In the conclusion of this three-part series, Michael Harriot and the filmmaker behind “Katrina Babies” discuss the continued failures of the U.S. government when it comes to Black communities.
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Panama Jackson [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.
Michael Harriot [00:00:05] I’m Michael Harriot, world-famous wypipologist and this is theGrio Daily. Welcome back to theGrio Daily as we continue our conversation with New Orleans filmmaker Edward Buckles, whose documentary Katrina Babies tells the stories of children whose lives were forever changed with Hurricane Katrina.
Edward Buckles [00:00:28] I definitely had that curtain pulled like I pulled away at a very, very young age. So by the time I started making this film, you know, I was already I was already kind of like ready to fight, you know what I’m saying? Like I was already, you know, like, ready to go. I was super young, you know. So it was a it was a bit intimidating, you know, to be so young making this film. And I carry the weight of Katrina, carrying the weight of New Orleans and carrying the weight of America’s racism. And, like, you know, America’s slow help towards, like, Black and disenfranchized people.
Katrina Babies Film [00:01:01] We sitting on the porch looking at the water rising up, and we all have no way to get out of nothing. It just coming up.
Edward Buckles [00:01:20] In New Orleans. I think that one thing that we had to our advantage is family.
Michael Harriot [00:01:29] When I watch this movie, one of the things I have to ask myself when I think one of the things the audience will have to ask ourselves. And again. I might be prejudiced by viewing it as kind of a metaphor for all of it, but like. We ain’t got no time machine. We got, like, how do we fix this? You know, we were just talking a few minutes before we started this interview about the idea of like. The government giving people or helping people when in reality, that’s our money like like all the people who lived in New Orleans said the federal government to FEMA. Right. Right. Like that was our money. And they like they won’t give you back your money. But going forward, you will be low risk going forward. How like what’s in the past is the past. But how do we like how do we fix this? Or is there a way to fix this, not just what they did, but what the residual effects of this are?
Edward Buckles [00:02:36] A term that was used like a lot from me when it came to making this film was like Sankofa, you know, to go back and get it right, to understand where you came from. Right. Like I don’t believe in we moving forward. So we don’t forget the past right. I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me, like, like, like, like people in my family have, like, you know, told me, man, like, you know, leave that alone. Like. Like, leave Katrina alone. Don’t worry about that storm. No, more. Like, you know, we’ve moved forward. We’re good. We’ve rebuilt. Right? And while making this film, I’m like, nah, like, we got to go back like. Like we got to go back to Katrina because, like, Katrina was like before. Like the internet. Like, like like it was before the internet was what it was today. We were just left out to dry, man, like during the storm and after, you know what I’m saying? So as like we didn’t have social media, so like, you know, kind of like create a hashtag and like, you know, bring some form of justice. We didn’t have any of that. So, you know, that’s kind of like what I’m doing, like with this project, like, like I’m like now like we could go back and talk about this, you know, like why we’re talking about everything else that’s happening currently. Like we’re going to talk about what happened to us.
Katrina Babies Film [00:03:46] We need more help out here. Buses, give us something.
Katrina Babies Film [00:03:48] Where’s your home?
Katrina Babies Film [00:03:50] I don’t want to have all my at home downtown, but it’s got it’s under the water. I have nothing. Nothing.
Edward Buckles [00:03:57] And even if we are 17 years late, I always said I was 17 years early because of the fact that that trauma is surfacing right now. A kid who was 13 like me or a kid who was three, like my student, Calvin, our trauma starts surfacing, you know, during our teenage years. Right. And, you know, for some of us, it may surface years later, Black children that not even the thought. Have you ever like talked about this before?
Katrina Babies Film [00:04:20] No, I haven’t.
Edward Buckles [00:04:22] Why you think?
Katrina Babies Film [00:04:26] I don’t know, no one didn’t really ask me.
