Fifteen Years since Hurricane Katrina – Nonfiction

path of Hurricane Katrina
Source: Wikipedia

As Hurricane Sally made landfall, I remembered on August 30, fifteen years ago, when I realized I needed to actually put together an emergency kit for my family and me. What made me finally do this is seeing New Orleans underwater after Hurricane Katrina and the levees breaking.  What a devastating part of our history which just seems to be repeating itself today with COVID-19.

I remember being glued to the TV at the time and thinking how could something like this happen in the United States of America? The President of the United States was turning away help from other nations, but not doing enough to help the people that were stuck. He actually said in an interview on Sept 2, 2005, five days after the hurricane hit, to ABC News: “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. There’s a lot of food on its way, a lot of water on the way and there’s a lot of boats and choppers headed that way. It just takes a while to float them.”

View of New Orleans in aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
Source: Wikipedia

Recently I listened to the podcast Floodlines from The Atlantic. Writer Vann R. Newkirk goes into the deep history of hurricanes in New Orleans, interviewing people that were in New Orleans when the storm hit, people who were able to make it out, and various government officials.

A year after Hurricane Katrina hit, Spike Lee made a documentary, When the Levees Broke, for HBO. It is a four-part documentary that interviews the residents, including celebrities that were in New Orleans, state and local politicians, and rescuers including Sean Penn. The first part covers when the hurricane hit and the immediate days following. It concludes with the final part looking at it was like going back to your home.

cover image for Yellow House

Several nonfiction books have been written about people’s experiences during the hurricane. The most recent one, The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom, won the 2019 National Book Award. The hurricane is not the main focus of the story, but it is part of the story of the house that she grew up in.

cover image for ZeitounWhen I first read Dave Eggers’ book Zeitoun, I thought it was fiction. Nobody should have to go through the trauma of Katrina, spend days helping fellow survivors, and then be arrested and detained for unknown reasons. This is exactly what happened to this Muslim American.

cover image for Five Days at MemorialHealth care rationing has been a part of our current pandemic, hence the need to flatten the curve. Back in 2005, Memorial Hospital in New Orleans also decided who lived and who died. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital tells the stories of the caregivers at the hospital where there is no power, the temperature is rising, and they are all exhausted. After reading this book, you might wonder if we have learned anything from our past.

cover image for Shots on the BridgeWay before Black Lives Matter became a movement, there was a killing of a disabled black man and a black male teenager by New Orleans Police, and they injured four other black people.  All of them were unarmed. It happened on the Danziger Bridge and Shots on the Bridge: Police Violence and Cover-Up in the Wake of Katrina tells the story of what happened that day.

graphic for City of Seattle Prepare Yourself kit instructionsI hope that I will never need that emergency kit that I started putting together on August 30, 2005. But I know I have it and I know that history will continue to repeat itself until we learn from our past. You can also be ready for any upcoming disaster by visiting Prepare Yourself on the City of Seattle’s website where it tells you what you need for your emergency kit.


~posted by Pam H.

A History of Seattle Police: Part 2, East Precinct – Controversy from the Start

Content Warning: This post links to an historical newspaper article that uses the term “homosexuals,” which is an outdated term used to characterize gay people as having a psychological disorder.

In response to local interest on the history of policing in Seattle and community-driven police reform movements, Shelf Talk presents a three-part series that dives into historical resources on these topics. Part 1 examines police accountability starting with two events in 1965, Part 2 looks at controversy surrounding the creation and siting of the East Precinct, and Part 3 concludes with events in the 1980s and 1990s.

From proposal to opening, the creation of the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct took nine years and cost approximately $3.6 million. From the outset, community organizations, leaders, and citizens from the Black community, and later the gay community, resisted various proposals for siting the precinct within the Central District neighborhood.

At a special meeting of the City Council on July 27, 1977, a brief discussion of a bond proposal for police precinct stations took place. The issue appeared on the ballot September 20, 1977, and passed 73,745 to 37,258. Council President Sam Smith, the first Black City of Seattle council member, shared his views:

I understand Mr. Hill’s language, but perhaps Mr. Hill has not lived in the Central community, made a call for police and waited 45 minutes to get a response. By the same token, perhaps Mr. Hill has not lived in the community where that community was inflamed at the Police Department, and you had to literally throw yourself in between them to try to get them on speaking terms.

The people in the Central community pay the tax that supports the north and the south precinct and I think that they are quite willing to pay the tax to support that third precinct because the whole structure of government is moving towards neighborhood operations. Just this morning, I participated in the opening of an unemployment security office in Ballard, so that the people in that general northwest neighborhood where Mr. Hill lives would not have to come downtown to Taylor Avenue North but that they could go out in that neighborhood to get services. So the people of the Central community have long been denied, often promised, and it’s time for delivery.

You can listen to the entire Special Meeting of City Council, July 27, 1977 as a part of the Seattle Municipal Archives’ online exhibition, Seattle Voices.

23rd and Yesler
“…A black renaissance area…”

Although initially proposed to be located at 14th and Yesler, the City focused on 23rd and Yesler, near the Seattle Public Library’s Douglas-Truth branch (then named Yesler Branch). Isaiah Edwards, spokesman for the Coalition Against the Proposed East-Central Police Precinct Station, captured the sentiments of many: “The black people are incensed at the thought of bringing the station into a black renaissance area–like Laurelhurst or Windermere would be to the whites,” noting the educational complex, library branch, children’s clinic, and two training centers all within a block of the proposed site. Responding to the implication that crime was an issue in the neighborhood, Edwards responded: “It isn’t; the rate of crime in the central region is less than the rest of the city.” (“Site of Police Station OpposedSeattle Daily Times, 27 May 1979, p. 144.)

