Experience and knowledge needed for disaster recovery

Let nobody fool you, all the loud noises we hear today are nothing but the death groans of the dying system.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Over 60 serious-minded people came together at 8 am, May 27, 2011, at UROC in North Minneapolis, andagain at 3 pm that afternoon, across the street at the Urban League. Purpose? To discuss how to handle the aftermath of the tornado that ravaged over 5,000 homes and businesses and caused millions of dollars in damage.

The 8 am meeting had been announced by Mayor R.T. Rybak. It appeared no one was ready with plans other than Lutheran Social Services (LSS), which is the largest statewide private nonprofit social service agency in Minnesota. Nancy Beers, the director of Disaster Services for LSS, demonstrated what calamity preparedness is all about: Meet calamity with ready, actionable response plans to assist disaster victims.

Why doesn’t the Black ministerial group have such plans?

The self-proclaimed “leaders” hijacked the morning meeting, announcing they were coordinating the relief effort in North Minneapolis. It was clear they had no such plan for doing anything other than collecting fees for coordinating. What an embarrassment for the Black community.

Even more embarrassing was how some of those who receive big salaries to manage agencies within the Black community disrespected organizations that are actually doing real things to help real people (e.g., Lutheran Social Services, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army). We choose at this time not to name names, hoping they’ll get it right and then work to end the disconnect — and learn how to bring assistance to our community without putting their hands out.

The excellent LSS Power- Point presentation bore witness to an extraordinary understanding of what to do in a community after disasters like the tornado.

Ms. Beers and Lutheran Social Services obviously bring experience and sensitivity to communities in pain. We need Black leaders and ministers with knowledge and who really care.

The 3 pm meeting in the afternoon at the Urban League called by the Black organizational leadership was more fake, as they merely had Ms. Beers and her Lutheran Social Services team repeat their outstanding PowerPoint presentation. I wondered what we would have discussed without the Lutheran Social Services presentation. When will our Black leadership and churches work to become relevant again, especially in response to disasters? To take advantage of the work and the knowledge of others is not uncommon, but it leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth to know they are drawing excessive and extraordinary salaries and still do so little.

This point was made again when I attended another meeting the following Tuesday. A tremendous number of agency heads and other representatives met. This time, Ms. Beers and her Lutheran Social Services team were not there. And those who positioned themselves as spokespersons and facilitators for tornado recovery were exposed as being unprepared. With no one’s work to hijack or pirate, incompetence driven by the mentality of hustling for the sake of the hustle was exposed.

It breaks my heart to say this. But truth has to be spoken to misused power when so many neighbors are in pain, and all the status quo leaders bring is incompetence and hustling. All could see it. Truth is truth. Facts are facts. When will Black “leaders” trod the only leadership paths that count: education and jobs? Instead, they participate in dumbing down the education of our kids and grandkids, even helping to deny them jobs, even on the biggest construction projects, so they can keep their jobs.

“Where there is no vision the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Lutheran Social Services showed vision. The Black leadership did not. Not all of them, of course, but with too many of them we don’t anticipate positive results on behalf of the Black community. Instead, we anticipate the same ol’ same ol’: misrepresentation and lies by city officials, agency heads and Black “leaders” who while their time dancing together at their tax payer-funded feast.

Much of our community’s confidence and vision of hope for the future have been shattered. Our community will continue to suffer as long as we are given incompetence, inexperience, and indifference. Lets us adopt plans. Lutheran Social Services outlines the need: long-term disaster recovery services, such as disaster case management, volunteer coordination, rebuilding assistance, mental health supports, financial counseling, comforting children, and other services as identified.

Stay tuned.

Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, hosts Black Focus Blog radio, 3:00 pm, Sundays and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!” Saturdays at 5 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his archive of columns, solution papers and “web log” at www.TheMinneap olisStory.com.