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Born Out of the Chaos of Hurricane Harvey, the American Black Cross Is Reinventing Disaster Relief | Fast Company

It’s a bottom-up world. If you want progressive change, productive results, something done right — you have to do it yourself. Now, grassroots social justice activists take on the duties of disaster relief. Enter… the all-volunteer American Black Cross (ABC). This relief group puts the focus on under-served disaster populations.

For instance, take Puerto Rico after it was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. San Juan has benefited more from relief efforts than the impoverished south side of the island. While traditional relief work continues in San Juan, ABC will prioritize their efforts on the south side.

“The list of recent disasters just keeps growing—from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose to this week’s deadly Santa Rosa wildfires—with no respite in sight. Along with the natural destruction, too often many of these disasters… have been marked by human failures, with woeful responses that caused only more suffering for victims…

‘Its just been my experience since Katrina, to some of the more recent storms, to what we saw happen in Haiti where people were being neglected . . . too many of the dollars being sent were going toward other causes as opposed to the cause that people were sending funds in for,’ says Merritt. He joined with fellow Black Lives Matter activists to form an effort that would minimize overhead costs by relying entirely on volunteers.

‘I don’t want to come out as being completely negative toward another group, but we’re trying to look for the opposite of the Red Cross,’ says Merritt. ‘Think of it as a black market or a shadow group that cuts out the middle man.’ The name doesn’t refer to race, according to Merritt, and the group’s focus is on under-served communities regardless of ethnicity, he says. But the founders and most volunteers are African-American, and the group’s activist roots are a defining characteristic.” …

‘Since Superstorm Sandy we have seen an increasing number of spontaneous, or ‘pop-up’ groups, form in the wake of a natural disaster,’ writes Erik Dyson, CEO of All Hands Volunteers, which organizes cleanup after natural disasters, in an email to Fast Company. He names the “Cajun Navy” volunteers that rescued Houstonians by boat as a prime example. Dyson hadn’t heard of the American Black Cross before we spoke, but it made sense to him as a manifestation of this trend in disaster relief…”

~ Sean Captain

READ MORE: Born Out of the Chaos of Hurricane Harvey, the American Black Cross Is Reinventing Disaster Relief | Fast Company

Be aware while you care.



About The Author

JoAnn Chateau

JoAnn Chateau likes progressive politics and loves the canines. She writes fiction about an alpha Bichon named Chester, and his friends–with a dash of humor and a dab of poli-sci. JoAnn worked professionally in the Psychology and Information Science fields. Retired now, she enjoys the creative life.

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