Thursday, October 29, 2009

LJI Community Profile: Housing Advocate Sam Jackson Speaks Out About Tomorrow's Visit From The UN

Sam Jackson is a housing activist and the founder of the housing rights organization May Day New Orleans. Below is a short discussion with Sam about tomorrow's visit from United Nations Special Rapporteur on Housing Raquel Rolnik.

LJI: What should New Orleanians know about tomorrow's visit from the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing?
Sam: This is a very important visit for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Having these high profile international guests should bring hope to all us concerned about Gulf Coast recovery, because it shows that even if our government doesn't view adequate housing as a human right, maybe there are people around the world that do.

LJI: What is adequate housing?
Decent housing, low income housing, fair housing. Anything that would make a family comfortable. For instance, folks in New Orleans can't afford to rent right now. We need adequate, affordable housing, so low income folks can have a place to stay.

LJI: What can the UN do to improve conditions on the Gulf Coast?
I'll be honest with you. The UN cant do anything directly. They can't change US law. They can't bring a lawsuit. But what the UN can do, they can raise questions with the US government about these issues, and bring international pressure on the US to do something. They can raise the issue about doing something to fix some of our laws - like the Stafford Act, which doesn't guarantee any kind of rights to the victims of disasters.

As it is now, we cant get anyone in the government to pay attention to what happened here. So we bring in the UN representatives and let them know what's happening, and then people start to ask, why do we have to get folks from outside the country to come visit us? Why couldn't we get folks from our own government to visit?

That's why we need international pressure. The UN is important for the pressure they bring. And this is not just for New Orleans, this is happening in six cities. This visit has already been a major event in New York and all other places they've been visiting.

LJI: Why should people from New Orleans come out tomorrow night to make their voices heard by the UN?
Sam: I urge people to participate, come out and speak their mind. Folks got human rights. All of us. Folks need to come out to let the world know what happened here. I would say to people: This is your country, most of you have lived for generations and generations here. If you don't fight now, our grandchildren will be going through the same thing. Right now, all around the US, the poor is really left out. This could be a once in a lifetime chance to do something that takes this struggle up to another level.

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