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".

“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





Brad Bechler said...

It was indeed a pleasure to have shared this important moment. I hope the readers will do their share in helping All to achieve some form of balance in their lives.


Patricia Winchester said...

Mr. Bechler, we were all pleased to have you in attendance a few months ago at the Outreach Program in Lansing. The insights you shared were so powerful, and I marvel at how you continue to be so positive, given the nature of our loss. I cannot imagine the pain your endured, but I sense you have conquered it many times over. I have your book and will treasure it for many years. It joins "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" as one of favorite reads. We hope to have you back, soon.

Patricia Winchester.

Big D. said...

What up Brad.

Big Ups to you for keeping the fire burning for all those Katrina folks who are in a bad way. I caught the tail end of one of your radio broadcasts and wished I could bring it like you. I thought you were a minister, but then when you said the parts about Katrina, I knew you were a writer and survivor of that storm. Thanks for giving power to us brothers who are trying to make a difference with what we got. My brother, I will get your book when my money is right, believe that. And yes, I will do my part to keep the dream Alive of getting a little further if we all try.

Peace my man.

Devin Brooks

Brad Bechler said...

Patricia and Devin, thanks for posting such nice remarks. I remember both events you all mention, and I had an incredible moment to say the least. Lansing is a cold, blustery place, while Peachtree is warm and Fuzzy, like Florida. Nonetheless, I had a wonderful time at both venues. Thanks for supporting the message in my book. I did my best to inspire others to take the roads less traveled. I do this in my daily living. I am confident great things are ahead.

Brad Bechler

Mabel Robinson said...

Mr. Bechler. I am a native of New Orleans, living in Annapolis, Maryland, of all places. I lost my home and job. Living with friends now. Hard to cope. I must say that your book gives me hope. Things are looking better, and its a shame not much talk is going on about Katrina and people like us. Thank you, sir for keeping us grounded.

Mabel Robinson
Lower Ninth Ward

Harold Michael Harvey said...

A great interview with a great poet of the 21st century. I like Brad's explanation of why he cannot go back,i.e, too many pieces of the history and fabric of home left New Orleans blowing in the wind.

Anonymous said...

Brad..The cacophony of the clarion call of Katrina needed a voice. You have so eloquently allowed your audience to breathe in sounds of the silent noises and cries... giving insight to the reactive underpinnings of a devastating storm that many looked on in horror and have now looked away. Thank you for singing a song through a definitive poetic justice.

Claire Winslow said...

I must agree with Mr. Harvey in how he pays homage to a great poet, a real poet, a visionary who hails from a time in which poetry was organic and with a spirit. Although I have not met this great man, I feel as if our paths have crossed at one juncture. I am not neurotic, but I have read the book six times, and each time, its like I am walking through a forest seeing things for the first time. Never been to New Orleans or that far South, but my spirit resides in the people, my people. Great set of questions. I enjoyed this. Wonderful Blog.

Claire Winslow, JD, MS.

Martin Rollins, jr. said...

I am a retired free-lance journalist. Having had the pleasure of traveling all around the country, I've not seen a parcel of news so noteworthy than the government's debacle with Hurricane Katrina. As Mr. Bechler so eloquently wrote in his book, the end-result was a challenge on how we look at one another through various prisms. I had the pleasure of covering several storms, but not one of them had the impact as this one. I've also covered other historical events over time, again, nothing with the lingering nausea as the events of Katrina. I applaud this great writer, and hope to read more of how his message impacts our Democracy.

Martin Rollins,jr.

The Girls of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. said...

MR. B. We hope you don't mind us calling you that. You may remember us from the Campus of Howard two years ago when you visited the city to talk about Urban Living and the 21st Century. We were the loud bunch in the back screaming your name when you began to to speak. Anyway, we are so happy to hear that you are still doing what many Black Men, or people, for that matter, are not doing to rally us for a common cause. As young professionals growing up in Corporate America, we appreciate you providing the real truth on navigating through pain and misery to reach a stated goal. When we heard you had done this interview, we had to come by to say hello. We all are ordering your book in big numbers. We hope you are a best seller. To us, you are what Black America needs.