Despite the persistent and growing community opposition, the city continued with planning for the precinct at 23rd and Yesler. On July 29, 1981, a group of activists occupied an abandoned fourplex where the precinct was to be developed. Representing several groups, including the Coalition Against The Police Precinct, the National Black United Front, Mujer Housing Project, the Local Action Focus of the Peoples Anti-War Mobilization, and the Central Area Housing Alliance, they called for affordable housing instead. After breaking down the barriers, they mowed the lawn, cut brambles, and painted the trim. They indicated they would seek tenants from the city’s long wait lists for low-income housing. (“Protesters Take Over Site for Police StationSeattle Daily Times, Sports Final ed., 30 July 1981, p. 16.)

Finally, the city relented, formally abandoning the 23rd and Yesler site in April, 1984. (“Panel Abandons Central Area Precinct SiteSeattle Daily Times, PM ed., 14 Apr. 1982, p. 9.)

12th and East Pine
“It ain’t gonna make ’em come no quicker. But why do they need to build it? Instead they should give the money to poor folks.”

The next site proposed, and ultimately built, was 12th and East Pine. It too was met with community resistance, albeit underlined by begrudging acceptance of the inevitable. Chibby Lagmay, then 19 and a resident on Capitol Hill shared, “It doesn’t seem necessary. It’s seems weird for Capitol Hill. There’s not much crime here.” (“A Police Station at 12th and E. Pine?Seattle Daily Times, Final ed., 18 Jan. 1983, p. 12. )

The Greater Seattle Business Association, which represented businesses that catered to the gay community expressed concern that the precinct at 12th and East Pine would have a chilling effect on the community. After meeting with police organizers, the Greater Seattle Business Association was “given assurances they were aware of our concerns.” Oscar Jordan perhaps summarized the neighborhood views best: “It’s more expenses and they don’t need it. The Public Safety Building is adequate. But it won’t bother me none, as long as they (the police) don’t come in here and wreck the atmosphere.” (Ibid.)

The East Precinct at 12th and East Pine opened January 25, 1986.

~posted by Joe B.

If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can read it here: A History of Seattle Police: Part 1, Accountability.

Three on a Theme: Animal Comics

Animals often figure prominently in comic strips and graphic novels, but the ways in which they are represented and the roles they play in telling a story vary greatly across genres and the works of different authors. Often, animals in the comics genre exist mainly for comedic relief, representing cartoon caricatures or anthropomorphisms that tell us more about human beings than they do about the animal they are representing. Here are three graphic novels where animals are represented in a different way – as narrators, protagonists, or silent companions.

The Rabbi’s Cat by Jonathan Sfar
This is a gorgeous tail about humanity, religion, and… cathood… that takes place in 1930s Algeria and is imbued with a healthy dose of magical realism. The protagonist is a cat belonging to the daughter of a rabbi, who accidentally acquires the power of speech after eating a parrot. Now able to communicate with humans, the cat asks the rabbi for an education and to begin practicing Judaism, sparking a theological debate about whether or not a cat can be Jewish. This novel is beautifully illustrated, with bright colors, warm landscapes, and lively, dynamic characters (both human and non-human alike). The story deftly explores themes of what it means to have a religion, what it means to have a friend, and what it means to coexist in relationship with others. Continue reading “Three on a Theme: Animal Comics”

Three on a Theme: Vegan Cookbooks for Autumn

Autumn is a great time of year to turn inwards and do some experimentation in the kitchen, whether this means cooking delicious warm meals or exploring new baked goods to munch on while things get colder and darker outside. This post compiles a list of plant-based (vegan) cooking and baking resources offered by the Library that can help guide you on your autumn kitchen adventures. Whether you are already eating plant-based foods or not, these are sure to yield some yummy treats for this yummy season.

Vegan Casseroles by Julie HassanVegan Casseroles: Pasta Bakes, Gratins, Pot Pies, and More by Julie Hassan

Nothing says autumn like a nice gooey, crispy, scrumptious casserole taken fresh out of the oven. This cookbook by Julie Hasson is designed for the “health-conscious” vegan while also prioritizing the things that make casseroles a traditional comfort food. According to critical reviews, her recipes succeed in delivering flavor even without the dairy products that we tend to think make casseroles so good in a non-vegan context. With categories sch as “one-dish appetizers,” “pasta casseroles,” “dessert casseroles,” and an entire section on “sauces, toppings, and basics,” this is a very varied collection for anyone looking to expand their recipe repertoire this season. Continue reading “Three on a Theme: Vegan Cookbooks for Autumn”

The Story of Film Part 14: New American Independents & The Digital Revolution

Throughout The Story of Film, we’ve seen how the advent of new technology has changed the face of cinema. Sound, color, and widescreen technology altered filmmaking significantly, and in the 1990s CGI (computer generated imagery) changed cinema again. Suddenly, it seemed anything a filmmaker wanted to show, could be. A vast Roman city, one costing thousands of dollars to build, could be created digitally at a fraction of the expense (Gladiator). A shape shifting, liquid metal villain could now seamlessly interact with living actors (Terminator 2). Dinosaurs, previously visualized using stop-motion, could amaze and endanger characters on screen for less time and effort (Jurassic Park). Yet the stories being told were old ones and their characters were stock archetypes, propped up by technology that delivered spectacle but no new content.

Continue reading “The Story of Film Part 14: New American Independents & The Digital Revolution”