July 29, 2009
A Conversation with the musing Brad Bechler ~
The Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is one month away.
Now is the time to encourage thoughtful conversation.
Mayoral candidates are taking aim in New Orleans, and the entire Gulf Coast is still attempting to recover,maneuver,and bring forth change.
In the upcoming months,please challenge those who might care to begin a discussion about the remnants of Katrina's impact, how it continues to affect the United States and how we can contribute.
I have added a hashtag on Twitter #Dont4getTheGulf for real-time exchanges concerning what you plan to do, sharing with others as the anniversary nears and to get an idea of what The Gulf's needs still are.
Here is our interview with Author and Poet Brad Bechler.
I am so honored that he shared this time with us.
Brad, to me this was a book of songs that sang and wore my soul to the core.
Some songs were high, some were low, some were wet, dry and some made me cry.
When you were writing words to "When Will The Sky Fall?" were you representing your feelings toward the beast that is Katrina, the beast that was our government, or both.
Initially, the book was a response to the isolation, shock, seemingly loneliness, and anger. Much of my emotions were rapidly evolving as new information was processed through time, word of mouth, and eventually, the airwaves when we received electricity. As with many people, the initial response is to be angry at the Storm, itself, or that which manifests itself in the physical realm. However, the rational side of me paused for a moment, and took on a broader scope, teaming with deliberate, objective thoughts. I, soon realized that the battle was not with an “Act of God”, but a salient one to some, but overt one to me…..hatred, ignorance, inequality, led by our Government. Bear in mind that the government consists of People who, historically have ruled our country since its inception. Drilling down a bit, it is the practice of a dominant class who, in Katrina’s wake, revealed just how divided we are along Race & Class in America.
Do you think Katrina "washed" clean and exposed what the United States was trying to hide and exposed deep seated hate for those less fortunate who ultimately were unable to get out of New Orleans, or chose to stay?
Indeed, it did. I think this was the paradox of the century. Historically, when epic events disturbed our Nation like, Pearl Harbor, The Oklahoma Bombings, 911, and man Natural Disasters, we rallied together as we did during the early days of our country when the founding fathers created this seemingly, “Perfect Union” of the People, For the People, and By the People. No matter what the challenge, we bonded together for a common cause, enlisting our values and hearts to drive us towards solidarity. However, Hurricane Katrina was vastly different in that it inadvertently revealed the Social Divisions that lay dormant, just underneath the surface. As a result of the optics of the handling of the storm, it revealed deeply seated racism, and festering ill will towards human beings. Human suffering took a backseat, if you will. It was the “Perfect Storm” in many ways. This type of event was theorized to occur many years ago. Scientists and experts in the field of Tropical Weather warned officials many times over that a storm of the caliber of Katrina would be catastrophic. Of course, these warnings fell on deaf ears. Geographically, classes of individuals in lower strata, economically and socially, settled on lower elevations, while citizens in higher strata enjoyed the comfort and safety on higher ground. Deliberate or Convenient?
In your heart do you feel our beloved New Orleans was a vicitm of unfortunate circumstance or was the city left to drown?
I do not believe anything is absolute. Making a presumption on the latter would be bordering on Anger and irrational thought. I believe it is a combination of factors, history, and conditioning. We cannot rule out race as a factor in the Government’s lack of response. Nor can we rule out race being a factor in the media’s rendering of the event. Objectively, not many prudent people saw this coming. Historically, many near misses have compelled many to just bed down and weather the storm as opposed to bearing the stress of evacuating with the “threat” of every storm. In other words, Yes and Yes.
Had it not been for those who came to help, what do you think NOLA's fate would have been?
Hard to say. It could have taken on many forms: A totally redefined city bustling with commerce, streams of revenue/economic opportunities, and radically different demographics. It could have also been a city with a much higher death toll, and more widespread property damage. Or, it could have become a city of Angels.
What were you feeling when you penned "Joyful Refuge".
Here, I am taking you on a reflective/nostalgic journey of the city, its history, people, food, music, and the idiosyncrasies that defined life in the city. In the wake of Katrina, much of what was left was the trash and debris strewn about, once someone’s treasure. The trash told a story, and if you were lucky, it forced a smile.
I love "Dinner with Mr. Crow". You say "'Why am I whispering? You ask. Well, sir, the city sleeps now,'" When I went to NOLA in 2007, that is exactly how I felt, as if she was sleeping , like "shhhh". I was jolted hearing salsa ringing out on Bourbon Street and there was an uneasiness that remained in Jackson Square, has some of the old flavor returned?
