Obies Recruit Katrina Relief Volunteers
Sunday evening, students expecting to hear ex-Black Panther and grassroots organizer Malik Rahim talk about Common Ground, the New Orleans aid organization he started, instead found Arthur Richards, a College senior, who spent this fall volunteering in New Orleans.
Richards had the difficult task of announcing that Rahim would not be able to make it that night due to a recent tragedy. A volunteer working for Common Ground had died in a bus accident. Rahim’s appearance had to be cancelled, Richards told the audience, although efforts will be made to bring him to campus in the spring.
Although Rahim was not there to speak about Common Ground, Richards and others who participated with the group spoke about their experiences.
Numerous people who had participated in grassroots efforts in New Orleans encouraged others to do the same. They included several Oberlin students who donated their time to Common Ground over Fall Break, Beth Gibson of the Center for Service and Learning and a couple from Wellington. They encouraged students to join groups who will be going back to New Orleans over Winter Term and Spring Break.
The people who spoke seemed to agree that every volunteer would bring the overwhelming cleanup effort closer to realization and would be left with a feeling of personal gratification.
Before and after the lecture, attendees viewed an array of memoirs from the Fall Break trip. Stories of New Orleans natives included a tale of a man who, as he rushed to his own car to escape the flooding, saw a woman trapped inside of hers, face pressed to the window before the car vanished amid the salt water. He managed to climb to his roof, where he remained for a week, feeling that he should also have been washed away with the storm.
Display boards and a slideshow presented moving photos of molded houses,
furniture piled in the streets, sludge covering house floors and spray-painted
signs such as “With help we can help ourselves. Thanks to all