Thursday, September 24, 2009
Tamara Jackson, President of the New Orleans Social Aid and Pleasure Club Task Force, Speaks out for Health Care Reform
This Wednesday, more than a hundred New Orleanians (as well as two brass bands and several other performers) demonstrated outside the Hale Boggs Federal Building to send the message to US Senator Mary Landrieu that her constituents support the public option in the health care debate.
Tamara Jackson, the president of the New Orleans Social Aid and Pleasure Club Task Force – the alliance that represents 25 of the city’s 32 clubs - was one of the main organizers of the rally.
“I’m out today because we need a public option,” said Jackson. “A lot of the Social Aid and Pleasure Club Members - as well as many musicians we work with - have been suffering because they don’t have access to care.”
The Task Force previously led the successful fight against excessive fees the police department attempted to levy on secondlines, which threatened the very existence of the secondline tradition. They also have spent the past four years fighting to help their members return home, while also continuing to preserve the city’s traditions. “While we rebuild our lives, we also contribute to the culture that is so historic here in this city,” she says.
But this is the first time that the alliance has taken on a political issue not directly tied to the city’s culture. Jackson explained that all of their members believed in the importance of this fight.
“We talked about it recently with our members,” she said. “With people falling sick, we felt we needed to be proactive and do something. We decided its essential that the task force take on another role and advocate for the public option.”
Although this kind of direct political action may be new for the organization, it fits well with their history. “The Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs started as benevolent societies,” Jackson explained. “They helped establish burials for the members that were fallen, or helping someone who had fallen sick. And now we are faced with an insurance crisis, and a health care crisis. We are disenfranchised. We are everyday working people that are in need.”
Jackson, who worked at the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital, now works at the Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville. She explained that the loss of NOAH is another aspect of the city’s health care crisis. “Louisiana is suffering, we don’t have many health care options,” she said. “There’s no hospital in New Orleans East. You just have a few hospitals in the city that are open and providing services, and even those services are limited. You no longer have a charity hospital. Mental health patients, with the recent closure of the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital, will not have a place to go.”
Jackson hopes that Wednesday’s rally will send a message to our political representatives. “I’m really disappointed in Senator Landrieu,” explains Jackson. “When she ran for re-election she supported Obama’s plan. She used President Obama to get elected, and now she opposes it.”
Jackson stressed that her organization intends to stay in this fight. “This is a real serious issue,” she said. “A lot of people, especially African-Americans, don’t have access to care. We need to come together as a community. I have health insurance, but I’m still advocating for those that don’t.”