The Girls of DST.

Reuben Tyler said...

Brad I noticed you are a reader of vintage books like Grapes of Wrath. How does that play in to the economy, Post Hurricane Katrina. I read the book and see the similarities of life between the two. Just a thought. By the way, I love your poetry, especially Consanguinity.

Reuben Tyler
Rising Tide

Tabitha said...

I visited New Orleans for the Second time in my life. The first time was in 1995 during Mardi Gras. The other was six months ago. The city is very different than when I saw it years ago. Before, it was full of life. You can feel it in the air. For a tourist, we tend to pick up on things like that. When I went six months ago to visit my old room mate in By Water area, I sensed a sad quiet. Most of what I saw six months ago was a city trying to mend itself. Almost fours years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has not even scratched the surface of rebuilding or repairing. Efforts have been made, but more needs to be done. I know I'm on the outside looking in, but maybe it takes an outsider to tell it like it is. Brad, your book is a piece of history. I was deciding to buy yours or Patterson's new Novel. After a mili-second to think, the obvious choice was yours. I've followed you on Twitter and appreciate your energy and drive.


Paul A. said...

Mr. Brad. Several months ago, you mentioned a trip or something to Harpers Ferry. I heard it on a Radio show. I live near Harpers Ferry and love the tie-in to your book from a historical perspective. Are you making the trip soon? If so, please post on twitter, F/B, or this Blog. Thank you Sir. We are behind you.

Paul Arceneaux
Fredrick, MD.

DawnTMangham said...

This was a very poignant interview. Aside from its nostalgia for New Orleans, the article was a reminder of how fragile and important life really is. How sobering it is to come face to face with human mortality. One leaves the experience forever changed. However, they also leave with the will to facilitate change in their environment. Brad reminds us that change starts within. Thank you for this interview!

Houseonahill said...

This interview was a moving moment for me, I am so happy to see this love for Brad and NOLA ~ so beautiful!

Amelia said...

Hello. I am a retired English Teacher from Urban Middle Schools and Upper Darby as well. I must say that your style of writing is vintage in scope. The intuitive arrangement of words and phrases is like a memorable song. Reminds me of what writing used to be like prior to the age of the internet and rapid fire jargon. I agree with the host of the blog in the emotional wave that envelopes you while taking in your responses, tying them into your journey. I write on occasion, but I am far from the Godly talent you possess. You are an instrument for change. If I wore a hat, it would be tipped to you. Thanks for giving us a reason to believe again, and yes, yes, yes....read again.

Amelia Darcy

U R Abundant said...

You words are so full of strength and emotion! Knowing your inner thoughts and dedication is so helpful in understanding the loss of this community and the people who went to a higher plane over it! I only hope that whatever the maker of our universe and the laws he installed within it....will eventually give all inner peace!
Thank you so much for sharing this!

Success :)

Miriam Poindexter said...

Brad, sorry the show in Nawlins was cancelled. excuse my spelling. not a good writer. anyway, i live in mandeville, just across from the city. just moved there from tyler town. lived in austin before that, galveston before that. i love life in my little town. years ago, when my father was a longshoreman, i came to the city to vist and the like. there is no place like it. i am so happy that you are doing so good for yourself and the people who need your voice. you are one hell of a person. not too many people can show how much they love something than you. i read when i can, but now, i am looking forward to your next book. one problem was it was too short. that's just how much i loved it. my neighbor bought one too, and we talked about it. i am white, and sometimes shamed at being white, but i see your book does not hold that against some sick people who don't see the world as it should be. we hope you come to our town one day. if not, we will come to you.

Leslie said...

