Newswire : City of Houston under water as Hurricane Harvey rivals Katrina

By Hazel Trice Edney

Family of Houston Defender Publisher Sonny Messiah-Jiles being rescued. PHOTO: Clyde Jiles;

Hurricane Harvey

People walking out of flooded areas of Houston

( – At publication deadline this week, more than 9,000 people – an overflow of evacuees – had packed into the Houston Convention Center fleeing the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey Residents on higher ground south of Houston had been urged to leave their homes immediately due to the breach of levees.
Even with a 49 inch record rainfall for the U. S., Texas forecasts predicted even more heavy rain for the remainder of this week as the Hurricane appeared to boomerang, hitting the city for a second time. More than 30,000 people were expected to seek shelter before it’s all over as residents of cities South of Houston heeded the warning to “Get out now” due to the broken levee.
“Since the shelter opened early Sunday morning, I’ve seen throngs of survivors coming in, people who have barely the clothes on their backs, soak and wet, their belongings in their hands,” Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said in a live CNN interview Tuesday. “But they’re resilient, they have faith, they’re looking for a future. And they believe that they’re going to get help. That’s an important message for those who now have nothing. We now have an obligation to commit to them that they will have a future and that the resources will come.”
Lee said after conversations with rescue workers, volunteers and others in charge of the rescues, the key issue was to continue focusing on getting people to safety. She said she believed that there are “certain pockets in this community – including Beltway 8, Tidwell and Northside – where we need to continue to rescue people.”
Lee and Congressman Al Green agreed that thousands of additional people could still be awaiting rescue at that time on Tuesday morning. Congresswoman Lee estimated that the damages and rebuilding after the Hurricane will surpass $150 billion across Texas.
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump flew into Corpus Christi and then to Austin on Tuesday. In Corpus Christi, they received a briefing from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The White House says the President did not fly closer to the worst disaster areas in Houston because he didn’t want to distract from rescue efforts.
Gov. Abbott thanked Trump for the advance preparations that had been going on for 10 days, saying “Texas has been tested. But our response to this challenge has been made much more effective because of the very effective way that the” Trump Administration has responded.
“This was of epic proportion. No one has ever seen anything like this,” Trump said in response to the governor’s remarks. “We won’t say congratulations. We don’t want to do that. We’ll congratulate each other when it’s all finished.”
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Administrator Brock Long referred to Hurricane Katrina, the disastrous Hurricane that killed nearly 2,000 people in New Orleans around the same week in August in 2005. In that situation, thousands died mainly due to old levees that failed to hold back New Orleans’ Lake Pontchartrain after the storm.
“This is not the Superdome,” said Long, referring to the New Orleans stadium where thousands gathered after Katrina and waiting for days before FEMA responded. Then President George W. Bush was strongly criticized for flying over New Orleans in a helicopter.
Houston is the fourth largest city in the nation, making it difficult for first responders to know where all the people needed help. Word went out for those needing to be rescued to hang large towells from their window.
Searches for family, loved ones and associates and co-workers continued throughout the week. Many depended on media to get the word out about missing loved ones.
The National Newspaper Publishers Association blasted an alert to their editors and publishers showing one of their leading publishers, former NNPA Foundation Chairwoman Sonny Messiah-Jiles of the Houston Defender, being rescued by boat along with her family.
Houston Forward Times Publisher Karen Carter Richards, responded to an email from the Trice Edney News Wire saying she was thankful for “God’s Amazing Grace!!!” She added, “My family and I are good. No water in our homes, we’re safe and dry. My office got a little water but nothing major to even talk about. Keep praying!”
Many are praying because thousands of others are not as fortunate. So far the death count is 14, but authorities expect that will rise as recovery efforts begin once the water has receded. The stories of heroism and struggles are harrowing as the elderly, sick and families with children desparately seek safety. One family of six perished when the van they were in sank as they tried to flee the waters. A police officer was also killed when his car sank in flood waters on his way to work.
The NNPA statement from Chairwoman Dorothy Leavell and President/CEO Benjamin Chavis issued an “urgent national call for support for all people who are being impacted by the devastating flood waters.”
Millions of appeals for prayers and assistance continue across the nation this week as the recovery will no doubt take years.
The NNPA statement said, “We are asking that all NNPA publishers across the nation keep all those affected by the flooding crisis in Texas in our concerned hearts and fervent prayers.” Direct support for victims of Hurricane Harvey can be made through the Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Some say Russia ‘collusion’ investigation distracting from Black issues


