With all eyes on Haiti and the horrific devastation that has taken place there, it was natural for many to think back to how government officials and leaders handled recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane’s Katrina, Rita and Ike and see what lessons could be gleaned as we move forward with Haiti. Within our generation, one of the first people who came to mind was popular rap star/producer/ actor David Banner. Best known for hit records like ‘Cadillac on 22s’, ‘Like a Pimp’ and ‘Play’, Banner is better known for the heroic efforts he put forth in the recovery efforts that took place in Mississippi after Katrina. So much so that he was awarded a prestigious Visionary Award by the National Black Caucus of the State Legislature.
In 2005 Banner was on a roll and was at the height of his career. ‘Play‘ was a number one record, his soon to be released album ‘Certified‘ was anticipated to be a huge success and the doors to Hollywood were starting to open. Banner was on tour when Katrina hit. He immediately suspended all operations and turned his tour buses into rescue vehicles. Banner personally delivered water, clothing and food to those in need, spending tens of thousands of dollars of his own money…Ironically this caused tension between him and his record label because Banner stopped promoting his much anticipated album when appearing on popular media outlets like MTV or BET and instead talked about relief efforts and what fans could do to help Katrina victims.
As Banner often pointed out, New Orléans went through her immense suffering and death by the destructions of the levees which flooded the city and not the Hurricane itself which by the time it hit was downgraded from a category 5 to 3. It was his native Mississippi that experienced Katrina at level 5 and bore the resulting devastation half way through the state. The horrors suffered by Mississippi has not really been spoken about or fully documented. But Banner saw it all and was on the ground helping out just days after. He is still helping out in recovery efforts to this day..
When we sat down to talk with David Banner, he explained that Haiti has been going through earthquakes ever since she freed herself from slavery and established that country. She’s gone through economic and political earthquakes caused by the policies of our government including some put forth by George Bush and Bill Clinton who are heading up recovery efforts now. It’s like they were sent to finish a job they started.
Banner cautioned that all of us need to keep an eye on and be careful about the people and organizations we send our money. He reminded listeners that many of the recovery agencies involved with Katrina made money and pimped the victims. He sees and hears many of the same troubling behavior with Haiti. Banner also recounted his own experience of seeing lots of money coming into organizations and it not being delivered to the people. He noted he saw how food and clothes that he brought to these organizations were taken away from poor parts of town and delivered to places where people were a little bit more well to do.. This is a complaint we are hearing over and over in Haiti.
Banner also talked about all the money and opportunities that were granted when it came time to rebuild. He cautioned that we should all pay attention to the contracts being given out in Haiti, because after Katrina many of the people who were displaced and lost their homes did not get opportunities to work on the rebuilding. Banner said companies like Halliburton made tons of money while people most in need were left with nothing.
Banner also talked about the psychological damage that victims of Katrina had to endure. He explained that while people were still in shock after seeing a loved one drowned, eating by alligators or seeing their homes and personal effects destroyed, unscrupulous developers flooded the areas offering to buy people’s home for cheap and turn the areas into mini Las Vegas with expensive homes popping up and poor people being permanently displaced.
Banner said the solution to all this is for us in Black America to be prepared and understand Katrina and Haiti will happen again. He said we will see some sort of catastrophe happen and that we need to be preparing ourselves now, because at the end of the day we’re gonna have to help ourselves..
We concluded by noting how fellow artists like Nelly, T.I. and Young Jeezy came to Banner’s help when he ran into road blocks and red tape by the government who tried to put all sorts of restrictions on the way he could help his own community. He talked about how his Heal the Hood foundation got hit with all sorts of red tape and that Nelly came along and absorbed Banners charity into his and helped him get all the paper work correct.
You can hear the full interview HERE