Miss Althea is a fixture in the south 7th ward of New Orleans. Anyone who has been lucky enough to spend time in the neighborhood likely has run into her and her warm smile. For years, Althea and her house has been a hub in the neighborhood for folks of all walks of life. Whether she's cooking for people or chatting on the corner, her house is a bright spot in a dark world. As the blocks that surround her house are rapidly gentrifying, her street corner holds on.
On the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the city was struck by Hurricane Ida, a strong category 4 storm, which caused massive devastation to southeastern Louisiana and knocked the central power terminal into the Mississippi River, sending the city into a total blackout expected to last up to several weeks.
Althea and the many individuals who spend time at her house have suffered energy and water insecurity for years. The house was battered by Hurricane Zeta in 2020 and was never able to be repaired, allowing Ida to cause even more damage.
We are calling for support for Althea and the community that her house sustains. There has been a lot of talk of mutual aid the past year and a half. Following its roots in communities in resistance and on the outskirts of colonial power, mutual aid has been happening in the south 7th ward since long before it became a buzzword on twitter.
Let's take this opportunity to learn with each other rather than tell people what “recovery” means. When the lights come back on in New Orleans, they don't come back on for everyone. Katrina and Ida together demonstrate the point that the disaster is the infrastructure of the colony and its economy. For long-term food autonomy and neighborhood survival, we need our own infrastructure, let's start here.
We need your support to make it happen. We are asking for you to support this community-driven effort instead of top down charities (or charities by any other name). With your help, we can continue to learn from each other and grow beyond the need for “recovery”. Imagine the next storm when the lights go out on all the airbnbs downtown and miss Althea's cooking short ribs with the lights on, drinking a cold one.
Lumber and construction materials, lots of it. Her house has been leaking for over a year and there is substantial damage, a lot of wood needs to be replaced and the roof needs a ton of work.
Gasoline, a regular supply. Temporary energy autonomy means fueling the generator to keep the refrigerator running and phones charged.
Solar power. Long-term energy autonomy requires a complete off-grid solar system for her house.
Lobelia Commons is a network for food autonomy and neighborhood survival based in so-called New Orleans, LA. For the past year and a half, participants in the network have planted gardens, delivered countless plant starts, started a city-wide decentralized nursery effort, and many other projects for and experiments in food autonomy.
Several participants of Lobelia Commons have known Althea for years, lucky enough to have been her neighbor. When a few of us were forced out of the neighborhood by rent increases during the Covid 19 pandemic, her house was our first stop after Ida hit. Our commitment to her and the community around her house is rooted in reciprocity. We've cooked for each other countless times over the years and we intend to not let that fire burn out anytime soon.