CHARLOTTE, N.C. (ABP) – A new Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America documentary not only highlights unmet needs nearly six years after Hurricane Katrina, but also exposes social problems that existed before the storm that have hampered recovery efforts in New Orleans.
Connections – Storms of Injustice: From Hurricane Katrina to Your World
asks viewers to consider what effect a Katrina-size disaster might have on poor people in their own community.
“Coming to New Orleans changed the way I look at my own hometown,” says LeDayne McLeese Polaski, program coordinator of the Baptist Peace Fellowship who wrote and produced the documentary.
While many view Katrina as a natural disaster, Connections goes a step further, exploring inequity that existed prior to Aug. 29, 2005, the day that 53 levee breaches submerged 80 percent of the city.
“One of the things that has become obvious to me is that there were a lot of problems in New Orleans at that time,” Polaski says in the film. “There were problems with education. There were problems with housing. There were problems with fair wages. There were problems with the transportation system. There were problems with the police department, the fire department. When you put the pressure of a storm on top of all of that, then the problems become cracks and fissures and chasms. The problems become much more obvious.”
The video premiered May 21 at Central Baptist Church in Wayne, Pa. Baptist Peace Fellowship Partner Congregations each received a copy of the DVD and a study guide. Others can order the documentary
for $10 and download the study guide for free.
“I’d really like to see churches use it as a springboard for considering the needs and challenges in their own communities, and what they might be being called to do about them,” Polaski said.
Polaski appears in the documentary, her first filmmaking venture, but she credits volunteers among the BPFNA network with expertise for making the film happen.
In the video, Polaski invites people to take church groups to New Orleans to do a week of work and then come back and look at their own city in light of the experience.
“What’s going on in Toronto? What’s going on in Raleigh? What’s going on in Vancouver? What’s going on Seattle?” she asks. “Maybe it looks a little similar. And ask yourself what would happen here if some huge disaster, whether it’s a hurricane or a flood or an economic crisis, if something happened here, what would my city look like?”
The documentary also highlights the work of Churches Supporting Churches, a comprehensive strategy to assist at least 36 African-American congregations in 12 areas of New Orleans to repair or rebuild churches destroyed or damaged by Katrina.
The idea for the ministry came after the mayor of New Orleans announced plans to place casinos in each of the 12 affected areas. Local pastors felt churches had more to offer their communities than gambling houses.
“The church is the community center. The church is where everything happens,” Polaski says in the video. "It’s where worship happens. It’s where Christian education happens. It’s where pastoral counseling happens, but it’s also where you go for your social life.”
“It’s where you go to meet your friends. It’s where you go to share the burdens of your life. It’s where you go to say this is happening or that is happening or this is what I’m struggling with, this is what I need help with, this is what I want to celebrate,” she says. “When the building is gone, none of that can happen.”
–Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.