Hurricane Katrina – 10 Years Later
inArtist Storyon August 27, 2015
This week marks the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the storm that shook a nation and changed the lives of New Orleanians forever. It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed, it’s even harder to believe that New Orleans has yet to fully recover from this event. For many people living in the 9th Ward, it still seems like Katrina happened yesterday. When I traveled to New Orleans four years ago (my first visit) to assist with a documentary short on Little Freddie King, I was shocked by the state of disrepair that the Lower 9th Ward was still in. Across the street from Freddie’s house, there were still abandoned buildings with the worn-out spray painted markings that indicated how many bodies were found inside the home, a constant reminder of the true damage Katrina caused. Several Music Maker artists’ lives were drastically impacted by Katrina- Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen left New Orleans a day before the storm hit and has never returned permanently. Little Freddie King and Alabama Slim were temporary displaced, eventually returning to New Orleans after a long period of uncertainty while the city regained its necessary infrastructure. The Mighty Flood (audio below) is Alabama Slim and Little Freddie King’s account of what happened the day Katrina hit.
Major Handy, a legendary Zydeco player from Lafayette, LA had his entire livelihood jeopardized by Katrina. Major Handy’s musical income came from playing on cruise ships whose ports were located in Louisiana and were destroyed by the hurricane. Major Handy has struggled the last 10 years to rebuild the stream of gigs that he once had and is only now getting back to where he was before Katrina. Music Maker helped Major Handy get a new professional instrument and has worked with him to book new gigs, including a private event at the New Orleans Superdome shortly after it reopened.
Little Freddie King and Alabama Slim both relied on playing shows at various clubs and festivals in New Orleans and are considered by many to be a major part of the New Orleans scene. Their livelihood was put on hold during the uncertain months post-Katrina, their musical connections all having fled the city in different directions. Music Maker supported them during their exile from New Orleans, and has continued to help book them and promote their music in the 10 years that have followed.
Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen was known as a Bourbon Street Queen, performing regularly at clubs and events across the city. When I spoke to her yesterday she told me that the night before the storm, she heard a voice telling her to leave the city. Luckily, Pat took heed of this eerie voice and left immediately. She later saw what was happening to New Orleans on the news and was in denial- still believing that her home was somehow untouched. She finally returned to her neighborhood two months after the storm hit to see the destruction for herself; her house had been completely destroyed. She gathered up what she could from her flooded house and headed back to North Carolina where her brother lives, and tried to build a new life and career.
After Katrina, Music Maker stepped into high gear by creating the New Orleans Musicians Fund and assisting over 150 artists with relocation efforts. Pat Cohen says the help Music Maker gave her was incredible and she is incredibly appreciative of the Foundation’s efforts. Pat speaks about an immeasurable benefit from Music Maker’s work: “My whole community was destroyed, and Music Maker introduced me to a whole new musical community.”