Katrina Babies (2022) Movie Script

TED KOPPEL: Yesterday,
it was a disaster.
Today, catastrophe.
Our beloved New Orleans,
where Katrina hit hardest.
Two of the levees that held back
the waters of Lake Pontchartrain
have cracked.
And as the water rises
in the city,
there are no immediate answers
as to how and when it will be
pumped out again,
or what will remain.
that New Orleans ever was,
in danger of drowning tonight.
- Nobody knows
- Mm-mm-hmm
All the trouble I've seen
- Nobody knows
- Mm-mm-hmm
All my sorrow
- Glory, glory
- Mm-mm-hmm
- Glory, hallelujah, glory
- Mm
- Glory
- Let me hear you
Glory, hallelujah
- Nobody knows
- Nobody knows
Mm, oh, no, no
All the trouble I've seen
- Nobody knows
- Nobody knows
- Oh, no
- All the sorrows
- Glory
- Glory
- Glory
- Glory
Glory, Hallelujah
Congratulations, Naquanta.
That's me.
EDWARD: Before the storm,
there was nothing
like being around my family.
Especially my cousins.
I still remember the last time.
It's August 2005,
and summer was coming to an end,
- so that meant one thing.
A back-to-school celebration
at Tina's
with all of my cousins.
You see, Tina's house
was the hangout spot
for all of the children
in my family,
mainly because she had
four kids herself
who all were my best friends.
EDWARD: I still remember
that weekend like yesterday,
me and all my cousins
just outside, playing,
and laughing
without a care in the world.
Tina made her signature meal,
gravy and rice.
I can still remember
what it smelled like.
We must have played outside
for hours
until the streetlights came on.
Once we got inside and ate,
we just all piled up in one room
to enjoy each other's presence
before our parents
came to pick us up.
It's your boy!
TINA: All right now,
I'mma see y'all later.
EDWARD: I never would've thought
that would be
our last time together
- in that house.
EDWARD: All right.
Since the storm
it seems like everybody
just moved on.
In America,
especially during disaster,
Black children
are not even a thought.
Hurricane Katrina
was no different.
it's already got a call...
EDWARD: After losing so much,
why wouldn't anyone ask
if we were okay?
Nobody ever asked the children
how they were doing.
EDWARD: So, I am.
EDWARD: All right? Cierra,
Katrina Babies, take one.
EDWARD: Rally, Katrina Babies,
interview, take one.
I was 11 years old,
and, uh, the first thing
I can remember,
I was knocked out of sleep, man.
The first thing I could remember
was just feet running down
the hallway.
And my mama was like,
"Get up, get up, get up."
"We got to go, we got to go,
we got to go."
Something like that,
it's really hard
for you to forget.
Friday, I was at school,
walking the hallways
with my friends.
By Monday, I was on top
of the fucking roof.
My mom's home crying.
My grandmother's home crying.
Our house is destroyed.
Like, it was just too much.
Even though I'm young
and, you know,
it's not like I'm stressing
how my parents were stressing,
I just was...
I just wasn't comfortable.
I couldn't... I couldn't...
I couldn't think properly.
I started interviewing people,
and I didn't know
what I was doing,
but I was just like,
"This is a story
that needs to be told."
All right. We rolling?
- SPEAKER 1: Yeah.
- SPEAKER 2: Mm-hmm.
EDWARD: All right.
Katrina Babies,
Betty Buckles,
Betty "Stay Ready" Buckles,
take one.
(CHUCKLES) Why you look
so scared and serious?
I don't know. I mean, I'm just...
It don't got to be scary.
I ain't scared.
EDWARD: All right. So, just...
just introduce yourself, um
your... your name,
uh, your name and who you are.
Oh, okay.
- What you mean who I am?
- EDWARD: Yeah.
- Like your... your mama?
- EDWARD: Yeah.
EDWARD: Dad, as a parent,
what you remember going through
as Hurricane Katrina
was approaching,
just like the whole process
of Hurricane Katrina?
Good question, good question.
'Cause, like,
me and my wife and family,
we had decided at first
that we was gonna all stay.
You know, we're...
We're just gonna
ride this out.
But that morning,
the last day of,
our last day to get out,
my wife had a change of mind,
and she said,
"I think we better leave."
So, I wasn't in no
argument mood. I say,
"Well, okay. Let's pack up,
and... and let's leave."
I had been hearing
about the storm for, like,
about a whole week or two.
Then, Ray Nagin came on,
and Ray Nagin say
to don't play with the storm,
to please get your family
and get out of here.
So, I told your daddy,
"We got to leave.
We got to leave."
Ladies and gentlemen,
I wish I had better news for you
but we are facing a storm, uh,
that most of us have feared.
I do not want to create panic,
but I do want the citizens
to understand
that this is very serious,
and it's of the highest nature,
and it's...
That's why we've taken
this unprecedented move.
SURVIVOR: We're not able
to get up and just go.
We don't have transportation.
I mean,
we living paycheck to paycheck.
I mean,
it ain't like we're just able to
get up or just leave.
Waiting on the storm, huh?
You going to set up
for the storm?
CHILD: What's up?
People getting ready
for the hurricane
like it's nothing.
My mindset on hurricanes,
my thoughts toward them
were they were always
gonna come.
Like, seemed like
they were gonna come
for New Orleans, and then turn
at the last second.
Well, my grandma always say,
like, the Lower Ninth Ward is,
like, below sea level.
Like, we can't stay here.
We... we packed,
and I just remember
there was, like,
something different,
even though
we didn't know it then.
I remember packing my bag
and putting in some,
like, pictures
that I had hanging up
in my bedroom,
which is not something
that you would normally do
when you think
you're coming right back.
You know, we didn't even
take them serious.
I remember one time,
I was in the Lafitte Projects
for a hurricane,
and they had
a hurricane block party.
