Time does not heal all wounds, at least for the Gulf Coast, which is why, three years after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, Finding Our Folk, the New Orleans Hot 8 Brass Band, and the KatrinaRitaVille Express Trailer are coming to the Vineyard this weekend, under the leadership of Derrick Evans.
Mr. Evans, a historian and environmentalist from costal Mississippi, is executive director of the Turkey Creek Community Initiatives, which has helped provide services to the hurricanes’ survivors and advocate for recovery planning. While talking to Mr. Evans about the Vineyard event, I could feel the heat of the New Orleans Hot 8 Brass Band playing in the background, jamming.
Mr. Evans described Finding Our Folk as an organization working to reconnect all of the communities of the Gulf Coast area that were shattered by Katrina and Rita. The organization helped groups of young people work to reassemble the broken neighborhoods while filming their experiences.
Since August of 2007, Finding Our Folk has joined with KatrinaRitaVille Express in a nationwide tour. KatrinaRitaVille is a real FEMA trailer that has traveled the country, serving as a museum, outdoor theatre, moveable billboard and, most importantly, a platform for Gulf Coast leaders and survivors. According to Mr. Evans, one goal of the tour is to “help the public understand that it wasn’t just New Orleans that was hit by Katrina and Rita but the entire Gulf Coast” and that the recovery has not been timely or sustainable.
New Orleans Hot 8 Brass Band, made up of musicians displaced by Hurricane Katrina, will play at several Island venues this weekend. Mr. Evans was full of enthusiasm as he described the sound. “The music of the Hot 8 — and of the Gulf Coast, period — carries ... a certain power that is centuries old. Ethereal and transforming, it moves people.”
Mr. Evans believes that the same can be said of the experience of walking into a FEMA trailer, an experience 143,000 families have had to deal with following the 2005 hurricanes. “This combination of disasters and culture helps to teach the country what it cannot learn any other way, about the Gulf Coast,” he said.
The Vineyard events promise to be filled with good food, hot music and memorable learning. The money they raise will provide relief funds for the Gulf communities and will keep the tour going. “We need to stay on the road to keep Katrina in the news,” Evans said.
KatrinaRitaVille will be in Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs today from 3 to 9 p.m. where you can meet Gulf Coast survivors and enjoy presentations, music, videos and refreshments.
Saturday, from 4 to 7 p.m. there will be activities, music and a screening of the Finding Our Folk documentary at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs.
Lola’s Southern Seafood, also in Oak Bluffs hosts a fundraiser for the projects on Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m.