AFTER THE STORM: Now it’s Time to Plan and Pick up the Pieces

ABOVE: Deric Muhammad and Pastor E.A. Deckard hand out supplies

This past week, the Greater Houston area experienced the worst natural disaster in recent memory, as the unprecedented flood waters produced from Hurricane Harvey ravished the area.

Nearly 50″ of rain, or roughly a year’s worth of rain, fell upon the Greater Houston area in 7 days, and according to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Harvey broke the record for total rainfall from a tropical system in the 48 contiguous U.S. states. It was a monster storm, with catastrophic results.

The storm has since gone up north, but the remnants of the devastation left in the wake of the flooding from Hurricane Harvey still remain.

The flood waters from Hurricane Harvey were non-discriminatory and impacted nearly everyone – regardless of their racial demographic, socio-economic status or geographic area.

While the flooding did not discriminate, as it relates to who was impacted by the storm, there are still a tremendous number of disparities that exist amongst those who are poor and less fortunate. Some people have been left with absolutely nothing, and are scrambling to figure out how to pick up the pieces – many of those individuals are African American.

Countless individuals have stepped up to the plate, catapulting themselves into the unlikely roles of heroes and (s)heroes in their respective communities – risking their lives, giving of their time and sacrificing their personal resources to help family members, friends, neighbors and even strangers escape the torrential flood waters, find safety and shelter, and attempt to deal with the recovery phase of their lives after the storm.

This recovery effort has not been about one or two individuals doing all the work, or about who the big I’s and the little U’s are. This recovery effort has seen, however, many of the usual suspects rise to the occasion, once again, to deal with a crisis that many have faced since this catastrophic event took place.

Many individuals recall last year’s storm, often referred to as the “Tax Day Flood,” because April 15 fell on a weekend and got pushed to April 18 as result.

On April 17, the storm dropped nearly 17 inches of rain across the Greater Houston area, and continued through to April18. Because of the heavy flooding, a total of 8 people died, all in their cars, and 700+ homes and apartments flooded.

One of the areas heavily impacted during the “Tax Day Flood” last year was the Greenspoint area, located near 45 North Freeway and Beltway 8, where people found themselves without rescue boats and without a means to escape the flood waters without assistance.

During that time, people like community activist Deric Muhammad and Pastor E.A. Deckard, immediately sprang into action, doing the best they could to rescue individuals and provide the immediate needs of the people. Many other unsung heroes and (s)heroes joined forces with Muhammad and Deckard during the “Tax Day Flood” to help make a difference.

Now, fast forward to the recent flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, and Muhammad and Deckard are at it again, helping provide the immediate needs of the people by setting up donation drop-off and pick-up spots all across the Greater Houston area, in order to get resources directly into the hands of the people who need them. This time, however, the devastation is wider, and the needs are much greater.

There is no way anyone could have been able to fully predict the type of devastation and catastrophic results of Hurricane Harvey, or the level of calamity that any natural disaster will cause; but the one thing individuals in the Greater Houston area can proactively do is organize and be better prepared to deal with a natural disaster or crisis whenever it arises – especially in a place like the Greater Houston area which is historically known for its propensity to flooding.

Granted, there must be something done about the aging infrastructure in Houston, but until that is properly dealt with and resolved, individuals have to do everything in their power to protect themselves.

For many African Americans in the Greater Houston area, they find it difficult not to be concerned about the level of attention they may or may not receive in their respective neighborhoods during any type of crisis or disaster – natural or man-made -particularly as it relates to emergency rescue response times or resources dispersed to their communities.

Complaints about a lack of response from FEMA, state agencies, disaster recovery organizations and local elected officials, are customary during times like these, and in many cases justifiable.

It is time that local communities become more engaged, and begin to take ownership of what happens in their communities, particularly as it relates to dealing with the aftermath of a future natural disaster – which could very well be right around the corner.

As a result of Hurricane Harvey, several local community organizations, entities and institutions have begun meeting and discussing ways in which they can work together in proactive unity in order to strategize, organize, prepare and be ready to mobilize whenever a future crisis or disaster strikes.

Imagine if these types of progressive meetings were taking place all across the Greater Houston area.

If African Americans were to take a look at nearly every major aspect of their lives, it is clear the African American community does not have collective control over the things that impact their daily lives, especially when it comes to dealing with a crisis or a natural disaster.

Now is the time to move away from being collectively reliant and solely dependent on other people, other organizations and heavily dependent on local, county, state and federal governments to take care of the needs of the African American community whenever circumstances become dire and in times where the community is in its weakest and most vulnerable position.

For those who were blessed enough to not receive any damage from Hurricane Harvey, now is not the time to sit on the sidelines and just watch. Please find a way to help those who are still dealing with the devastation and recovery aspect of the storm.

Your time, talent and treasure are needed – now more than ever.

The Forward Times is currently working with a remnant of committed local community groups, organizations and individuals, who are focused on standing together and moving forward, by developing a solid community engagement plan, while also helping to rebuild better communities for current and future generations of Greater Houston area residents.

They must feel safe and excited about their future. Now is the time!!!

Next week, the Forward Times will provide our readers with a Hurricane Harvey Recovery Roadmap Special Edition with critical information for our readers to have access to as we deal with the aftermath of this catastrophic and life-altering storm.

Stay tuned and we are here to help if you need us!