Like, they really had a DJ.
Everybody in the project
was right there,
dancing and whatnot, eating.
And, like, yeah,
the hurricane come tomorrow,
so, we gonna, you know...
we're gonna cut up right now,
you know, just in case
something happened.
But we always knew
it wasn't gonna happen.
Nothing was gonna happen at all.
- We was gonna be good.
- You know, my grandma was like,
"Pack up some clothes.
Just pack up some clothes.
Get everything you need,
pack up some clothes."
I definitely think that me
and, like, my friends,
we were just, again,
thinking that this was like
a quick one-two,
gone for two or three days,
and you come right back.
So, it was still that...
That innocence there
and that sense of, like,
not really thinking
that this was gonna be
a big deal.
We was, um,
in the Lafitte Projects,
and me and my brothers
was playing outside
with the other kids.
And all I could feel was, like,
this real cold wind.
It was so windy. So, so windy.
And it was, like,
real, real cold.
I went to church that Sunday,
the day before the storm,
you know?
And the priest was like, uh,
I'll never forget this.
The priest looked my dad
in the eye.
He was like, "Yeah,
y'all evacuating today, huh?"
He said, "Nah."
And the priest just looked.
He just had this look
in his eye,
and we was walking off.
I looked back,
and the priest
was just looking like,
you know, like he was confused.
And I will never forget
that day in my life, dude.
That Sunday, we woke up,
and my mama
was all over the place,
like, "Yo, we leaving."
Like, "Yo, like,
I'm not asking you."
I'm telling you. We're leaving.
We're getting
the fuck out of here,
and we're going somewhere."
My mom is that person that,
like, she has dreams,
and then sometimes
those dreams, like,
manifest into something
like, you know,
within the family.
Like, she's real spiritual.
So, when she said that,
when... when like she's like,
"God is telling us to leave,"
nobody questioned it.
It's like, "Yo, we got to go."
"We getting out of here.
Y'all start getting ready.
We got to go."
And then everybody
just started getting up.
The children didn't seem
to be worried about the storm
'cause I guess
they didn't really realize
how serious the storm was.
We got rushed into the car,
and we only took like
a weekend's worth of clothes.
EDWARD: We had evacuated before,
but there was something surreal
about this time.
The city of New Orleans needs
to be prepared
for what could be as high
and is right now as high
as a 175-mile-an-hour hurricane.
There can be no doubt now
that we're talking about
- levees that will overflow.
- Right.
EDWARD: The city seemed to be
in, like, a frantic state.
People at the gas station
for hours.
The gas stations are jam-packed.
People are cursing,
people are yelling,
and everybody
just has a look of uncertainty
and fear on their faces.
MIDCITY AB: You know, it sounded
like the apocalypse was outside,
but I still was ignoring it.
And then
the electricity went out.
So, I'm just sitting there,
listening to all this rain.
I hear, like, um,
all type of animals outside,
crying, too.
Rain, wind, and all that.
So, I go into bed with my dad
'cause, you know, I'm scared.
But I remember you can see out
see out the house
'cause we had a... a screen door
on the side of the house.
And I'm just looking
at all these things fly by,
and, uh, trees looking like
they about
to come out of the ground.
And that's when
I really realized,
"Oh, this ain't a game,"
you know?
I remember it was real,
real late.
Like, it had to be,
like, almost midnight.
And I was up with my mom
and, like, my brothers,
and we heard
a loud, loud noise, like a boom,
like a bang,
something like that.
- It was loud.
- EDWARD: What was it?
Um. It was the levees.
They broke.
I don't know. Like,
then it just got all calm,
and like, I just went to sleep.
And then, I woke up
to one of my uncle's friends
banging on my mom's door.
And like she walked outside,
and it was like
- flooded.
EDWARD: As the storm
was approaching New Orleans
my family and I
were on the road.
What should have been
a two-hour drive
turned into 13 hours
because of the insane traffic.
My parents were just so anxious
and tense.
We were hot,
and it was dark as hell.
I remember us stopping
in this really, really rural,
creepy southern Louisiana town.
They had opened up
the flea market to be shelter
for people that were coming
from New Orleans.
I don't know if it was because
of how exhausted I was
or maybe I was a little bit
scared... scared at the time.
I don't know,
but it's like a blur.
I just remember us
going to a corner,
and all the kids laid down
on this hard-ass floor.
And the whole time,
I was thinking about Tina
and my cousins.
They had stayed in New Orleans.
EDWARD: My dreams must have been
so crazy that night.
I remember we woke up,
and like the press was there.
Like, you know, the local
news station was there.
And I remember they pulled out
a television, almost like,
you know like,
almost like in like the '90s,
when you were in school
and, like, it was a free day,
you know, and the teacher rolled
the television out.
They, like,
rolled the television out
for us to see, like the news.
And I remember
like, New Orleans underwater.
EDWARD: And... and then I saw
that Circle Food Store
was underwater.
That was Tina's neighborhood.
That was my cousin's
As a child, I'm just like,
"This neighborhood
is underwater,
so are my cousins."
I remember,
I asked one of the adults,
"Wait. Like,
if all of this is underwater,
what happened
to the people who stayed behind?
Like... like where are they?"
And, like, you know,
she was like (CHUCKLES)
like, looked me dead
in my eye as a kid and said,
"Everybody who stayed
in New Orleans is dead!"
And, like I just started crying,
like instantly.
I just started crying.
Looking at the TV screen
and her saying that,
it seemed like it was true.
Police operator, one-six.
I need someone out here, ma'am.
I'm gonna die in this attic.
The water's started rising
in the attic, ma'am,
and I'mma drown in the attic.
Is there any way you can get
to the roof if need be?
I'm stuck in the attic,
me and my little sister here,
and my mama,
and we got water
in our whole house.
SURVIVOR 3: We're, like,
under nine feet of water here,
and we're trying to get out.
