student who organized a concert to raise over $5,000 for restoration, and even celebrity Alyssa Milano – an unexpected activist for the Gulf!

We’re proud of our friend and colleague Patty Whitney, an organizer with Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO) in south Louisiana, for her appearance on the list. For the full list – and to learn more about how you can be a Gulf Coast hero – visit Wildlife Promise.

Bridging Troubled Waters in the Gulf

December 15th, 2010 | Uncategorized |

The disasters in the Gulf – from Hurricane Katrina to the oil spill – threaten to drive communities apart as environmental and economic situations deteriorate and anxiety about the future rises. Yet, sometimes these tragedies bring communities together, even those that have not historically worked side by side. That is the story of an Orthodox and Reform Jewish community in New Orleans, who have been sharing common space since one congregation lost their building in the storm.

Through sharing space, they share religious teachings and traditions, build stronger community, and begin to become “apostles of pluralism,” says one of the rabbis involved.

As a recent article on the partnership explains, “The tale of how Orthodox and Reform communities came to plan their future together is one that combines fate, compassion and the most unlikely of warm relationships between the Orthodox and Reform rabbis at the helm of their respective congregations.”

The New York Jewish Week recently covered their inspiring story, and it’s one we are happy to share as we build partnerships throughout the faith community, within and beyond the Gulf Coast.

Wrap Up: The Big E.A.S.Y.

December 10th, 2010 | Uncategorized |

By Sarah Arnold , participant in the The Big EASY: A Jewish Teen Summit on the Environment, from Memphis, TN

On Monday (November 8) the teen participants in The Big EASY: A Jewish Teen Summit on the Environment, offered by the PANIM Institute of BBYO, participated in Volunteer NOLA with all of the participants of the JFNA’s (Jewish Federation of North America) General Assembly. The teens participated with Beacon of Hope for their service project.  Below is a reflection on their service.

While ripping through what seemed to be a jungle full of weeds, we discovered a sidewalk. Finding a sidewalk may not seem like a big deal to most, but discovering this recognizable, everyday landmark while cleaning up an empty lot we realized that the lot used to have a home that was destroyed by hurricane Katrina.

This find reminded me and the group of teens I was with that this lot used to be someone’s home. That’s when we realized that the hundreds of lots around us were all once people’s homes and that the largest vacant lot in the area used to be a school where all the neighborhood kids attended. We were cleaning the lots so that the neighborhood in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans would be safer for these kids and their parents. (more…)

Stories from the Gulf

December 9th, 2010 | Uncategorized |

People instinctively respond to images and to personal stories that they can relate to. One of the biggest challenges in mobilizing a response to the BP oil spill has been the lack of ubiquitous and accessible images of people impacted the spill. As a recent interfaith op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel explained, “we rarely see images of the damage that will last even longer than the effects of oil on wildlife: communities teeming with people whose primary ‘feathers’ have also been clipped — steady income, physical and mental health, and food security. A bird drenched in oil conveys a clear message, but it is more difficult to capture the human aspect of the Gulf Coast oil spill.”

But the images and the stories are there, and our partners in the Gulf Coast are doing their best to capture them and use these images and video to send a clear message: the oil spill disaster is not over. That’s why we incorporated a Multimedia feature into After the Spill from the start, and why we consistently update the page with new material. The page features incredible video produced by the Bridge the Gulf project, the Gulf Restoration Network, and so many other Gulf Coast advocates and activists. (more…)

Reflections on the Big E.A.S.Y.

December 8th, 2010 | Uncategorized |

By Leah Marcone, participant in the The Big EASY: A Jewish Teen Summit on the Environment, from Pittsburgh, PA

This entry is a reflection on The Big EASY: A Jewish Teen Summit on the Environment, offered by the PANIM Institute of BBYO. The PANIM Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values empowers Jewish teens to a lifetime of activism, leadership and service, creating a movement of young activists ready to take on the challenges facing society and the Jewish community. For more information, contact Carly Lundy at BBYO.

I arrived at New Orleans two days ago, November 7, 2010. At first I was not sure what to expect, but that soon changed. After hanging around in the airport waiting for everyone to arrive, we went to the hotel. I was a bit nervous because I was seated with people I had never talked to, that also quickly changed. I specifically bonded with two girls from Dallas, Texas. Later that day I got to hear Vice President Joe Biden speak at the GA (General Assembly). We were the first teens to ever attend the GA. (more…)

Teen Reflection on Service and Advocacy

December 6th, 2010 | Uncategorized |

By Jeremy Sherman, International President, Aleph Zadik Aleph (the young men’s division of BBYO) .  Sherman deferred his first year of college to spend the year assisting Jewish high school students in creating dynamic programming; modeling leadership; representing teens at major communal gatherings; and encouraging involvement in the broad spectrum of Jewish life and activities.  He will attend Washington University in St. Louis next year.

This entry is a reflection on The Big EASY: A Jewish Teen Summit on the Environment, offered by the PANIM Institute of BBYO. The PANIM Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values empowers Jewish teens to a lifetime of activism, leadership and service, creating a movement of young activists ready to take on the challenges facing society and the Jewish community. For more information, contact Carly Lundy at BBYO.

As the International Co-President of BBYO, Jewish values inform the work that I do all the time, but when I have the opportunity to be with a group of like-minded teens the effort is magnified manifold.  I recently had the opportunity to attend the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in New Orleans. Running parallel to the GA, the PANIM Institute of BBYO hosted The Big EASY: A Jewish Teen Summit on the Environment for teens across North America.  As a participant of both programs in the two and a half days in New Orleans I learned, I served and grew my leadership and returned home with an invigorated optimism for the Jewish future.

We joined all of the GA attendees for Volunteer NOLA, a community service program organized by the JFNA in the Lower 9th Ward. The Lower 9th Ward was the area hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and although it’s been nearly five years since the hurricane, the area is still in much need of attention and assistance.  I worked with my peers to prune, cut down and clean up an overgrown plot of land.  About halfway through the clean up process, my group uncovered a sidewalk underneath all the weeds.   It was at that moment that I realized that a family once lived on the lot I was helping clean.  While it was certainly sad to realize that a house had once stood where I was standing, it was a good feeling knowing I was hopefully clearing the way for future families and the future of the Lower 9th Ward. (more…)