Edward Buckles [00:04:28] So, you know, I think that is super important that we don’t forget, like we can’t forget about any injustice that was done done to us and like never acknowledged. Like, I can see if someone made it right. I can see of someone like got us some justice. But how you gonna tell us like, forget about it. How you go tell us, like, you know, not to go back and get it. And like and like, I don’t just mean telling our stories because, like, you know, something that, like, I’ve been hearing all of this on social media and like it’s my first I’ve saying this out loud, but people have been putting hashtag Katrina babies. We want reparations. You know what I’m saying? Like, because like, yeah, like, you know, y’all was playing with our money. Like, you know, we paid the tax dollars for, like, those levees, the work we paid the tax dollars to have, you know, some type of assistance and, like, not be left in our attics for three days. And I like on the streets dead and alive for a week, right. So it’s like, yeah, like, you know, I think that is very appropriate. And like, I think that it is the best time to be talking about Hurricane Katrina because what happened to Hurricane Katrina is happening all over the world right now in many different forms. So it’s always good to go back and get it and like, you know, bring it to the forefront because who knows, maybe it’ll one it’ll bring justice and maybe some type of closure and healing to us. But maybe it can serve as a example for all of the other injustice that’s happening in America today.
Michael Harriot [00:05:48] Yeah, man. Because, you know, one thing I always point out is stories like this, like it is important to show that America is not sane right? Like it sounds like a slur or an insult. But what I mean is if you have a victim of any kind of abuse. Right. And you didn’t know it, you would think that child is just a bad child. Yep. Until you realize what that parent or that caretaker or what an adult did to them, what it was, what was stolen from them. And sometimes we mistreat that child because we misunderstand that child a’int bad. There are people all around the world who will think these children are bad. These children are like, this city is crazy. This city is. Why are they so militant? Because they don’t know how insane America is. And what you are doing is putting a spotlight on the craziness of America, which justifies what is going on currently in New Orleans. Do you think like for those people in New Orleans, not just the Katrina babies. Right. But the generation after the Katrina babies. Right. Do you think that this will adequately explain or at least somewhat explain what is enveloping this city in and what took place, not just back then to thing that happened, but what is happening now?
Edward Buckles [00:07:29] First, let me say this. I was reading this article that somebody did on, you know, on the film this week, I think it was The New Yorker. And they proposed the question and they said, how many generations of Katrina babies are there? Right. And I believe that we have the opportunity to answer that question right now. If we act right, it should have been that my generation or that the generation that experienced the storm directly was the only generation of, quote unquote, Katrina babies. Right. If it was addressed properly, if if if someone came to help us. If someone came at all for information and wellness and mental health healing for us. Right. But because it went unaddressed when I started teaching um highschool for five years, my students, who were one and two years old, my students who were born after the storm, are still dealing with the impact of Hurricane Katrina. So they are Katrina babies, right?
Katrina Babies Film [00:08:27] I feel like nobody should be that young going to see like that.
Katrina Babies Film [00:08:31] They’re at home and they don’t feel safe. What does that do to our children? It wreaks havoc on their well-being.
Katrina Babies Film [00:08:37] And that’s just going to continue if we don’t address it, if we just keep allowing it to go on like a deaf ear, and if we continue to not be empathetic about what happens to us and when I say we, I mean America, right? You know, so I think that that’s something to address first, is that, you know, the impact of Katrina doesn’t just stop because, again, like that was the problem. It it went unaddressed. And like, that’s when we created everything that happened in New Orleans. And so it’s in a negative way. Right. Sorry. But like what’s your second question?
Michael Harriot [00:09:12] Now, I was. You answered it.
Edward Buckles [00:09:14] Oh, oh word.
Michael Harriot [00:09:15] Yeah. So we’ll just end with and again, I just love this film so much.
Edward Buckles [00:09:20] Thank you man.
Michael Harriot [00:09:21] When you talk about, you know, expanding on what you just said. Right, how many generations of Katrina babies are there? What do you consider a Katrina baby?