We have a baby. There's five
of us. We're very frightened.
We opened the attic.
We punched a hole in the attic.
But the helicopter
keeps passing us.
SURVIVOR 4: The helicopters,
they'll pass over us,
but they won't stop.
We sitting on the porch,
looking at the water rising up,
and we don't have
no way to get out
or nothing. It's just coming up.
EDWARD: In New Orleans,
I think that one thing
that we had
to our advantage
is family,
and the warmth of like,
you know, like, of like a home.
Our houses are very cozy.
Our hospitality is very good.
The houses smell like good food.
I know what Tina's house
was for me.
Um... and like,
I knew how comfortable
and like how warm it was.
You know what I'm saying?
This is one of my favorite ones.
And that's me, Quentin, Kiyara,
Shirley, and that's my mom
in the back.
And this is at the house.
Uh... this is at
one of the houses
that Tina stayed in
before Katrina.
Like as you can see,
they got the wood panels,
- like, just... (CHUCKLES)
- TINA: Hello?
- EDWARD: What's up, Tina?
- TINA: Hey, man.
What's going on?
EDWARD: I hadn't seen Tina
and my cousins in years.
EDWARD: I could smell
Tina's gravy and rice
all the way to Shreveport.
- What's happening?
- TINA: Hey, baby.
- What's up?
- TINA: I said, Lord,
I hope... I sure hope...
Boy, I ain't camera ready.
- You got me on the camera.
- New Orleans classic. Big Shots.
- Oh, my God.
- You know what I'm saying?
- Yes. Check it.
Come on, now. Come on with it.
- Y'all didn't know. (CHUCKLES)
- I'll drink it hot.
It don't even have to be cold.
I'll drink it hot, I swear.
TINA: So, yeah,
like I was saying, it was, um
it was part of my depression,
where I
was so lonesome and homesick,
I stopped combing my hair,
like, literally. And, uh
it had got so thick
and full, and,
so, I said, "Well".
I don't know nobody up here.
I don't need to
"put all that maintenance
and stuff like that in my hair."
Just kind of became a hermit
in the house.
You know what I'm saying?
I said, "Well, I'mma just wear
my hair natural."
EDWARD: It looks good.
TINA: When the storm
actually hit
everybody I think was still
kind of asleep
or just waking up.
But all of a sudden,
we felt the house just
it almost sounded like a train.
It was shaking,
wobbling, you know?
My husband told me
to look out of the window.
The water was at the window,
so we were surrounded by water.
We... we were surrounded
by water.
When the water was rushing in,
I think the only thing
I was thinking
was, like, I was like in a...
Mesmerized by, I guess,
kind of, by how it was like
you know, that... that shit
was like a movie, like
it was like rushing in,
and then we was trying
to get off.
We ran to the back.
But literally,
we sitting on the bed,
and the water just like this,
- as we're sitting on the bed.
- EDWARD: Damn.
The people's dog and this dude
was floating.
Their dog was dead,
just floating on the water.
- EDWARD: Damn.
- Floating about
like around our house,
or whatever.
TINA: I think everybody
was just trying to find
their mental comfort
of how to handle
what was going on.
- EDWARD: Right.
- And, uh, so I had said,
"Well, okay. Let's sing."
And that's what we did.
We... we sung hymns.
We sung,
you know, R&B.
Like, we just formed
our own little choir,
so we was just in there singing.
And for two days
when the world was thinking
that no one was left
in New Orleans or in Katrina,
we were still in our attic.
TINA: The boat pulled up
into the living room
because the whole
front of the house,
the water had collapsed it,
or whatever.
- TINA: And we got out of there.
There was really
a eerie silence...
TINA: And I think everybody
was so overwhelmed and taken by
how the city,
their neighborhoods,
was underwater.
The water was so deep,
you saw just that very low point
of the stop sign.
It was just...
Just like a dead calm.
You didn't even hear birds
or anything.
It's almost like what you read
in the Bible
about the great flood,
and it was just
water. You're surrounded
by water,
you know? And you're looking
for that dove
to come back
and say it's dry land,
but there was no bird in sight.
TINA: And I looked back,
and I saw
that my house was the only house
still standing.
Me personally,
I thought we was gonna die.
Like, you know,
the furniture
is floating in here.
Like, you know,
if you look outside,
you don't see nothing.
Like, we finna die.
Like, we gonna die here.
Like, that's just what it is,
you know? So,
and we stranded.
We aint... This not...
We wasn't here for one day,
or we wasn't in here
for 12 hours.
We was in here three days.
We were up here three days.
Then we go
to, uh, we go... from here,
we get rescued
and go get shipped into
a concentration-camp structure.
Like, you know
what I'm saying? Like,
I'd never fight
for this country.
I don't depend on it.
I can't depend on it.
Like, I'd never fight for it,
just on the strength
of Hurricane Katrina.
And I was 11 years old
when I made that decision.
(SIGHS) With the water, like,
it's like the water's there.
And I go outside,
and I'm just like, "What?"
I'm just looking around,
like, "What?"
I hear a lot of screams.
And the guy next door,
he had a boat.
I don't know
where this boat came from,
but he had a boat,
and he was like,
"I'm bringing y'all...
I'm bringing y'all
to the bridge."
"I'm bringing y'all
to the bridge."
to the convention center
it was... it was weird.
I saw a dead man on the street.
It was scary.
Like, "What?"
Like, "Am I gonna die?"
Like, I started questioning
things now.
I... I just smell like...
Like feces,
just lingering
from the bathroom,
and just people just looked like
just... just sad, just real sad.
I don't know. I just was like,
"I'm not supposed to be here."
That's how I felt.
Like, "What?
Like, this is not real."
I don't want to cry. (SOBS)
- (SOBS) Sorry.
- EDWARD: It's okay.
Just take your time.
