From The Bottom Up

May 27, 2011 by

Do yourselves a favor and check Anna Holmes’ Twitter feed.

She’s been posting as her Twitter avatars pictures of one Freedom Rider a day for this entire month to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the summer when a bunch of young people of all races decided to give segregation the finger and travel below the Mason-Dixon line across the South to New Orleans as an integrated group.  The stories of each of these riders have been remarkable and indispensable, which is why I read some of the tale of Rider Claire O’Connor yesterday and was simultaneously appalled and uplifted by words such as these:

(O’Connor) says that many members of the younger generations have no understanding of the civil rights movement….”When I say I was with the Freedom Riders, they say, ‘I didn’t know you were a biker chick.'”…”I want [young people] to know that we can make a difference. If you want to make things change you take action.”…”The movements that we see that then have visible results have their roots the past.”…”The freedom rides just seemed to happen. Things in Wisconsin and Tunisia and Egypt just seemed to happen. They didn’t.”…”They come from a long term [efforts], always from the bottom up. Never from the top down.”

I considered the “bottom up” O’Connor was describing in light of what was discovered in the trial of Mark St. Pierre: that, in the course of robbing the city, St. Pierre had Jason Berry, aka, Ashe Dambala of The American Zombie, investigated for posting questions about the use of a yacht for parties (while the marina was still trashed from the events of 8/29/2005) and about then-city tech chief Greg Meffert’s access to a corporate credit card to buy all sorts of nifty things for himself and, occasionally, for then-Hizzoner the Walking Id C. Ray Nagin.

Ladies and gents, corruption doesn’t just happen, and neither does good, lasting reform.  The reasons why the rallying cry against what Meffert, St. Pierre and Co. were doing took so long to surface from Dambala’s corner of the interwebs could lie in some contributing factors: the intense juggernaut of post-levee breach recovery that haunts us to this very day and was especially overwhelming nearly a year after the flooding, or perhaps the reelection of a man whose second, even more incompetent term in office still has many fantasizing: what if that had never happened? The largest contributor was something some commenters picked up on at the tail-end of David Hammer’s trial reportage: despite tripping over a detail like which corporate credit card Meffert was using, Dambala was right enough for these thieves to look into his background to see what facts of his life could be used against him to continue their thieving ways – and the mainstream media didn’t look into it at all until a couple of years later, leaving the world’s only undead citizen reporter twisting in the wind.  No, Dambala wasn’t gloating over all the guilty counts St. Pierre garnered in the verdict the jury handed down, he was scared.  It’s understandable: he went where the Times-Picayune feared to tread.  Even with the assistance of a pseudonymous cloak, he was a marked man.

It is sadly, painfully apparent – now more than ever before – that when you are working for the only daily newspaper in town, you don’t take such chances.

Unlike Stacey “Tammy” St. Pierre, I did call into Jeff Crouere’s radio show a while back when Dambala made an appearance to discuss the crime camera mess, gave my actual name, and expressed my support for what American Zombie did and still does.  It takes more than a touch of crazy like a fox to stand and tell hard truths to the best of one’s knowledge when no one else with serious clout will back you up.  Some still see American Zombie the blog as a bottom-scraping thing, but it is all too easy to forget that too many decisions affecting the public happen behind closed doors, in the deepest, darkest holds of even the swankiest yachts, and in the dimness of strip clubs.

Since the local paper ain’t following this stuff, I’m damned glad people like Jason B. Berry are.


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