Cong. Danny K. Davis’ annual State of the District event at Malcolm X College took on a more charitable tone as hundreds of items were collected for Hurricane Katrina victims.
The annual two-day event, which took place this past Friday and Saturday at the college, 1900 W. Van Buren, usually involves updates on the status of Davis’ 7th Congressional District. Workshops and seminars on housing, crime and jobs among other issues also take place.
This year, the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina became a major part of the fair. Hundreds of items, from clothes to bottled water to wheelchairs, were collected over the weekend. The items, donated by attendees and community residents, filled three large semi-trailer trucks. The trucks were destined for Bolton, Miss. and Jennings, La., two of the areas still reeling from Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29.
Davis started his own effort, Chicagoland Hurricane Katrina Relief, shortly after the disaster.
“[We’ve been] sending goods and resources, and raising money to assist our brothers and sisters who’ve been uprooted,” said Davis.
The trucks left for the coast last weekend. A number of volunteers went along for the lengthy 12-hour-plus ride to the Gulf Coast.
Several volunteers like West Side resident Robert Calhoun helped load the trucks. “We [started] at 12 (noon) and have been here since,” said Calhoun, who along with another volunteer spent all day last Friday loading one of the semis.
As to why he wanted to volunteer, Calhoun said, “Because my heart hearted, and I wanted to give back.”
On Tuesday, Davis joined Wallace Davis, owner of Wallace’s Catfish Corner and Sankofa Director Cherita Logan in transporting donated items from the restaurant to needy victims. A bus left the restaurant, located at 2800 W. Madison, for Jennings, La.
Evacuees already here were encouraged to come to this weekend’s event to find out about housing and employment opportunities; whether any showed up Friday or Saturday was not officially known. But hundreds are currently known to be living in the city.
Illinois is expecting some 10,000 total evacuees from Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Hundreds have already made their way to Chicago in the last two weeks. As a greater number of black Gulf Coast residents head north, including those from predominantly African-American New Orleans, Davis said this could result in the next “Great Migration.”
Between 1900 and 1930, blacks began leaving the south to escape harsh economic conditions left over from the slavery era. More than 5 million blacks relocated to the North between 1940 and 1970, a large number settling in Chicago and Detroit. Many southern states today, including Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina still have large numbers of black residents.
“There’s an affinity for those Delta areas because it’s home for so many,” said Davis, who was a part of the migration himself, having come from Arkansas in the 1960s.
In other Hurricane Katrina news, Congress last Thursday passed an additional $51.8 billion for relief and recovery. Some lawmakers have called for federal hearings to investigate failures in the response efforts.
Davis, who sits on the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, has been among those most critical.
“The failure in response was just as tragic as the hurricane,” said Davis. “Why weren’t we more prepared? Why weren’t we more equipped? Why did it take the response as long as it did? Why didn’t we have places to take people that were different than where they ended up? So, there is a tremendous need for an investigation.”