It's okay. Like, wait.
So, um, wait.
So, like, have you ever
talked about this before?
No, I haven't.
EDWARD: Why is that?
I don't know.
Nobody never asked me.
EDWARD: Can we take five?
SPEAKER: Hey, buddy,
are you good?
Hey, I'm tired, man.
Hey, put me on here.
They got us living up in here,
bad! They got babies up in here,
and it's unsanitized up in here!
It is bad up in here!
Children burning up
and everything!
Get us out of this place!
We had several people
died out here
and, you know, I don't want
to become one of them.
They say what they're gonna do,
but they're not doing anything
for us
to try to help us survive
and live, you know?
We just need some help out here.
It is so pitiful.
Pitiful and shame
that all these people out here,
they have
over 3,000 people out here
with no home, no shelter.
- What are they gonna do?
- ARIANNA: I don't even think I honestly thought...
- What are we gonna do?
- Twice about it.
I saw a camera guy,
and I just walked up to them,
and I basically just
kind of pulled my face
really closely
towards the camera,
and I spoke eloquently.
Like, I spoke.
Um. And I was basically,
back then,
I was the voice for many people
that couldn't actually,
couldn't or wouldn't speak
for themselves.
I felt that
there were certain circumstances
that were totally unacceptable,
that were not cool. Um...
My grandmother had like,
actually, literally,
ran out of her insulin,
and my grandmother
was a diabetic.
But I didn't realize that,
that was something
that she could go without.
I felt as though
during that time
that it was a necessity,
that this was something
that she needed.
And during that time,
my grandmother
was everything to me,
and I was really afraid, um,
and petrified,
and really afraid the most
that I would possibly lose her.
My grandmother is a diabetic.
She's 76 years old.
She's out of her insulin.
What's she gonna do?
She don't know
if she gonna live or die.
We all don't know
what we gonna do.
So, we just need some help
and support.
EDWARD: People lost their homes.
People didn't have food, water.
It was hot as hell out there.
People were doing
what they had to do.
KANYE WEST: I hate the way
they portray us in the media.
If we see a Black family,
it says they're looting.
If you see a White family,
it says
they're looking for food.
REPORTER: The things
that I witnessed today,
Ted, I... I...
I will never forget.
Looting on a scale
that was just so staggering,
so overwhelming.
The city has been ravaged
by the hurricane.
And now, it's being ravaged
by some of its citizens.
CROWD: We want help!
We want help! We want help!
We can't make it. You said
if we need You, to call You.
And we are asking You
in the mighty name of Jesus,
there is none like You.
KANYE: And you know
it's been five days
because most
of the people are Black,
and the way America is set up
to help the poor,
the... the Black people,
the less well-off
as slow as possible.
Praise the Lord! Merciful
and strong you are, Lord.
Lord, we know
you're gonna make a way, Lord.
SURVIVOR: Power belongs to God.
It's just racist.
George Bush doesn't care
about Black people.
EDWARD: You don't know
where you're going.
You don't know what's next.
Kids were separated
from their families.
Families were separated,
just sent into random places.
My cousins were displaced
because their home
was destroyed.
Hurricane Katrina caused
one of the biggest dispersements
of Black people in history.
You know, that shit happened
during slavery, and, like,
it also happened in 2005.
I remember sitting in a room
with my mom
and my dad in an open motel
and just wondering
when I was gonna go back home
and it turned into one week
to two weeks
to three weeks to a month.
And next thing you know,
we... I was living
in Mississippi.
DANIEL: I ended up going
to Houston.
Um, we was in a hotel.
We can't stay in this
expensive-ass hotel anymore,
so what's gonna have to happen?
Where are we gonna go?
We can't go back to the city.
A lot of people, for Katrina,
that was their first time ever
leaving New Orleans.
Like, people never left.
I was a senior in high school
and once we came
to the realization
that we couldn't go back home,
we moved to Dallas.
DAMARIS CALLIET: We were there
ultimately for a year
because we ended up
just relocating,
not really by choice,
but we didn't really have...
Like, we lost everything
in Katrina.
That was the first time
I ever got called a refugee.
I'm from America.
You know what I mean?
I'm from... this is my land,
but I'm being called a refugee.
Kids at the schools
would be like,
"Uh, he's a refugee.
That's what they're..."
"Yeah? What you loot?
Did you loot?
Did you..." (CHUCKLES)
"did you loots?"
The principal was like,
"Do you think
you'll fit in here?"
What kind of question
is that to ask
a girl that just, like,
just came from,
you know, her house being
under eight feet of water?
"Do you think
you'll fit in here?"
Hell the fuck no,
I'm not gonna fit in here.
I don't want to fit in here.
REPORTER: The tension
has been slowly escalating here.
Fights have broken out
in schools between.
New Orleans evacuees
and Houston students.
And now, Houston police say
Katrina evacuees
have been the victims
or suspects in about 20 percent
of the city's homicides,
more than double
their percentage
in the population.
EDWARD: It was two weeks
after we had evacuated
to Lafayette,
and it was not easy
to adjust to this new place.
I think that, like, you know...
Like, I don't know. Like,
we definitely
went to school too soon.
EDWARD: I didn't retain anything
that they were teaching us.
We stayed in Lafayette
for about eight months,
and it felt like two years.
The people in Lafayette
knew we couldn't go back
to New Orleans,
so they tried to make it
as easy as possible
for us to make that transition
with the kids.
As far as you were concerned,
when you started
playing football
and getting into activities
in... in the school
that you was in,
you... you were fine then.
Matter of fact,
you didn't even want
to leave there.
The people
that we were staying with
didn't want you to leave there.
Your coach didn't want you
to leave there.
He wanted you to continue
playing ball there.
So, that was good therapy
for you.
My kids
they... they came out of it
pretty good, I think.
Um. How do you think overall,
Hurricane Katrina impacted,
like, you know, like the family
or, like... like... like the kids?