Stopping by to show you love for your passion and gift of writing. I enjoyed reading your interview. Blessings to you.

Leslie Ashcroft

Anonymous said...

Genuine faith understands that being directed by God is precious and that the course taken at His direction is perfect. Faith also knows that anyone who opposes the path God chooses must be wrong, and that the man or woman who walks on that holy path can only be right. There are no other options.His will must be done. God makes no mistakes. We may not be able at the moment to see the good in a thing. But for those whom will wait on the lord he shall renew their strength.


Justine Maher said...

I heard you speak tonight, and was moved to tears. This interview describes just who you are. You are far beyond your time, and deeper than anyone I've ever met or read about. Your gift is so powerful, so refreshing. Take care and keep giving us a part of you.


Cassie Mitchell said...

Mr. Brad there has been so much talk about the levees being deliberately blown up to drown the lower class Blacks and to save the white aristocrats, if I may be blunt. I'm not making any allegations, only reporting what is out there. What is your opinion about these allegations? Was there an attempt at Genocide? Or was it a plan gone bad?

Edwina Edwards said...

My mama just tried sending you her comment. I don't know if it went through, but here is mine.

Mr Brad, I am only 17 years old, but I feel like the events of Hurricane Katrina forced me to grow up fast. I don't mean I missed a part of my childhood or like that, but it made me think more with a sense of the whole picture. I was so mad when I saw what they did to those people, leaving them out there to die and all. But, then I realized with my mama, that God does have a plan and pain does not last always. Like the song says, "Trouble Don't Last Always". We sing that in Church.

For me, your book gave me something to be proud of in my day and age. My mama had Martin Luther King. I have you and Obama. I never heard of you until Twitter, but I realize now all the great work you did without having a camera following you. I will try to write just like you. I write poetry a little. I look forward to reading more of your work. Thank you sir.


Roina Edwards said...

I sent you a comment a little while ago, but it apparently did not go through. I hope I don't duplicate your site.

Me and my daughter can recall what we were doing when we got the news of what was happening in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. For some reason, I never paid attention to any storm before, but this was so different, if you know what I mean. We live in Richmond, Virginia, and we were both preparing for our family reunion. We were in charge of the baking. But, when we saw CNN, and what was happening to them poor Black people, we postponed the reunion. Everybody was okay with it because it seemed we all had something in common by being Black ourselves. I will never forget the ugly images on TV. I been to New Orleans before, and those people are just like us, like everybody. At the end of the day, they are people with families and feelings.

This moment taught my daughter and I to live each moment as if it were out last. We sat down and read your book a few weeks ago and cried together, got mad together, and jumped for joy together. I'm sure you wrote it to move us along like the things you felt. I read a lost, and have many classics in my little study here at the house. I will add yours to it because it deserves more than it can ever get. I follow you on twitter and appreciate the joy you bring for everyone, especially children today. I want to personally say thank you as well for all the unselfish work you do.

Sheila B. said...

I am sorry for posting this late comment. Been off twitter for a while. I read the entire interview, and it was very moving. I'm not ashamed to say I dropped a couple of tears. The way you tell a story is so captivating. Thank you for some good reading. Your book is very good and rare. The questions were right on and very thought-provoking. I look forward to reading another interview in this format. Revealed a lot to me. I heard you may be going to Rising Tide. I will not be there, but I hope you are there to make a difference.

Sheila Baxter

JayeToday said...

Well I never heard of you until yesterday. I particularly liked your father interview. The both were very good. I loved the sneak previews of the chapters of your book showing the variety of background sharing the same fate of that day. Lives being shifted. I love that you said many men became men that day. There is so many positive nuggets with in the storm. Though tragic and I am sorry of your losses. I find that such beautiful people were reveal with in the survivors. You are beautiful, your story is beautiful and you outliving the storm is beautiful. Katrina has died, but the people that are still alive...are precious and all should be honored to hear such stories. We are Looking forward to hearing that story take shape around the topic of gratitude for the people we love. Aug 27, 2009 8:30 pm EST.

