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Public Affairs

Teach-in puts spotlight on disasters' disasters

November 18, 2005

Photo of New Orleans jazz artist red Morgan performing at the Katrina Teach-inHundreds of students, faculty and community members spent an unusually mild and sunny autumn day inside Jack Adams Hall on Nov. 15 to come to terms with a natural disaster and its aftermath. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were the jumping off point for speakers at the event, "Katrina Teach-in: Rebuilding a New Foundation of Justice." More than 20 SFSU faculty members and guests from the Gulf Coast covered a wide range of topics from meteorology to social justice, global warming to race, class and the federal response to the recent disasters.

The free event kicked off with a noon concert on Malcolm X Plaza by New Orleans jazz artist Red Morgan with a band of San Francisco musicians. Morgan was on the road during the August arrival of Hurricane Katrina and has not yet been able to return home.

SFSU faculty led the afternoon panels. Science faculty presented information about the environmental aspects that contributed to the disaster. Faculty from social science, education, history, political science, ethnic studies, public health, international relations and anthropology led discussions of the impacts of the disasters on people, community, political structure and economics, as well as the implications of government response. The final panel of the afternoon focused on lessons learned from similar disasters in Central America.

A Cajun dinner, which benefited New Orleans grassroots relief efforts, preceded a student-faculty dialogue on social justice and the differential impact of disaster. The discussion was led by Judith Maxwell from Tulane University, an expert on the New Orleans African American community, and Tomas Aragon of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

The evening program, "Voices from the Front: What You Can Do" featured keynote speakers Malik Rahim, founder of Common Ground Relief in New Orleans, and Curtis Muhammed of Community Labor United, the Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition of New Orleans.

Harold Perry, a San Francisco resident whose late wife was a native of New Orleans, said he was very proud that the University hosted the event. Late in the afternoon session, he told the speakers, "I'm crying inside because I could have missed this."

The teach-in was planned and managed by the Health Education Department, Public Health Organization of Graduate Students, Health Education Student Association, Health Education Access Link, College of Health and Human Services, Community Health Works and College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.

Funding for the event came from the SFSU offices of the President, Vice President for Administration and Finance, Vice President for Academic Affairs; the colleges of Creative Arts, Education, Ethnic Studies, Humanities, and Science and Engineering; and the Recreation and Leisure Studies Department, Physical Therapy Program, School of Social Work, Public Research Institute, Cesar Chavez Institute, Marian Wright Edelman Institute and San Francisco Urban Institute.

The Urban Institute has created a Katrina response Web site that includes details about the teach-in and the ongoing response by the campus community to the disasters in the Gulf Coast.

-- Denize Springer


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Last modified November 18, 2005 by University Communications