Oh, how do I think
they were impacted?
I really don't know
how it impacted the kids,
'cause the kids
wasn't saying anything.
They wasn't telling us nothing.
So, it was like a normal,
everyday life.
So, that's how I looked at it,
as normal, everyday life. I mean
we actually...
I used to constantly ask you
how you were doing
and how Kiyara and them,
how they doing,
and y'all just say, "We okay."
And especially you,
'cause you used to go in a room
and lock up in a room,
and I used to say,
"You all right, you all right?"
But didn't seem like nothing
was wrong with you.
If it was,
you didn't say anything.
It was a big day in New Orleans.
A month after Hurricane Katrina,
officials began
letting people back
into three large neighborhoods.
It's been clear for some time
that the city
would never be the same
but just how it could change
is just now becoming clear.
New Orleans
and the French Quarter
will continue on,
no matter what.
I mean, it's gonna be
a different city,
but there's gonna be a lot of
things that ain't gonna change.
And I think the things
that don't change will be,
for the better,
places like Cafe Du Monde
and Jackson Square. And
I mean, it's just a whole list
of institutions
that have been here forever.
EDWARD: The city was not ready
to receive all of us.
But of course, they needed
their workers to come back,
you know,
to get that tourism industry
pumping again.
This is Granny's house.
Being honest with y'all,
I would rather...
the whole house.
It got... it got to everything.
SURVIVOR 2: How long
all this gonna be?
Lord have mercy, Jesus Christ.
(SIGHS) Oh, God.
EDWARD: When did you
get back to New Orleans?
When did I get back
to New Orleans?
As soon as they opened
the state back up,
my great-grandmother was like,
"Okay, it's time to go home.
I want to go back to my house."
You know what I mean?
And so, we packed up,
and we went back home.
- EDWARD: What did you see?
- Ghosts.
Nobody around here,
it was just a ghost town.
Debris everywhere.
Dead animals.
I actually came back
and saw my dog
because I couldn't take him.
You know what I mean?
It was just a whole lot of...
A whole lot of hurt.
I seen people
that was just hurting,
head down. Didn't know
what they was gonna do.
Didn't know if a better day
was gonna come.
It was just gloom everywhere.
And, uh,
as far as I can remember,
that's... that's what it was
every day for a long time.
DAMARIS: I was ready
to get back to school,
so we ended up coming back
down to New Orleans.
And I stayed in a FEMA trailer
that I later found out
was filled with formaldehyde.
EDWARD: Okay, so...
Yeah, basically,
because they were...
They were cheap.
So, they bought
all these trailers
that were actually not in use
because they were filled
with formaldehyde.
REPORTER: It's another blow
for victims
of Hurricane Katrina.
Tests found toxic levels
of formaldehyde fumes.
More than 500 trailers
in Louisiana and Mississippi,
some had 40 times the fumes
found in most modern homes.
Two years later,
when I would actually
lay on my back, I would notice
a ball sticking out
of my stomach
that just came from nowhere.
So, I kind of ignored it
for a while
until I started having, like,
all kind of issues,
health issues. So, then I went
to the doctor to find out
that it was a tumor
that had grown
because of staying
in the trailer.
You could smell death.
You had bodies laying
on the side of the road still,
lifting-up trees, and dead dogs,
and dead birds underneath,
maggots everywhere, all type
in the garbage everywhere.
So, you know,
it was just a smell
that I'll never forget.
CIERRA CHENIER: My people went
to go check on the house,
and I still just remember being,
like, giddy, like,
"Cool. My... my toy
that I left on my dresser," like.
"They bringing all of that,"
type of thing.
And I just remember, like,
when they got out the car,
and it was just a trash bag
that wasn't even filled,
and it was like, "This is it
from the whole house."
I'm thinking
that's just my room.
So that, I think,
was the first time
it actually hit of, like
what we knew to be true is gone.
This is what it means
when they say nobody asked you.
'Cause it's the first time
I said that out loud.
CIERRA: Everything you consider
as part of who you are
was reduced to a trash bag,
you know?
But the magnitude of that
just became so much worse
when you start to realize,
"Oh, not just the house,
the whole neighborhood."
Like, "Ms. So-and-So
doesn't live here anymore."
Or when you start to really see
the loss of life,
that's... that's on
a completely different level.
And when so much
of your identity
is where you're from,
specifically what neighborhood
you're from,
and that neighborhood
isn't the same anymore,
that house isn't there anymore,
what does that do
to your identity?
Like, sometimes,
after the storm,
I'd just go back
to my old neighborhood
and just sit on a porch.
Like, the house
was all boarded up and stuff,
but I still just wanted
to be there, you know?
Like, I'd just sit there
for hours, you know?
My parents had finally decided
that it was time
to go back home,
so we got on the road.
BETTY: This is the shed,
everything that was in it,
the bicycles and...
EDWARD: Although my house
was still standing,
the New Orleans
that we knew was gone.
Boy, what a thing to lose.
...And Holly Grove can't fuck
With the Melph and the Calio
I told ya, I told ya
Them boys don't want beef
With the Nolia
And I warned ya
And I warned ya
Can't fuck
With that 10th Ward
St. Thomas
And on the V.L, and on the V.L
Can't fuck with them boys
On V.L
MIESHA: Before Katrina,
I remember everybody
in the neighborhood,
all of us together.
Your neighborhood was crucial
to who you were.
At the least, you had your...
Your family.
You had your community.
You had your... your people,
- so to speak.
- Everybody on the block
watched out for my kids.
We watched out
for each other's kids.
Before Katrina, like, you had
no reason to leave your hood
because your hood
had everything in it.
Kids was outside,
playing in the street.
You know, it was amazing.
Like, thinking about it,
it really was...
It was African in the essence.
It was just Black people.
