Last Wednesday was beautiful and historic. While the sun rose and birds chirped, hundreds of citizens gathered at New Orleans City Hall. Representing Texas through Florida, Gulf-coast residents were joined by Louisiana leaders and supporters from as far as California and Washington D.C.
The day began when local speakers took the stage. We soon marched Dome-bound, embodying industry resistance. Giant, rainbow banners read “KEEP IT IN THE GROUND” and “WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT.” Other messages reflected our diverse and growing vision of a fairer and healthier world. “BLACK LIVES MATTER” and “FREE THEM ALL” were prominent and powerful, in addition to my personal favorite, “LOVE IS LIBERATION.”
Well over a hundred individuals entered the federal auction once at the Superdome. The space was saturated with costumes and signs, the air heavy with chants and songs. Officials meanwhile still attempted to announce the winning lease recipients. Of the some 45,000,000 Gulf acres for sale, fewer than 700,000 were actually acquired by oil and gas interests.
Together, we later completed a lap around the Dome, posed for aerial pictures, and listened to extraordinary musical and spoken-word performances. By midday, it was time for lunch and to bask in our collective energy.
Gulf communities have shouldered the lopsided costs of extractive industries for generations. And almost six years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we remain vulnerable to further catastrophes. Extreme weather events, rising seas, and retreating coasts only heighten these risks.
Despite stacked odds in a rigged game, March 23rd made explicit our commitment to a future that works for all. The Gulf is not a sacrifice zone. The Gulf can exemplify collaborative reinvention and radical restoration. Purpose now pulses through our veins, as the fate of tomorrow depends on how we invest today.
Art birthed from the Radical Arts & Healing Collective, First Seven Design Labs, and all those stained with paint and glue. Lead photo courtesy of Elizabeth Brossa, from Flickr's Creative Commons.
James Hartwell is GRN’s Coastal Wetland Analyst.