Edward Buckles [00:09:35] I’m going tell you why I came up with the name, right? I feel like Hurricane Katrina birthed a brand new life for New Orleans adults and children. Right. It was a brand new life for all of us. Right. It was not the same cultured, soulful Black city where we we owned our neighborhoods and we we lived in our neighborhoods. We went to school in our neighborhoods. It was a brand new life. It was like it was like a rebirth. Right. But like it was like in, like, a bad way for Black New Orleans. That was like like, I guess one of the poetic reasons that I chose Katrina babies. After a while, I started seeing Katrina babies used in a negative way by the adults, by the press, by people who were deeming the youth as bad and not sad. Right. By people who were calling the young people criminals and like calling them, you know, just people with behavior problems, but not talking about how America did that to them. Right. So, you know, I would see I would see our social media or I would see in the press, you know, if like a kid, let’s say rob somebody or I carjacked somebody and I get the kid, murdered somebody, they’d be like, Oh, Lord, you know, Katrina babies. Right. Part of the reason they’re like, I’m making this film is, is because everything that’s happening in New Orleans is a reflection. It’s a mirror. It’s a reflection of, like, what y’all created. Like New Orleans youth. We are like, we are a reflection of America. We are a reflection of America’s laziness, America’s lack of empathy for Black people. And like America’s. I’m sorry, hate. Right. So we are like a reflection of that when it comes to what happened to us during Hurricane Katrina. So when I say Katrina babies, it’s also, you know, kind of making a nod to how it’s being used against us in like a negative way and is like, now, let’s talk about it now. You know, like, y’all want to call us Katrina babies, okay? This is why.
Katrina Babies Film [00:11:38] Katrina is becoming a folk tail and we’re the story tellers.
Edward Buckles [00:11:42] Resilience is when you still find a way to have your head up and help yourself. Sometimes I feel like resilience is used as a tool because they want people to think, Oh no, everything is okay. These people are good, like they’re strong. Look at how much they’ve overcome. Is for me to say when I’m resilient is for me to say what is resilience is not for you. Like this film is to show why things are being more violent in New Orleans. When it comes to young people, why we have aniexty, see why we have depression, why we have PTSD, why we have trust issues when it comes to America, why we have to fight or flight against authority. Right. So instead of just calling us Katrina babies and like labeling us as bad, this is a film that is going to tell you why. Right. So what are you going to do with it?
Michael Harriot [00:12:29] Is so much to dig into it. It’s so much. I could talk to you all day.
Edward Buckles [00:12:34] I got time bro, I got time dog.
Michael Harriot [00:12:39] Because I’m just listening and I mean, I’m just listening to you infuse those principles of Africana knowledge and knowledge of ourselves and to this film and to contextualizing America. And it’s it’s it’s so much to digest and so much is going to be so much for people to digest, man. And I know that that this this film is going to be something that the people because we’ve seen stories about Katrina before. But this this is like your community’s voice telling. And look at this thing that happened and is happening. It’s not just a story from America’s past. It is a story you make it current and relevant. And in the future, like not even now, it’s it’s like the future because it explains what we are going to see. And so I just want to thank you for taking this time out of your day, man. Thank you for speaking with us, man. Thank you for making this movie that speaks to so many people and tells us the stories of your people in your city. Man so distinct. And thank you for joining theGrio daily.
Michael Harriot [00:13:55] Amen. Absolutely mandate you so much. It was a great conversation and thank you for the platform to allow me to keep this project going. Like, you know, so I keep this conversation going. I always say that this film is not entertainment, it’s impact. And, you know, making the film was just a very small piece of the justice and like the impact that like, you know, needs to start being spoken about. So like us having this conversation is doing a lot for the community and a lot for what we need down in New Orleans, in America, period. So thank you.
Michael Harriot [00:14:26] We want to thank Edward Buckles for taking time out to talk to theGrio Daily. We want to thank you for listening. Don’t forget to check out Katrina babies on HBO. And don’t forget to subscribe to The Grio Daily, don’t forget to download the app and don’t forget to tell a friend. And we’ll see you next time on The Grio Daily.
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