That's all you saw,
and that's all
you really thought about.
EDWARD: It was really
the Big Easy. Like,
generation after generation,
we lived the same way.
Nothing ever changed.
EDWARD: But after Katrina...
CIERRA: The displacing
of Black communities
all over the city
started to cause, like,
this trickle-down effect of,
you know,
you are no longer
in the community
you came up in.
You are now being put in, like,
concentrated areas or, like,
pockets to where
people that are territorial
and are super, you know,
hard up about where they're from
now being placed
in certain parts of the city
because they were displaced
or they lost their homes.
And, you know, now,
the rent for the whole street
has gone up
and new people have moved in.
Think about what that does
to, um, a community.
It destabilizes it.
Q93, WQUE-FM New Orleans.
Less talk, more jams.
MIESHA: I just remember
going, um, like, back.
And they had the weird houses.
I thought it was so weird.
And they had, like,
solar panels on them,
and I did not know what that was.
(LAUGHS) at that time.
I just feel like they're trying
to make it into, like,
a new community, like,
full of White people.
We see all these White people
coming out of houses
across the street
from the projects,
and we're just looking like,
"What is going on," you know?
The White people
and stuff taking over
'cause the rent getting high
and stuff,
so the neighborhoods
is totally different now.
I think gentrification
was happening before the storm,
but Katrina sped it up.
The feel of community
in New Orleans is different now,
'cause people are moving around
so much, you know?
Like I was saying, you can live
in the 8th Ward one year,
then move uptown
to the 13th the next year.
And, so, you don't really
get to know nobody.
You might speak
to your neighbor,
but it's not like it used to be.
You're not rooted.
The children aren't as rooted
as they used to be
before the storm, you know?
When I got back after Katrina,
I naively thought
that everything
was gonna be normal again.
But in actuality
with my cousins
not being able to come back.
I felt alone and bored.
EDWARD: I would just roam
around New Orleans, going to places
that my parents had sheltered me
from as a child.
My mama disliked
a lot of the neighborhood kids
that I started to hang out with.
But then I met this one kid,
We called him Jac for short.
(CHUCKLES) I remember one day,
me and this other kid
were gonna fight
at the bus stop.
I guarantee you
that it was for no good reason.
And right when we were about
to go at it,
Jacquez, simply 'cause
I was from his hood
and he knew my parents
stepped right in front of me,
and he defused
the whole situation.
EDWARD: Afterwards,
he became like a big bro.
He was one of the only kids
I ever heard
talk about the future
or going to college.
My mama always had
this Hi8 camera in the house,
so I picked that up one day
and started filming things
in my neighborhood.
- YOUNG EDWARD: Ma, I love you.
- I love you, too.
That shit's crazy, man.
That be nice. That be just icy.
Yes, sir,
what's happening with it?
- What is it?
- BETTY: Crawfish, crabs, and shrimp.
Jac always made me feel like
I could do anything
I put my heart into.
When I graduated college...
Jacquez was so proud.
ANNOUNCER: Which is...
Look, everyone's just graduated.
Wayne, Tom, Clack,
all the family. Shaq.
He and Tom brought a leotard
one time. And Jac!
The violence in New Orleans
still touched everything.
You had people
from different neighborhoods
just all combined together,
which means that you got
new people back there
trying to make a name
for they self,
trying to claim territory,
but then you got the people
that already had
that territory, like,
"Nah, bro. This is my shit."
So, it was just, like,
a lot of gun play.
It was, like,
a lot of gun violence,
a lot of fights.
Little kids,
they want to be killers
when they grow up.
Like, they see
their little partners
with a gun, "Oh, yeah."
Like, little kids now,
they really
just want to be real.
Like, that's what it really is.
Like, they want to be gangster.
They ain't really like,
"Oh, I want to be this
when I grow up."
It's really like, "Oh, yeah.
I'm about that life, yeah.
Let me put on my Dickie fit.
Yeah, I'm hood now."
But now, after the storm,
it's like, uh,
you don't even have to be living
that life in that world.
You don't have to be living
in the "hood," per se.
But you could be affected
by violence in New Orleans,
'cause it's so scattered.
It's so random, you know?
It could pop off at any time
of the day, anywhere.
EDWARD: Mm-mm-mm.
REPORTER: Deputies were called
to the corner of Whitney Avenue
and Landry Street
around noon yesterday.
There they found 23-year-old
Jacquez Young
dead inside of a car.
Another 20-year-old man
was taken to the hospital.
Both of them
had been shot several times.
Witnesses told investigators
they saw several people
inside of a white, four-door
F-150 pull up
to the car and open fire.
And that fucked me up,
like, bad.
Really, really bad.
Yeah, like, I don't know.
Um, I think that
you know, like,
where I'm from, we know.
Like, we know that somebody
isn't gonna grow old with us.
We know that somebody
is gonna either be a victim of,
you know,
the mass-incarceration system
or violence,
you know, um,
or drugs. We know it.
But I didn't think
that it would be Jacquez
you know?
It was just like,
"Man, if that can happen
to, like, Jacquez,
that shit can happen to me,"
you know? And, like,
I was sad, but I was more pissed
than anything
that we had, like,
allowed that to happen to him.
And, like, when I say we,
I mean, like, my neighborhood.
I mean, like, you know, society,
like, America. It's just like...
It just, like,
really pissed me off
and, like, made me angry,
you know?
Like, these are the conditions
that we live in.
And, like,
we live in the conditions where
somebody as good as Jac,
you know, can be shot dead
in the street.
- What's up, Buckles?
- Hey, Snapchat!
- YOUNG EDWARD: It's not Snapchat here.
- Buckles!
You look tired
behind the camera, dawg.
Put the camera on y'all.
Let me see it?
I'm gonna put the camera
on y'all
because y'all look tired, son.
EDWARD: Three months
after Jacquez passed.
