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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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On Trouble the Water, about Katrina

My wife and I just viewed the documentary, Trouble the Water, which follows the story of a young couple in their 20s from the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans who were unable to effect an evacuation prior to Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005. It was a pretty moving story, shot mainly on camcorder by the wife of the couple, Kimberly Rivers Roberts, who's also an aspiring rapper, of all things.


The film brought to the surface many important themes related to the displacement of the Louisiana National Guard to Iraq and the fighting of the so-called War On Terror when there was so much of a greater need for domestic help on US soil, and the egregious mistreatment and lack of disaster support both during and after the storm of the residents who hadn't the means to evacuate the city. I find it impossible to believe that if the worst-affected areas from the broken levees were affluent, white neighbourhoods, that those areas would have been left so sorely neglected for so long. In short, I was deeply moved by the racist undertones (nay, overtones!) of this reality.

One of the take-home messages from the film is clearly to become more involved in your own community. I took this to heart, and it made me think once again of the impoverished black communities just minutes from me of Cherry Brook, North Preston, and the like. In the 1960s, when the City of Halifax built a second toll-bridge to span the harbour between Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, they forcibly displaced the black residents of the Halifax harbourside community of "Africville" to these other communities far east of Dartmouth, probably 30 km away and well out of sight of the city of Halifax proper. When I drove through these communities out of interest a couple years ago, it nearly broke my heart to see how run-down the houses and infrastructure were there, and how little awareness there is about the condition of those properties in the general population of Halifax. You can call it White Man's Guilt, but I felt compelled to try to do something, anything, to try to alleviate the suffering and poverty out there.

I still haven't figured out anything meaningful to do other than make some cash donations to a couple of the local community associations in that area. Viewing Trouble The Water made me reconsider that arms-length involvement though, and made me wonder if there wasn't something more hands-on that I could do, if possible. I'll think about it some more.