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tv   America Tonight  Al Jazeera  August 29, 2015 9:00pm-9:31pm EDT

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>> these bricks did not the collapse in the storm. these bricks did not collapses in the flood? >> no. no. the narrative that these were katrinaed is false. >> i said click, click. i said, okay. i am getting in the truck. >> what was going through your mind when they said, hey, everybody: we are going to utah?
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>> we remember the images of the lives and the homes lost in communities like this one. the lower ninth ward. survivors e, extend families, whole communities were forced out by the flood waters. after the storm, you will recall that there were promises to rebuild, vows to help, and yet, 10 years on, we found that some of the people who were at the heart of new orleans are industrial struggling to get home. >> out the door. if i don't see anybody that i know, i have to walk all the way to manhattan to catch the bus. if i don't have no cab fare, i walk down. it takes me like 45mins. >> the journey is a long one for
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carlene billy. her daily commute begins with a two-mile walk through jefferson parish across the mississippi from new orleans, it takes her as far as the bus stop. a 20 minute ride gets her across the river. >> then once i get off of that bus, i have to walk a block and a half or two blocks to get to the next bus. >> the commute feels like a job, itself. in a car, this would be a 15 minute trip, but carlene billy doesn't have a car, can't afford one. instead, it takes up to two hours each way. it costs 6.50 a day just to get to and from a job that pays only $8 an hour. the tulane university cafeteria but to carlene billy, it's worth it. >> i love it city because this is where i was born.
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this is where i was raised. this is all i know. >> it's where she would have stayed had it not been forces katrina. >> everybody was put in different places, separated from their families. some people didn't know where their family was or their children. it just was just crazy. >> after evacuating the city, bilk made it back to louisiana in 2006, but 10 years after the storm, carlene billy still can't afford to move back into the city she loves. >> it is very hard to find a house. all of the houses that's been renovated, all done over, they want to hire their places. the rent is high. me coming up with that kind of money all at one time, i am just a single family it's hard. >> after the storm, billy's home at the b.w. cooper housing development, what locals called
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calio was razeked along with three other housing projects in the city. >> these are the big ones called the bricks. they were built in the 1940s. solid construction. >> these things have been around. >> journalists roberta grants chronicles it. we are still here, you bastards. how the people of new orleans rebuilt their city. she said katrina didn't destroy public housing. politics did. >> these bricks did not collapse in the storm. these did not collapse in the flood? >> no. we have to make sure people understand that the narrative that these were katrinaed is false. they were taken down because this was one of those katrina opportunities to take a public as est and privatize it into a
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privately developed government funded asset. it would never have been possible without katrina. politically, the city could never have emptied out four major housing projects. >> it was a clean sweep? >> it was a clean sweep. >> she says leaders seized the opportunity to eliminate big developments and add privatized public housing displacing thousands of poor people. >> this is out of sight, out of mind, dispersing a population. we are very close to the downtown. this is important real estate. >> of course, there is alternates that needs to be done. it's a 300 -- took 300 years. >> new orleans native greg fortner acknowledge demolishing the big four housing projects is part of a national trend against giant low-income developments. >> did the city mean for it to be a clean sweep of the public
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housing? >> i don't know if you can call it a clean sweep. the objective was to give people affordable housing opportunities. >> even if it meant breaking apart neighborhoods that have existed for decades. >> it wasn't breaking apart a neighborhood. it was breaking apart -- it was changing a complex. the face of that complex, the income. the fact is you can't sustain 100% public housing. there is no way it can be done. >> fortner points out the new orleans projects are among the nation's oldest federally funded developments built in the 1940s, they were in jeopardy even before katrina. >> would those units have been taken down even if katrina hadn't happened? >> i would guess there was a plan to do some redevelop in those areas because the housing style was becoming antiquated. it was a housing style that could not be maintained. that's why it fell into such disrare. there were plans to redevelop your housing stock. katrina accelerated the funding for that.
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>> donna jonigan lived in the projects and was on the resident board. she said some of the bricks were in bad shape. >> it was a big side but you had more problems over there, sewage, lighting, so people were in danger anywhere. if it wasn't for the crime, it was from the fact that the way everything was deteriorating mold, mildew. >> post katrina, they have been replaced with new, modern, energy-efficient units built in mixed-income developments. >> it's much nicer because it came with the washer and dryer, stove refrigerator, carpet, ceiling fans. you know, just a little bit better than what was in public housing in a way. >> but there aren't enough. before katrina more than 5,000 families lived there. today, less than 2,000 do. we wanted to be a part of that and let us decide, yes, we want to change, but let's work
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through the change instead of making everybody homeless at one time. >> jonigan is happy the told billions are gone but frustrated that residents have little say in any of the changes. >> the housing authority doesn't intend to replace all of the sglunts demolished after katrina, instead giving section viii vouchers to be used with private landlords. the number of repeaters on the program has doubled to 18,000. using the vouchers isn't always easy. >> a lot of them are like infested with roaches or rat infestation, raccoon infestations. a lot of times the landlords are not willing to pay professionals to get rid of the problem. >> monique davis has had vouchers for nearly a year but unable to find a decent apparently. she and her son moved in to a
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cheap motel outside the city . >> i am currently on the highway in east new orleans. we are basically all of the motels are. >> with rents in the city rising faster than wages, davis doubts she will be able to find a better spot. >> most people cannot afford the rents value on the property, whether it's fair market or section viii in this city because we don't make that kind of money. it's just ridiculous. it's ridiculous. it makes you feel like you cannot get ahead. you cannot be stable and maintain to become what they want you to be which is self-sufficient. >> author roberta grat said that sundayscores the financial challenge facing low and middle income residents even as the city's economy again blooms. >> what it is really doing is just purring people in to already marginal neighborhood did and in many cases, pushing them further in to the blight
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condition. >> some people gave up trying to get back. they just staying where they are and dealing with the situation. but i am still trying. i am still trying it is as carlene knows a long journey back for the city she knows and her own dream of finally, going home. >> next, a fresh start: the evacuees who chose to started over in some of the least likely places.