I was offered a job
as a high school media teacher.
What's up, students?
EDWARD: Being around
those kids was therapeutic.
They were so energetic,
and I just saw
so much hope in them.
Intro videos, take one.
STUDENT 1: Wait, wait, wait.
You I'il player.
EDWARD: Uh, not yet.
As soon as they started
filming each other,
they went deep real fast.
- Let's do a session.
- STUDENT 2: Quiet on the set.
What's the worst thing
you experienced in life?
I guess
I don't know.
I guess, it was, like, Katrina.
I guess that would be
the worst, I guess.
I was scared a little 'cause,
'cause I ain't know that we
was gonna make it or not.
I get nervous and scared
and paranoid.
All right. Now it is rolling.
- Who's that, now? Tell me when.
EDWARD: It was so clear
that these students
were dealing with a lot,
especially outside of school.
EDWARD: World Issue,
Calvin, take one.
EDWARD: Action.
Hi. My name's Calvin Baxter,
and I attend
Edna Karr High School.
Take me back to that night.
Like, like, like, you know,
what was going on?
What was happening?
I went to the store.
I had bought me some gauze.
And fuck, I'm walking out.
I'm on the avenue, and, fuck,
a cop...
just started shooting at me.
You see my heart right here,
you know,
in that area right there.
That's about three inches away,
you know?
I could have got hit
in the heart.
And, fuck, I had... I had made it
to the hospital on my own.
How many times they shot?
They shot at me about 17 times.
EDWARD: And they hit you
how many times?
- One time.
- EDWARD: You blessed.
Oh, yeah. It made me carry a gun
because I feel like
I've got to protect myself.
Like, I'm... shit, I don't know
when something gonna happen,
so I got to keep it on me.
- EDWARD: Even at 15?
- Even at 15.
Mm-mm, it don't matter.
All the shit
you've been through,
like, you numb to the pain.
Really, like, it's numb to you.
Like, you're so used to
it happening,
you're like, "Fuck it."
Like, so,
you're numb to the feeling.
You're coldhearted.
You don't give a fuck.
What does that do to a kid?
That make them traumatized. Like
like... like coldhearted.
I feel like everything changed
after Katrina.
Like, you know,
they had to rebuild everything.
And a lot of buildings,
like, you know, they had
a lot of youth centers
before Katrina and all that.
They don't got
a lot of them now.
Okay, and what does that mean?
A lot of children,
they don't really got
no guidance out here.
They don't got no place
where they can go after school
to keep their mind occupied.
The high school dropout rate,
the jail rate increasing.
They'd just build
a whole new jail.
Kids gang banging.
Man, I seen a nine-year-old
smoking weed. Like
they need more jobs,
more youth programs,
more mentors,
more counseling,
more guidance period.
EDWARD: Okay. Um...
You know, um, what is...
Calling Officer Blaine,
come in, Tyson.
Go ahead.
Come outside the back.
- There's something going on.
- EDWARD: Let's cut, let's cut.
Come on, Rodney.
Let's go, let's go.
TEACHER: I just went
and stopped them two
just fighting out here.
STUDENT: Move! Move!
Leave me the fuck alone! Move!
- Come over here.
- No! Leave me alone!
I didn't recognize my trauma
and my peers' trauma
when I was in school.
When I saw it as a teacher,
it was obvious that these kids
are experiencing
some of the same things that me
and my peers experienced
when we were in school.
These kids' realities
was only getting worse,
and it blew my mind that nothing
was in place to help them.
Carol Carter,
Katrina Babies, take one.
We always have the perspective,
which is very annoying to me
Is that somehow,
we need to fix the children.
We don't need
to fix the children.
There is nothing wrong
with the children.
How do you make someone
feel safe?
To feel safe is fundamental.
They're in home environments
where they don't feel safe.
They go to school,
and they don't feel safe.
What does that do
to our children?
It wreaks havoc
on their mental health,
their physical health,
their well-being.
And, so, they're, you know,
how do you... how do you learn
when you're in trauma state,
when you're in
fight-and-flight state?
Your body is producing
all of these chemicals
That's your stasis mode.
Your homeostasis is that trauma,
is that fight-or-flight mode.
Your... your limbic system
is there,
which is what causes diabetes,
which causes heart disease,
which causes high blood pressure
and kidney failure,
and all kinds of other issues
that our children
are dealing with.
And, so, when we talk about
their... their behavior,
their behavior is attributed
to that state.
Anybody in that state
for as long as our children
have been in that state
would be angry,
would have behavioral problems,
would be responding
exactly the same way
that they are responding.
They're not different.
There's not something
wrong with them.
They're doing what their bodies
are telling them to do
because that's what
trauma does to people.
EDWARD: I feel like that.
EDWARD: That's... like,
I can't never really
put it... put it into words,
but like, that's...
that's exactly how I feel.
This is my fourth period.
They're doing it,
you know, right now.
This is Kwani. Say hey, Kwani.
- Hey.
This is my class. This is Kayla.
Everybody's doing their work.
Kayla, what are you doing?
EDWARD: In order just to
get through my days,
I've, um
I've been pushing that...
That stuff down,
though, you know?
EDWARD: And it's taken,
you know,
seeing my students
deal with this
for me to even realize it.
When I look at them, and
what they're up against
- it just breaks my heart.
My name is Shantrell Parker,
and I'm 16,
and I'm from
the Fischer Projects.
Barely out of their teens,
the family of 20-year-old
Shantrell Parker
and 20-year-old Gavonte Lampkin
are trying to come to terms
with their deaths,
both of them shot and killed,
their bodies burned
beyond recognition in Algiers.
So, I'm still thinking
it was a dream, like,
we're gonna wake up
from it or something.
Kewone Car to says she grew up
with 18-year-old
Shantrell Parker,
who was killed
alongside 20-year-old.
Gavonte Lampkin, July 29th.
