Ten years after Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans, many people still feel the effect of the storm.
Students at Southern University Law Center are scheduled to host a symposium on Oct. 14 to help inform citizens of their rights with regard to natural disaster – particularly the right to temporary housing.
"When the government fails us, something has to be done about it,” symposium editor Michaela Guillory told the Louisiana Record. “Something has to be done that is lasting and leaves its mark on society."
Guillory says the symposium will focus on the legal effects resulting from attorneys challenging governmental actions following Hurricane Katrina.
“The most important thing to remember is that when governmental agencies fail the community, those agencies are not immune from judicial review,” Guillory told the Record.
One of the cases set for discussion is McWaters v. FEMA, which was filed to secure temporary housing assistance to Katrina evacuees. Lead prosecutor on the case Howard Godnick of the Schulte Roth and Zabel Law Firm in New York is scheduled to speak. Godnick successfully obtained injunctive relief against the Federal Emergency Management Agency, preventing the agency from evicting tens of thousands of hurricane victims from their federally funded hotel rooms.
Other topics covered at the symposium will include demographics and education post-Katrina.
“The largest impact with regard to education would be the failure of the public school system,” Guillory said. “Failing children, the future of society cannot be allowed to continue.”
The panel is set to discuss the court’s decision in Oliver v. Orleans Parish School Board, which was filed when many teachers lost their job after the storm. Lead council on the case, Willie M. Zanders, will be present to talk about the verdict and its implications.
Guillory says the demographics panel will focus on how the New Orleans population is has a different makeup now than before the storm.
“New Orleans lost a significant portion of its African-American population, particularly low-income families,” Guillory said. “The demographics panel will explore why something like this occurred when there were governmental programs in place such as the Road Home Program. This panel will further explore whether programs of that nature were really the road home – or more like the road to nowhere.”
Guillroy says because the government failed the people of New Orleans, without the help of servicemen, attorneys and sympathetic outsiders, many people would have never recovered.
“It is imperative to remember that there are still some people who were unable to fully recover,” she said to the Record. . “Their lives will never be the same as they were before the storm.”
The symposium is being organized by a student-writing group called the Journal of Race, Gender and Poverty. Guillory says the group strives to provoke critical thought and discussion, enlighten the community to injustice and encourage people to take a stand about those injustices.
The symposium on the effects of Hurricane Katrina is scheduled from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. in room 129-130 A.A. Lenoir Hall at Southern University Law Center. Community members are encouraged to attend.