Jaye of The Jayemerican Movement

Eunice said...

Hell, Brad. I didn't get a chance to see you at the Haro Conference, but I hope to see you during your upcoming shows and events. I really enjoyed this interview, just like the many others you've done. You have so much passion and energy, and unlike many other people doing what you do, you appear to be REAL. This is the part I enjoy. So many citizens, not just the people impacted by the storm, but everyday people can benefit from what you have to offer. I know I did. I look forward to listening to you on a show this month or a see you at a signing. I hope you can sign my book one day.

Eunice Kimbal

Yvette Warner said...

I just wanted to let you know, I received my book. Haven't read it yet, but will do tonight. Thank you for signing it. I will treasure this book. I am sure it will be a good read. The interview you gave was wonderful. You gave away some spoilers for the book, but that's okay. I will read each page as if I never saw it before. Much of it, I'm sure I haven't, based on your story. You are the picture of power, and I want to say thank you for caring and going against the grain.

Yvette Warner

Anonymous said...

Brad, God has blessed each and every life that you have touched. It may have been your witten word, a kind tweet, or your awesome faith! I am truly one of the blessed to call you FRIEND! I am hoping to help however I can. Meeting you in the flesh would be icing on the cake! You are such a Wonderful man of God! Blessings to you and your family!

Paula Schult (Chandler) @paula721

Ashok said...

Was listening to your exchange tonight. Sorry, I arrived too late. It seems when you are ministering, I miss out, but I got the tweet on this interview. I want to thank you for giving me the power to overcome my illness. I am suffering from a few things that has forced me on the sidelines. Reading your tweets are like that Pastor Joel, or something like that. You can give him a run for his money. On the serious side, thank you for being so positive. I read the interview just like I read your book, over and over again. God Bless you.


Brad Bechler said...

I want to personally thank each and everyone who has been touched by the intricacies of human suffering. Thanks for continuing to support my efforts in giving a parcel of sunshine to those desiring for relevancy and balance in their lives. I salute the efforts of many and treasure the dreams of ALL.

A cornucopia of blessings to ALL,

Brad Bechler
Author, "When Will The Sky Fall?"

Danna Marie said...

I am relieved that you are telling your story about Katrina. There are so many victims that we will never know or hear from. If everyone that has lived through this devastation had a platform then maybe the world will start to listen. Unfortunately the voices have been muffled by the politicians and the media. After Katrina I stopped believing the media and what they reported. Somewhere between the "freedom of speech" and lies have match their match. I am too a victim of Katrina. I moved away 10 years before the "storm of the century". My mom and other family members decided to back and pick up pieces. I lost my childhood pictures, and so many other memories. The real survivors are the ones who stayed and decided to rebuild. I have been to NOLA twice since it was rip apart. I will never forgot what I saw. I pray for peace in New Orleans. I also pray for you Brother Bechler and your family.

To the person that said that New Orleans has people that worship Voodoo. That is another lie. Don't believe the hype.


follow me on Twitter

Sherry H. Brookhaven said...

I had the pleasure of listening to this Great Man on a recent Radio Show and I saw him during a group panel discussion in Allen Town. I must say to you and all the followers of his cause, that he is one torn from a template that broke after his conception. I have followed him from the beginning because of the realness (if that is such a word) of his testimony and personal journey. His book speaks to me in many ways and I hope, for all the women of the world, that you take a look see at what inspiration can do to your heart. I feel for the people who lost so much from the Hurricane. I cannot imagine what they are still going through today. I hope Brad's work is not in vain as the politicians prepare for elections in 2010. More on people instead of things we cannot see, and only hope for.

Sherry Brookhaven

Wilma said...

So happy to see someone doing something so positive and for so long. Your story is incredible and life-changing. Great interview. Great book. Great cause.

Wilma Hill