Immediately after the levees broke, the Ms. Foundation for Women trusted in the wisdom of those closest to the ground who knew best what their families and communities needed. We supported organizations including Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FFLIC), Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative (MLICCI), Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA), Mississippi Workers' Center For Human Rights and the United Houma Nation that harnessed their own power and stayed on through the aftermath, saving and revitalizing their communities. (Read more about the Katrina Women's Response Fund.)
On the first anniversary of Katrina we told the stories of extraordinary women facing life threatening challenges who refused to let their communities be destroyed by either natural or man-made disasters. (Read their stories and listen to the radio documentaries they produced.) As Sara K. Gould the Ms. Foundation president and CEO says, "The extraordinary courage and commitment of the women on the Gulf Coast as they responded to disaster and stepped up to lead the long, arduous process of rebuilding their communities is one of my most powerful memories."
These women continue to be the bedrock of the region and we are deeply grateful to have the opportunity to partner with them in their continuing efforts. Women like Carol Burnett, from MLICCI, who was honored with a Women of Vision Award this year. Burnett has been a strong advocate for access to affordable quality child care for low-income women and families and has recently taken on the State of Mississippi, urging it get rid of eligibility barriers and release millions of dollars in unspent TANF funds for child care.
Gina Womack from FFLIC continues to work for reform within Louisiana's juvenile justice system, and is currently building a campaign to stop the "School-to-Prison Pipeline," and counter the huge number of suspensions, expulsions and school arrests.
In the last year MIRA and other community-based human rights organizations helped to defeat twenty anti-worker/anti-immigrant laws. MIRA works tirelessly to organize the immigrant rights community in the region and help build a strong base from which to address immigration reform, racial profiling, health concerns and educational equality.
These are just a few of the inspiring stories from our grantees in the Gulf Region. They have not and will not step down and we at the Ms. Foundation are honored to support their continuing work. On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we take a moment to honor these women as they fight for better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Photo: by Elizabeth Rappaport, Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, December 2008