Around 10 a.m. Monday morning, Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein and Anika Ofori of the Green Party of New Orleans stood in the middle of a flooded-out community in Denham Springs and asked social media followers to help draw attention to the neighborhood’s plight.
“Everyone that supports Jill Stein supports you,” Ofori told one neighborhood resident as they discussed the Tide Loads of Hope traveling laundry van miles away in Baton Rouge. “We’re going to to tweet to Tide Loads of Hope and tell them people here need their laundry done.”
Three hours later, Tide announced it had arrived in Denham Springs.
Local members of the Green Party learned over the weekend that Stein would be visiting Louisiana to see first-hand the effects of the flooding as part of her focus on environmental issues, said Ryan Hargis in a report on the trip at the Green Party of New Orleans’ monthly meeting Tuesday in Mid-City. At the same time, Ofori was in contact with an acquaintance seeking help for her family and their neighbors around the Lockhart Park area in Denham Springs, and that became Stein’s destination.
Once there, however, Stein spent as much time learning about the uneven pace of recovery for that predominantly black community as she did other any other issue. The residents — whose street took five feet of water — had to rescue themselves, and had no visits from FEMA or other relief groups by the time Stein arrived Monday.
“There are real holes in the recovery,” Stein said in one of her broadcasts to her half-million followers on Facebook. “There is this crisis in racial disparity in the recovery efforts.”
Miranda Murray was one of the dozen or so members of the Green Party of New Orleans who traveled to Denham Springs on Monday, which also included Congressional candidate Elliott Barron and teenage Gretna mayoral candidate William Boartfield. When they arrived at the Lockhart Community Center in Denham Springs, they were met by a handful of volunteers from an assessor’s office in North Louisiana, and they all went together to begin gutting the flooded home of a sheriff’s deputy.
Murray said she focused on helping the wife go through her closets, a task that was increasingly heartbreaking.
“In the bottoms of the closts, I’m throwing away all this woman’s shoes,” Murray said. “And the woman in me is saying, ‘I’m so sorry you lost all your shoes.’ Then I’m finding jewelry and papers, and we’re deciding what to keep and what to throw away of her belongings. So much of their clothes and everything just got thrown away into big pile.”
Murray was too starstruck by the presence of a Presidential candidate to interact much with Stein directly other than a quick photo as they left, she said, but she was taken with Stein’s “sweet,” compassionate interaction with the families in the neighborhood — even as she drew national attention to the plight of the neighborhood.
National publicity aside, Ofori said she was glad the Greens of New Orleans were able to make a difference in someone’s lives.
“They’re very happy with what we did yesterday,” Ofori said at Tuesday’s meeting of the Green Party. “That was my main goal, that it was not just a press opportunity for her campaign. … We actually helped, and the Green Party continues to be a very life-changing organization.”