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>> it can be hard to think of home when home is washed away. by the official count, new orleans today is pretty close to its original population, about
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400,000 people although among current residents, many are newcomers. after the storm, it seems many of those even some who were forced to leave their home against their will, were able to find a silver lining far away. our special correspondent soledad o'brien with a look at their new lives. >> what was it like to get here? look at this view. this is not new orleans. >> this is breathtaking. when we first came, we got here at night. >> morning, you were able to look and see all of this. wow. many people never saw a mountain before. >> earnest tim commons never imagined ehe would end up here from the flood-ravaged bayou to the dessert. >> wow. get up and see camp william, not knowing where i was, what's going to happen. i didn't know where i was going from here. >> in the dead of night >> dimmons and at least 600 other evacuees were brought to
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this military installation 25 miles from salt lake city. in his hometown of new orleans, hurricane katrina, one of the worst flooding disasters in u.s. history had wreaked havoc. flood waters were rising, homes were submerged. officials had all but lost control of the situation. >> water was rushing so fast it covered the stove in a matter of seconds. container cars in the back of my mother's house, slamming. it was like, okay. the end of the world is here. the wind was blowing. it was whistling. >> before the storm, tim commons was listen of living with his mother. he said he planned to ride out the hurricane. he stocked up on food and water. >> i was comfortable, you know. i could survive for three or four months. i said my prayers prior to that. i said, whatever is going to happen is going to happen. >> one day before the storm hit, the mayor of new orleans declared a mandatory evacuation.
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>> many people chose to leave on their own. but timmons says he was one of the thousands escorted out. >> they said, you have to get on the truck i said, i don't want to get on the truck. why should i get on the truck? i am comfortable. i have enough supplies. i tried to explain myself. >> but at that time, i wasn't aware that we had gone to martial law. he said you have to get on the truck. click, click. i said, okay. i am getting on the truck. >> timmons said u.s. marshalls took him to the airport sglmi >> did you know where you were going. >> i had no idea. >> they didn't tell you? >> not until we got on the plane. going to my hometown, jet blue we were on. 30,000 feet in the air. what can you do? >> what was going through your mind when they said at 30,000 feet, hey, everybody. we are going to utah? >> i was angry. i stayed angry for a while. why take me to salt lake, you know? i mean, i don't know.
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a reaction because first of all, i was kidnapped so to speak to be forced to leave by gunpoint and turned into a plane without someone telling me where i am going. all of my rights were gone. make me feel like nothing. as they got off, it was in their eyes, a sense of fear, a sense of abandonment to watch them wap walk down the ramps, get in vans and other vehicles to be transported to camp williams was a nerve-racking, almost unbelievable kind of situation. >> after the storm, the sun will shine. >> paston france davis heads up the historic american congregation in salt lake city. he was asked by the governor of the state to greet evacuees when they landed. >> he did not want them, quote, to get off of the airplane and just see a sea of whiteness.
