REPORTBACK: HURRICANE HARVEY


It is Wednesday September 4th, 2017, 11 days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Southeast Texas. If this is read after that date, that is because collaboration and editing was important to this.

Houston's political economy and geography needs to be understood if we are to understand the social impact of Hurricane Harvey. Houston is a "boomtown", leading in petrochemical, technology, medicine and shipping; in the abstract, certain economic trends such as recession have sometimes not affected Houston as greatly, multinational capital continues to pour into the city, while it's being pulled out of older Midwestern states, all as a part of a slow but very noticeable process. However, this doesn't prevent Houston's prosperity from being concentrated in one class; with some of the cheapest housing and lowest wages, calls for Houston to be emptied as "uninhabitable" leaves locals wondering where else even those who are making decent wages could afford to go. In a lot of places, the water has nowhere to go, and neither does the poverty.

Houston is also a city with a long history of white supremacy since its inception. It is one of America's most segregated cities. There are well over a hundred languages spoken in Houston homes. Houston is the home to the first private prison, meant to house immigrant detainees, a model which replicated across Texas, the nation, and whole prison industry. It is a vast, sprawling metropolis (the area size as cities twice its population size) and is a driving city with poor public transportation, which despite expansions in recent years, routinely fails the black and brown poor that use them the most. This means that in these neighborhoods, the poorest grow up sometimes never leaving their neighborhood, maybe sometimes for work if they are lucky, or jail if they are not. These are often "food deserts" in these areas, and also as a city known for it's great "job creation" track record, these jobs don't reach out to these places.

We were all safe as the storm passed, and although there were scares and close calls, the storm managed to mostly spare the local from impact. We were in constant contact as the storm came, making sure each other were safe. We had decided as a local upon our recent founding that we would be growing BASH (Bayou Action Street Health, a local street medic collective) alongside Houston Redneck Revolt as somewhat of a sister organization, therefore working through BASH made a lot of sense for us. We are a little over a month old, however we have quickly grown on each other. We knew we could count on being able to support BASH, while we figured out what role Redneck Revolt would be able to play in this.

We began our efforts before Harvey made landfall in Corpus Christi. Before we were able to leave our houses, we had begun gathering contacts from inside and outside of town, and consolidating local efforts between groups on social media. Members of Redneck Revolt made a Facebook group that is sympathetic to our politics and contained most of Houston's heavy lifters in terms of organizers, and that continues to be pretty effective as a center for information with quality control. We tried our best to network rescue efforts early on as well, sometimes with people we did not know, in order to circulate information, as all emergency lines were busy. Some also began doing very careful navigation of the streets in order to try to provide care on the ground in places that had not experienced flooding but might have some people walking around. Overall, Houston Redneck Revolt did not participate directly in a rescue experience, however we did our best to support others in this.

As relief volunteers began coming in from out of town in the middle of the week, we immediately got into food and supply distribution as well as housing members of other organizations. Members of Redneck Revolt from outside the city in outlying rural areas came into town, and committed to staying for a long period. We attended conference calls and had to have a lot of conversations very quickly on political questions, and which alliances we would build. We jumped right into prepping hot meals for hundreds of people, and directed supplies to shelters that were being neglected by the cross and tried to stay as knowledgeable as possible. Groups we did this alongside of, and with the help of, were Black Women's Defense League, Phoenix John Brown Gun Club, Red Guards Austin,