Katrina coverage has been both overdone and underdone. Most of us have heard about the devastation. We've heard about FEMA’s problems. We know George Bush’s infamous phrase, “You’re doing a heck of a job, Brownie!” even as the people of the Gulf Coast remained without food, water, and emotional and physical support. But most Americans have not heard enough about the tremendous outpouring of support and sweat from citizens working on their own or in small community-based organizations. News has emphasized problems and has ignored those working for solutions.

During our 2006 spring break, from March 11th through 18th, twenty-one students and faculty associated with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University went to New Orleans. Students in “Who Cares and Why? Social Activism and Its Motivations,” worked in New Orleans gutting houses, serving food to relief workers, assisting in local clinics, participating in protests, and generally lending support to Hurricane Katrina survivors. Simultaneously we worked together to document the social justice work we participated in.

Working in teams of two, we photographed and recorded testimonials of relief workers and residents committed to making a difference in New Orleans. This web site contains selections from the documentary work collected and edited by the students in the class. It is organized by the groups and organizations with which we worked.

The goal of our documentary work is to help tell stories of people doing work to bring about change following Katrina. While joining in that work, we asked questions about motivations, beliefs in change, and commitments to making a difference. We chose organizations working at the grassroots level -- often on shoestring budgets -- trying to revive and change communities severely damaged by flood waters following Katrina.

The students documented the groups working in and near New Orleans using photography, audio recordings, and writing to tell the stories of the relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. From the materials handed in at the end of the class combined with Rob Amberg's photographs from the trip, Charles Duncan and Tennessee Watson produced the multimedia documentaries presented here on this site.

Among these amazing people we found no one who thought New Orleans should be abandoned. Rather, everyone we met shared a strong belief that this disaster was mostly man-made and caused by neglect much more than by nature, by discrimination against people of color much more than by a flood that could not be controlled. This is a part of the story that cannot be told enough.
So, in the spirit of today’s battle for New Orleans, we dedicate this web site to the thousands we found working with their hands and hearts to bring hope and change to this devastated city and its surroundings. We hope that these stories inspire others to give their time and dollars to continue the fight. We suggest that contributions of both work and money be made directly to the organizations we feature.

In solidarity,

Charlie Thompson
Curriculum and Education Director
Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

  Rob Amberg
Photography Instructor
Tennessee Watson
Audio Instructor
Copyright 2006 | Contact us | Duke University | Center for Documentary Studies at Duke