In the fall of 2004, I was just entering the sixth grade at Silver Sands Middle School. Everything changed during the second week of school when our city was rocked with three back-to-back hurricanes.
Natural disasters like tornadoes, tsunamis and even volcanic eruptions don’t quite put the fear in people like a hurricane. From the monstrous mighty rushing winds to the nonstop pounding of heavy rain that drowns entire cities, hurricanes are feared worldwide.
The same path
As an African people, we have a rich and beautiful history with these storms. Many believe each storm follows the trail of the Middle Passage of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Regardless, no matter where you are on this planet, when a hurricane hits, you run for cover.
Growing up in Caroline Village, there was nothing more that a broke kid could ask for than the freedom to go outside and play. There weren’t many unfortunate events in our neighborhood except for hurricane season.
Each year, we watched families throw away everything they worked so hard to get. Piles of televisions, old pictures, clothes, even dressers would be floating in the massive floods. During Hurricane Charlie, I remember taking a piece of a bin and floating on top of the water to get to the Orange Avenue pharmacy.
Subject of jokes
The flooding in the Caroline Village, Gardens Of Daytona, Palmetto Park and predominately Black neighborhoods is so notorious that there have even been jokes on shows like “Saturday Night Live” in the past.
Unfortunately, living in the poorest areas of Daytona Beach meant we had to continuously suffer severe flooding and home damage. The worst was the mold and mildew attached to the apartment walls due to the sewage backup.
While the Daytona One complex can celebrate multimillion-dollar profits, we have children (now adults) who deal with the health and emotional repercussions of growing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Instead of worrying about beautification which blocks business in the MLK Boulevard community, city and local legislators should focus on improving the infrastructure and overall redevelopment of flood-prone communities.
When it comes to history, Black and minority people are always at the bottom. We’re the last to get the medical aid, last to get rescued, last to get media exposure. During Hurricane Katrina, it took the U.S. government days to react to a national emergency. Thousands of lives were lost because our leaders sat back and watched us like guinea pigs trying to survive.
We must never let any of our communities down again when it comes to dealing with natural disasters and their after-effects. The weeks of no electricity, damaged homes, destroyed childhood memories, and disastrous flooding must end.
Two years ago this month, Community Healing Project, Inc. collected two trucks’ worth of food, water, baby items and medical supplies and drove 14 hours straight to Houston, Texas as they dealt with the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. My team and I strapped on our work boots, did hours of outreach, and made it safely back home to deal with Hurricane Irma. Some lost everything they owned, but they never gave up hope.
That experience changed my life and my perspective on what it means to unite as a people. When it comes to aid and relief, I am proud to say we have always risen to the occasion.
On Saturday, Sept. 9 at 10:30 a.m., there will be a supply and item drive for families recovering from Dorian. We will be located on the corner of Loomis Avenue and Keech Street, right behind the Caroline Village apartments. We will collect water, clothes, shoes, new underwear/socks, toiletries, baby formula/diapers, and medical supplies.
Later that day, we will host our “Street 2 Street” community cleanup program. It will take a village to complete this mission.
So as we board up windows and put the children to sleep with a prayer, have faith and understand that we are strong as a people and have always been resilient.
The city and its officials must never forget that during storms, our communities are the most vulnerable and damaged. It’s time to start paying more attention to infrastructure in urban communities to combat these reoccurring nightmares. Families who live here in this city are much more important than the tourists.
It’s time to appreciate what it means to be a resident. We may not be rich, but we still have a voice. Asé!
Rell Black is an award-winning activist, blogger and the founder of Community Healing Project Inc.