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Music and the Creative Spirit

Terence Blanchard: Requiem for Katrina

By Published: January 8, 2009

TB: When Harry Belafonte took that step, the media machine went into action. Consequently, one of the things that is really doing a disservice to our country is how we spin the media. When (Venezuelan President Hugo) Chavez wanted to send people and equipment to New Orleans to help, there are those that wanted to make it a political issue. Now at that particular point in time, I didn't really give a damn about Chavez's political motives. Do you know what I mean? I could care less because the (U.S.) wasn't helping, so somebody needed to.

But we have this "either or" mentality in the media and it's doing us a serious disservice. When there is an issue brought up in the media, there are usually two opposing views being given but there is a no resolution attitude and that doesn't teach the country how to resolve issues. When you watch any news program, and I mean any news program other than Bill Moyer's or the "Daily Show," when anything comes up, there are always two opposing sides, like the country only has two opposing views on any issue in this country. That's ludicrous! There should be "think tanks" with people from various walks of life that debate issues on television. But that's laughable, right? It doesn't make any sense. But what happens is that we have leaders who have learned to be skillful liars on television and they are selling the public a bill of goods that doesn't exist. They should be ashamed of themselves.

AAJ: Would there have been a think tank if the damage had been from a terrorist attack?

TB: If it would have been due to a terrorist attack, the media machine would have thrown up its hands and would have received more money to go to Iraq. And I understand where you are trying to go with this, but the thing that we don't talk about is that if most of the people seen on the street were white, there would have been a think tank and a resolution.

But it doesn't get addressed, because we don't want to think that that's part of it, but it is. And it's very much a part of it. If there would have been more film clips of white people with no water and no food....

AAJ: There would have been help in just several hours.

TB: That's right and we still have a lot of growing up to do as a country as far as race relations are concerned. But let me just say this too. Let me draw a distinction between the American public and our government. From what I personally experienced, the American public was trying to step up to the plate. Wherever I went, people around the country expressed their opinion that not being able to get help for more than a few days was bullshit.

AAJ: But where were the people and organizations not from the political arena that could have helped with water, food and medical attention when nothing was available for the first five days?

TB: It was stopped at the borders. It was stopped at the borders by the National Guard and the airport was also shut down. Did you know that a day and a half after the hurricane, Canadian Mounties were at the border waiting to come into the city but they were turned away? There was this notion that the city was too dangerous to let people in. They were playing on those fears again. So there were all of these people that were actively ready to do whatever they could do to help, but they were turned away. And that is the part that so incenses me. They said the city was too dangerous to enter, but then no one was sent in to clean up the city. So does that mean we are just going to let people die that are still left in the city? There is no logical excuse. I don't see any excuse that makes any sense because if you are not allowing Canadian Mounties ... those were not people from the street, they were trained professionals.

AAJ: Did the lack of support have anything to do with our government not being able to apologize for the past atrocities toward African Americans?

TB: (Sighs) It has a lot to do with that, but I don't think it's a malicious thing. I just don't think we matter. Do you know what I'm saying? I don't think there is an evil machine out there that is trying to keep black people down, though I do think there is a certain segment of that in our culture. For the most part, we just don't exist on the radar. The issues that confront poor people are things they just don't think about and they're not bad people. They are not malicious people. It's just that their world is centered on something else.

I also wanted to become active in the political world here in New Orleans and I do get involved. But for the most part, I am trying to do my part as a private citizen. But this bureaucracy crap is not going to change or go away. Whenever somebody talks about reform they are really talking about a different form of what's already going on.

AAJ: Have the black leaders stepped up and asked any of the presidential candidates what they are going to do for the citizens of New Orleans?

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