By Barrington M. Salmon

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) was among several members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the hearing room as Comey testified.
( – During former FBI Director Jim Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week, the irony of Black people cheering for Comey didn’t escape African-Americans who watched the on-going saga unfold in public view last week.
In more than three hours of testimony, Comey said under oath that the president repeatedly pressed him for a pledge of loyalty and asked him to drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. And after Comey failed to fulfill the president’s wishes, Trump fired him.
In casual conversations, political discussions and debates in Black communities across the country, the question has centered on how invested African-Americans should be in the hearings and their outcome given the FBI’s history of unfairness to Black leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Moreover, with Black progress at stake,some wonder whether the focus on the Trump-Comey controversy is too much of a destraction.
Mimi Machado-Luces, a documentary filmmaker, photographer and mother of two, said she watched the hearing and believes Trump is a liar who lacks the skills or temperament to be president. This is all the more reason that Black people must escalate thier attention to Black progress.
People of African descent in America, she said, were lulled to sleep by eight years of a Barack Obama presidency and now most still can’t rouse themselves to fully confront the dangers that the Trump administration has spawned.
“I think that we’ve fallen back onto this lull of ‘Oh…good times are over.’ We’ve fallen back into this reactionary mode,” she said. “Black Lives Matter and other groups like that are grand but I don’t see anyone coming out aggressively about things we need to be pursuing in our agenda, talking about the effects of things Trump is coming in to dismantle.”
Machado-Luces, an artist-in-residence teaching Digital Media at several DC and Maryland schools, said she wonders if and when Black people will come together and coalesce around a meaningful, substantive agenda.
“I don’t know if that will happen, probably not in my lifetime,” she said. “All I know is that there’s so much work to do. I don’t want to say we as a people lack vision. We’re psychologically lulled into accepting the oppression. I see some people trying to change things but part of the oppression is written into law. People get off when they shouldn’t.”
The intrigue and importance of the topic of possible collusion with a foreign country by a U. S presidential administration has not escaped coverage by the Black press, which has historically covered the antagonist relationship between the Black community and the FBI as well as other law enforcement agencies. DC-based independent journalist and political analyst Lauren Victoria Burke said she was among those glued to coverage, mainly because of the gravity of the events.
Burke said unlike the Iran-Contra scandal, for example, the ethical lapses and conflicts of interests swirling around this White House is a “much more serious matter because of the possibility of the president or his people being involved in treasonous activity.”
She said, “It’s a spy-level novel situation…No. I’ve never seen anything like this. The idea that somehow this is normal – none of this is normal.”
Burke, who covers Capital Hill daily, says Black Democratic lawmakers like Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Al Green (D-Texas) have been leading the charge in criticizing Trump, calling for a special prosecutor and seeking impeachment.
“They’ve been a little bit more out in front than most people. Green and Waters have called for impeachment. They’re the only members to call for impeachment,” said Burke. “Waters came out in front very early. She talked in a way that people were saying to take it back. But it’s almost mainstream now.”
Sam Collins, a millennial grassroots journalist and activist, said he watched sections of the Comey hearing with a jaundiced eye. He’s tired, he said, of the mainstream treating critical, potentially life-and-death issues and the dysfunction and chaos emanating from the White House as a pay-per-view event. Even though he has a good handle on the inner-workings of government and its relationship with the people it purports to serve, Collins said he’s still not sure whether the entire Russia debacle is just a diversionary tactic.
“Our leaders are following Russia while districts are going through issues, such as access to quality healthcare, unemployment and other problems that were here long before Russia or Trump,” said Collins, who is a teacher with District of Columbia Public Schools. “It’s proxy war. They’re putting up this proxy war to distract us.”
As he’s watched the Trump White House try unsuccessfully to fend off a rising chorus of accusations of collusion with Russia and a variety of other potential misdeeds, Collins believes Black leaders have become distracted as African-Americans and people of color face more overt racism, unprovoked attacks, hostility from the Trump administration, and the reversal of hard-earned gains by regressive forces.
“We need to organize among ourselves,” he concluded. “The NAACP is going through an identity crisis and may be about to fall under. I wouldn’t be mad,” Collins said with a chuckle. “There are no radical voices…All this political stardom and we have no juice to move anything.”