by Quinton Clay
When I originally heard about the disaster created by Hurricane Katrina, my heart went out to all of the people whose lives would be forever changed. My mind went back to the floods of ’93, when the Mississippi River flooded in several areas, including Iowa. At the time I was living in Des Moines, where I grew up, and I can remember being without water in our house, standing in lines to get rationed water, and heating the water we were able to get on the stove for bathing.
I can remember all of the volunteers shown on TV, who were out helping their neighbors and even going to other communities and setting up sandbags. I was too young to go out and help at the time but I admired the spirit of the people. I also remember realizing I didn't see all of those volunteers coming out with sandbags and cameras to my community and some of other “less attractive” communities in the city. We all experienced the same trauma, the same losses; but those who let racial prejudice and classism divide them during ideal weather didn't change during the disaster.
I am going on this trip with a blind heart, willing to serve. I don't know the people in the Gulfport area. I don't know their social class and I don't know their ethnic backgrounds. All that I know is those people need help and whatever I can do is exactly what I will do. We are departing only a few days following the conclusion of the nationally recognized Black History Month. We have just celebrated and honored those who unselfishly sacrificed to create a society of caring people – caring without parameters, bias, or division – and already some have gone back to their regular, divided lives.
In the same spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and all those who played a role in the Civil Rights movement, I am going on this trip to help my brothers and my sisters. These people don’t have to look like me, they just need help. This is the spirit of love, unity and remembrance. This is an opportunity for all of us who are volunteering our time and energy, to honor those who fought for a unified people.
This is my chapter and selfless contribution to the cause. This is something all of us can do way down in Gulfport, Mississippi – and in Cedar Rapids, Iowa!
Quinton Clay is a Coe College admission counselor.