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>> 92% of utah's population is white. the majority of the people brought here from new orleans are african-american. many like curtis and depend lin pleasant had never left louisiana before. >> was utah surprisa surprise? >> yeah. it was. we got here with nighttime. i had a cut off shirt. >> looks like sometime. >> camp williams, giving us fruits and stuff. you wake up, nothing but mountains around you. >> the couple arrived with their two children. they also hadn't been told where they were going, but unlike earnest tim commons, they were happy to get out of new orleans during the storm, the family had evacuated to the convention center where conditions were
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horrific. >> people riding with guns out he clicked off and shot. >> a woman died. >> you know. it was crazy. >> pastor davis says many evacweaves who arrived in utah were in a desperate situation. >> by the time they reached salt lake city, they felt like they had been left to die, left alone. >> the evacuees got to the base. men, women, and families were split up in to different barracks. >> they brought you in. >> you made your bed, choose a bunk and showered. it was like you were gritty or messy. needed a bath. >> we brought timmons back to camp williams for the first time since he arrived here tep years ago. >> when you walked back through this place, how did it make you feel? >> kind of nost 58 john wilkes
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boothing but other than that, i don't want to be here again. >> even though he doesn't want to relive the experience, tim commons says for him, it was a fresh start. >> i fell in love with utah. i liked the mountains. i liked the weather. i had a good job. i saw advancement for me here. >> one last thing to say. >> i joined pastor davis's church and with his background in social work, landed a job at calvary baptist providing support to other evacuees. >> many of these people like african-americans in utah were religious in terms of their upbringing and the church has always been the center of community for african-americans. it's the gathering place and it provides a sense of identity. >> it felt good to have a church to go to. we saw a lot of black people. we saw a lot of bi-rachel
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families. i i mean it was a baptist church. it really was a baptist church. ♪ the pleasants also felt at home in the church and to curtiss surprise began to feel at home in utah. >> when i am sitting on the top step like we sitting high now, i am looking at the mountain and ai didn't discuss it we are her. i was like i want to stay. it's a new start for me. >> at first, things weren't easy for the family. their kids were trying to adjust to new friends and new school and finding a job with no local experience was tough for curtis. eventually, he got work in construction. good wendelyn got a job at a hostess at a local restaurant. >> it was comfortable. >> i got to meet good people. like i say, my main objective was diagnose now, you know, to just start a new life with
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yourself i mean i have been to new orleans we have been to new orleans all our lives. their kids ended up going back years ago, but 10 years later, the couple is still in salt lake city, one of the few dozen original new orleans evacuees still here. >> i guess there are somewhere between 60 and 100 still here. we have not kept very good records about who went back. >> the destruction and chaos caused the unprecedented displacement of the entire city of new orleans scattered in cities across the country, many would never return. >> i never thought i would be in utah. no. yes, 3,000 miles or whatever. i love it here. i really do. >> utah? >> that's what i said. utahn.
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unbelievable. >> hello again. >> good to see you. >> curtis and his wife have become sort of a spark in this community as well as in the community of those who came from new orleans. >> curtis and good wendolyn sing in the choir alongside earnest tim commons. >> calvary baptist church has a saturday night choir ♪ earnest also teaches sunday school and since again his new life in utah has earned his master's degree. >> when you look back, it will be 10 years since katrina. >> i know. gray hair. >> can you believe it? it's gone by fast. a lot has happened here i have two different degrees, you know. i had several jobs. but i have grown. that's the most important. i am not stagnant. i could put roots here i have
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life. i guess the older i become, the wiser i become, so i know when it's time to settle down. >> this native from new orleans found shelter from the storm in the utah desert out of tragedy, loss, a new home. soledad o'brien, salt lake city utah. >> start can over in a strange land. next, the keeper of his community stories bearing witness after the storm.
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♪ new orleans is a city of great traditions and superstitions. the food, music, madis gras,
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even voodoo. with all that was sacrificed to the storm, so many homes, it's easy to understand how the spirit of new orleans could have been lost as well. here in the lower 9th ward, we found the keeper of the flame and of the feathers. >>. >> when you are involved in this by being a participant, you build a collision and i just decided to be a keeper. i am ronald w lewis, the director of the dance. i have been living here in this life for 37 years. i have been in the lower 9th ward my entire life. this is a piece i did in 1992 when my youngest son was a madis gras indian. these are some of the pieces i took with me when i evacuated.
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these are typical. they vary in designs and color because each piece is individual. let me tell you, it's like a dress you would buy for a special event. it might make it out of the closibility twice and that's it. >> in black new orleans, madi madis gras, where history comes from, slaves and free people coming with inter action with native americans back in the 1800s. the french started madis gras, and it wasn't like an open thing. so we were slaves, people of color, native american, career industry and all of these various venues. and the city of new orleans, the neighborhood madis gras. i have been involved in the c t culture my entire life and creating the museum. i have stuff hanging around and
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collected. and i was supposed to start the house of dances by my lovely wife. >> it's great because then it became a go-to place in my community of people bringing artifacts and small items and stuff saying that i want to be a part of this. i was in the hotel that monday the storm came in. the hotel fell apart. water came up canal street. i left new orleans and went where? to a little bit town called dibbedeaux for a year. i seen devastation when i came back. 14 feet of water covered my building and so when i did get to open the doors of my little museum, i seen a lifetime of me destroyed. but this here is my post-katrina
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collection and my pre-katrina collection went with the flood waters. my little museum but it is great history. the collection, it's about the people, you know, moving your social way of life. and wondering if you are ever going to see some of these people you knew your whole life. you know, once you start surrounding yourself with family, then you start feeling that you are coming back. when you start seeing familiar faces and everything and hearing the sounds of new orleans, oh, i am home. >> keeping that hope and the spirit of new orleans alive. that's a special look at katrina after the storm. please tell us what you think at talk to us on twitter or facebook and come back. we will have more of america tonight tomorrow.
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♪ humanity, but we're doing it in a unique way. this is a show about science... >> oh! >> oh my god! >> by scientists. >> techknow investigates katrina... ten years after the storm. >> during katrina, a large amount of water rushed in from the gulf. >> the walls were engineered to stop mother nature... they failed. >> do you think that new orleans is safer than 10 years ago? >> now rebuilt - higher,