She says Lampkin was the father
of Parker's two children.
STUDENT: What is it like being
an only child?
What it's like being
an only child is
I get anything I want,
and I sleep peacefully.
I want to go to school
to major in counseling.
STUDENT: Why do you want to go
to school to be a counselor?
I want to go to school
and be a counselor
because I want to help people
'cause I have been through
a lot in my life,
and I know
what it feels like to not have,
and I know
what it feels like to feel
that no one is here for you.
STUDENT: What does it feel like
to have no one here for you?
It feels like,
you won't, like...
No one's here for you.
Like, it's no love.
Like, nobody don't love you,
and you always need
that extra shoulder
to lean on when you're down.
Like, the anxi... the anxiety
in New Orleans
of just simply walking
to your car,
you know, like,
the anxiety in New Orleans
of just simply riding
in the car,
just sleeping by a window
or, like, you know, like
like just... existing,
just living
you know? That shit is like...
That shit'll drive you crazy.
And then, you know,
I go other places, and like,
I feel totally free of that,
you know?
And like, I love my city,
but I'm just saying that, like,
my anxiety is at the highest
when I'm home.
There's nothing that calms me
like being around my family.
GPS: The destination
is on your right.
EDWARD: Tina told me
that she missed everyone
on my last trip there.
GPS: Arrived.
We're back.
So, I decided to gather
all of my cousins
together for a reunion.
What's up, little one?
We got everybody with us.
I figured we could use that.
EDWARD: Tina gonna be happy
to see everybody.
- I know.
- Erica.
- So, what's everybody name?
I never met...
EDWARD: She said,
"What's everybody name?"
Oh, yeah. There you are.
- RyRy, Kai.
- SHIRLEY: A ray a, and Kai.
What you sayin', boy?
What's up?
EDWARD: What's up?
TINA: Come on, boy.
This party getting big.
CIERRA: I think it's hard
to talk about Katrina,
because it takes having
some form of vulnerability.
CIERRA: You know
acknowledging that something
happened to you
and that it wasn't okay.
If you're not able
to be vulnerable,
how do you heal?
It's decades after Katrina hit.
So much becomes built up
in those decades
where it was not talked about.
Being able to tell
my Katrina story
has been, you know,
part of my healing process,
healing something
that you didn't even know
needed to be healed
to begin with.
MIDCITY AB: New Orleans
is an African city.
We're oral people
sitting around a fire,
telling stories passed down
through generations.
It's been therapeutic.
Katrina is becoming a folktale,
and we're the storytellers.
CALVIN: Telling my story,
it inspired, you know,
a lot of others
that's going through
the same thing.
It makes them
just want to speak up more
'cause they know
they're not by they self.
CALVIN: I feel like nobody
should be that young
going through shit like that.
Really, I want... I'm...
I'm trying to change myself.
I want better in life than this.
I want to raise a family.
When I look at the videos...
CALVIN: Oh, no, man.
You gonna get through it,
but you have to have faith
that you would.
My journey right now is really
to be the best that I can be.
I want to learn new things,
and that just, like,
drives me to keep going.
I got things
that I want to accomplish
got places I want to go.
I'm older now, and
look at me. I made it.
I made it out. (CHUCKLES)
DAMARIS: Every time they give me
a new health diagnosis,
like diabetes formed after,
all these different things,
and I try not to think about it.
But it's like
how would my life be now
if I'd never stayed
in that trailer?
I really don't tell my story
because I don't want you
to feel sorry for me.
I never wanted to be
the so-called cancer patient.
Like, I want you to look at me,
and I want you to see
the person that I am,
the person that I was
before I even got sick.
Like, I just want to be me.
EDWARD: When everything
around you is set up
in a way that it's not meant
for you to survive,
resilience is when
you still find a way
to have your head up
and help yourself.
But sometimes I feel like
resilience is used as a tool
because they want people
to think,
"Oh, no. Everything is okay.
These people are good,
like, they're strong.
Look at how much
they've overcome."
So, like, I feel like
it's for me to say
when I'm resilient.
It's for me to say
what is resilient.
It's not for you.
EDWARD: You know,
it's the whole idea of saying
that New Orleans is rebuilt.
It's not.
Even though we are resilient,
we can never get back
what was lost.
Saturdays involved
Making our entrances
Into life outside, we've been
In this room too long
Recreation is keeping us
Self-contained and aware
Of each other's forms
Still and in
Full strides just the same
Keeping us warm
Walking in straight lines
Talking to sleep at night
Coddled and pacified
By versions of mothers
It's all new to me
It's all new to me
Having you around
It's all new to me
It's all new to me
Having you around the Higgs
What if we decide
To live by choice?
All this time I knew
That average was
Something to fall back on
After genius ends
I watch video
Only difference is
It's flattened and remiss
Sparks of lightning
Storm behind wet faces
Slipped my pants back on
And rewind it backward more
The tape stopped before
I was back alone
I'll be back before
The streetlight's on
Before the daylight's gone
I was spoiled
By lavish thoughts
They don't compare, no
Not at all
And had this been the past
I might not know...
TINA: Morning, Quentin.
- TINA: Y'all having fun?
- Yeah.
Excuse me,
but I'm too hot for TV.
TINA: Okay, baby. (LAUGHS)
What you give
My words can't hold
And if acts of God
Breaks us apart
Least we did ours, turn back
Turn back, turn
Back, turn back
Back, back, back, back
If you've never
Been in love
One can't explain
Nor it can contain
The pouring rain
The swarming pain
Try to escape. Damn
Here it comes again
Old photos
Of the kind of love
That just because
The soul it was
Some light decay
Like falling dust
And though I feel
Like I'm broken
Silent sounds have me open
I can't breathe
But I won't leave
Can't you feel the day?
Can you hear
What I'm saying?
I can't breathe
But I won't leave