activism, college, college students, HBCU, help, higher education, historically black colleges, historically black colleges and universities, humanitarian, humanitarianism, hurricane katrina, lower ninth ward
A recent trip to New Orleans demonstrated the real needs of people in underserved communities, particularly those of African descent. The sight of dilapidated homes, empty lots, shuttered businesses, the paucity of job opportunities, and the burden of these displaced people quickly began to get the better of me.
The trip taught me that status and clout coupled with education and compassion can make a huge impact.
In New Orleans I met Jo’Shawn, he was 19 years old and a survivor of Hurricane Katrina. He and his cousin were trapped inside their house, being forced to use a pistol to fire through the roof to escape the rising waters. One night I asked him, “After all that has happened, how do you remain so happy?” It was almost as if his joy annoyed me because I was so frustrated at the system that failed New Orleans so badly by a clear misappropriation of funds and I wanted him to be also.
He said: “I just put it all in the Lord’s hands.” That statement, that thought process, makes me feel both hope and shame. He made trusting in the Lord seem so simple, in the way that I did not, though deep down I desire to. I find hope in meeting someone who is ok with not being in control. It’s a beautiful thing.
Never did I believe that the people in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans would encourage me so much. I know that extreme loss can bring a greater sense of gratitude for life and possessions but I hadn’t anticipated being changed in this way.
What I learned from my visit to New Orleans is that we must understand the needs of disadvantaged communities so that we can address them properly. I learned that those with status and fame have a platform to highlight issues and organize solutions and that same power, on a smaller scale, is in all of us.
I encourage those pursuing change, especially those who are considered to be the “minority”, to educate themselves in order for them to get to the position to invoke change. Hope is not a destination, it’s a paradigm.
I pray and hope that we do not have to lose everything around us to appreciate what’s within us.
Give HOPE. Live HOPE.
About the Author
Originally from Jamaica, N.Y, Kwamé McIntosh is a 22-year-old master’s candidate at Howard University currently studying social work , administration, and policy focusing on displaced populations. He was recently been published in a multi-authored poetry book titled, “The Journey” due to be released May 2012. Kwamé is a young humanitarian whose sole desire is to dramatically change systems entrapping the lives of underserved populations globally.