Commentary: New Orleans Creole Diaspora, By: Marvin Chachere

Friday January 06, 2006

Just as a stone dropped into the middle of a calm lake produces concentric waves one after the other, so press reports emanate from Katrina. They range from the mundane like the effect of dislocation on Tulane’s football season to the momentous like the tens of billions of dollars needed to remake the levee system so as to restore the wetlands. Daily news ripples of culpable neglect and blatant hypocrisy reduce me to tears.  

I moved away from New Orleans in 1945 but Mama and Daddy died there and my three brothers never left.  

Like so many Creole families, mine numbers over 50—direct descendants from my parents whose souls, except for a hand full of very young great-great grandkids, bear the New Orleans mark. Despite the fact that 90 percent of us make our homes elsewhere we all bask in and practice the Big Easy life; we visit as often as possible, display our unique amalgam of cultures, enjoy gumbo, dirty rice, crayfish and jumbalaya, engage in festive, uninhibited jubilations at Mardi Gras time regardless of where we live. We are Seattle-New Orleaneans, Berkeley-New Orleaneans, Houston-New Orleaneans, Los Angeles-New Orleaneans, etc. Along with us are thousands and thousands more similarly hyphenated New Orleaneans, a Crescent City Creole Diaspora. 

Katrina itself left us undisturbed. We were scattered as distantly before as after hurricanes Betsy (1965) and Camille (1969) and were prepared to tough it out again with Katrina, confident in our city’s survival. We did not expect to see it destroyed.  

What caused the shock waves were long standing man-made and politically driven pre-Katrina neglect followed by ineptitude, incompetence and hypocrisy. Our birth city was obliterated, our figurative umbilical cord severed.  

There are those who expect government to rebuild, to revivify America’s favorite tourist town. Evacuees complain that president Bush has so far failed on his promise, that FEMA is slow and unreliable. They say New Orleans is forgotten, Washington is deaf to its pleas, it must rebuild itself.  

Along with relatives and other members of the Creole Diaspora most with un-English family names like mine, I feel obliged to accept the destruction. My much-loved city of origin will not arise like an urban version of Lazarus 

I and others built lives in the great diversity of America even as our spirits held us close to home. There is now no home. Home has been erased. We are emigrants, homesick, filled with sorrow, saddened and very, very angry. Katrina’s ripple effect 


Marvin Chachere is a San Pablo resident.