Like life, homeostasis is the natural order of things when things get out of whack. When we fall out of balance, there is an innate tendency to repair damage or bring about calm. Life after Katrina is no different. Sadly, what defined the great city was not just the music, but the creators of the music that we cut a rug to. In many clubs and venues around the city, there are attempts to bring back the easy spirit of the past. But, the past cannot be recreated or destroyed. It only moves around and masks as something different.
"Porch". In its last verse reads "Father's on the porch turned breasts of chicken, with yams, ribs, and pineapple, searing with juice and clover." Can down home still be found?
Of course it can. The beauty of “Down Home Living” is that it is mobile. It goes with the spirit that carries it. It begins and ends in the heart. There, nothing can tear it apart.
Tell us about "Voodoo Goeth"?
As you know, the city of New Orleans has a long history of Voodoo practices, most of what was fictionalized on television, literature, and folklore. It was what tourists the world over marveled about when they descended on the city in big numbers. It was what made the city famous, among many things. As the people, the salt of the earth fled, the soul and spirit of things like Voodoo went along with them. This poem is my dedication to the spirit of what defined the city. When you juxtapose the history and current conditions along side each other, there is an ominous difference.
"Attic" is most powerful. There were many stories related about last breaths in the attic, what was your story?
This poem is one of my favorites in that it revealed just how compassionate many who perished were about their home, their great city. Because many were devout on not fleeing their precious homes for whatever reason, many perished in their homes as they escaped the rising waters. As I traveled along the Gulf Coast surveying the damage, and talking to Survivors, many of these stories of loss were told. If you can imagine water rising so rapidly that your only recourse was to climb into the attic as a last effort to escape. When those efforts failed, and attempts failed at clawing their way through the roof, the attic became their final resting place. This poem spoke to the will and strength of those who perished, at the institution of running. For many, they have ran all their lives from the earliest days of involuntary servitude. Some escaped to freedom, while many paid a heavy price. Attic, is the end of the road for running to many who lost their lives. It was symbolic of facing the storm, this time, a natural one.
What are your 2009 Anniversary of Katrina plans?
To be the voice of tribute to those who Survived and those who lost their lives. I am spreading the message of remembrance of this great moment in our history that I fear is being forgotten. By talking about what this storm did to and for America, it fosters a discussion on healing and restoration. I am using venues like this, radio, television, print media, and social media to galvanize the nation to making a positive change on how we deal with diversity. My prayer is that we get a little closer to being “One Nation Under God”. I am also involving myself in many non-profits/fund-raising efforts for awareness and nation building. At the end of the day, I am trying to get people to dig a little deeper to overcome things in their lives that is holding them back from greatness, balance, and inner peace.
What are your hopes as the mayoral campaigning revs up?
That the office of the Mayor, whether it is the current Mayor or an incoming Administration, gives more to the welfare of people than to processes. And, that the people can rely on sound leadership that supports them, competently, in times of disaster.
Do you have a vision for New Orleans? What are your wants from the candidates?
My vision of New Orleans is one in which fresh, new talent can come into the city and bring along with them, innovation, bi-partisan politics, and transparency. If we have great leadership, the culture can build itself around the ideals of change. A People’s committee/consortium should be formed to address the growing demands of change. In this way, the leadership can have more open communication with people so that their prescription for change impacts the greater good and is timely and appropriate.
My favorite is "Next", do you recall how you gave birth to it?
It was my attempt to share with readers that life is not static, and is merely defined by the event that garners the most shock value or attention. Because we are in an age in which we are forced to process information at a more rapid pace, we tend to forget events in recent history when another comes along. It is my attempt to not have America become complacent, as there is always another catastrophe looming.
Will you ever move home? Can you tell us what you are working on?
I will never move home again. What defined me was the road I took and the circumstances along the way that got me there. Because most of that is gone, home for me is in the heart and wherever I lay my hat. The memories will always be there, but the history cannot be found there, if pieces are missing.
In addition to my current world-wind of promoting this book, I working on my next work, a dramatic piece of fiction, similar to the work by Nicolas Sparks. Remember, I am a novelist first, a poet second.
Brad this has really been a heartfelt and wonderful conversation about a city we both love.
For more with Brad Bechler OR to purchase "WHEN WILL THE SKY FALL"
Click here : Brad Bechler
Author, "WHEN WILL THE SKY FALL?"