TheGrio’s 100: Tracie Washington, calling out racism and injustice in NOLA

TheGrio's 100 - When the Louisiana Housing Authority planned to raze a public housing project in 2006, Tracie Washington sued to block them in their tracks....

When the Louisiana Housing Authority planned to raze a public housing project in 2006, Tracie Washington sued to block them in their tracks. When Louisiana shut down Charity Hospital, a New Orleans teaching medical center, Washington sued to have it reopened in 2008. In her efforts to protect the interests of Louisiana’s less fortunate, this activist-attorney understands how to leverage the law.

A year after she began service with the NAACP as director of their Gulf Coast Advocacy Center, Tracie Washington founded the Louisiana Justice Institute, or LJI. A civil rights advocacy organization, LJI motivates social change in Louisiana by trying to obtain access to health, citizenship information and wealth-building opportunities for Louisiana’s impoverished communities.

Tracie Washington is making history … assessing the impact of the BP oil spill on African-American fishing communities in the bayou. LJI dispenses facts and figures to these communities, informing fishers on the extent of the destruction, and working with these newly-informed populations to appeal for compensation the U.S. government promised — up to half a year of lost earnings.

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What’s next for Tracie?

Washington is working to ensure that the rebuilding of New Orleans doesn’t continue to suffer from racist patterns or policies. By informing displaced people about their right to return to their homes, and their right of self-determination, the lawyer is helping rebuild the city by restoring its population.

“I will continue to work, because this is my home. And I love this city. But let’s not put the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner out now, because we’ve got a lot more work to do,” Washington told Democracy Now! in August 2010.

In her own words …

“I’m not sure I’m making history as much as waves,” Washington told theGrio. “I’ll share with you this story: I was in line at Walgreens and a woman asked if I was the lawyer she always sees on TV. I told her yes. She just smiled and said, “I just love watching you. Every time you come on TV the old man I sit with gets so mad. He just says ‘She can’t talk to us like that.’ It’s the 21st century. We still have black women in NOLA making less than minimum wage sitting with rich old white folks who don’t think we have a right to talk back to them.”

A favorite quote …

“It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel just to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A little-known fact …

Hurricane Katrina displaced 484,674 people.

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