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The Miami Herald
October 4, 2005 Tuesday F1 EDITION

Blacks rise to help their community;
The black community is rallying around a cause -- to help black victims of Hurricane Katrina.;

HURRICANE AID

BYLINE: BY NATALIE P. McNEAL
SECTION: A; Pg. 1

From humble offerings of crumpled singles in church collection plates to the fittingly named SOS: Saving OurSelves telethon by BET, blacks are responding with money and in-kind contributions for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

A crop of black charitable organizations are benefiting from the unprecedented outpouring after the storm's devastating toll among African Americans.

Grim images of poor blacks swimming against two tides -- those wrought by Katrina and those wrought by a government's tardy response -- have rekindled feelings of injustice, motivating blacks in South Florida and across the nation to take action.

''Something about what we saw in New Orleans was burned in our consciousness,'' said civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson. ''It took our sense of responsibility and sacrifice to a higher level.''

The National Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit research center on policies that affect low-income people, estimates that one of every three people seriously affected by Hurricane Katrina is black.

Because of that, some black leaders have nicknamed Katrina ''the Black Tsunami.''

Katrina damaged or destroyed almost 500,000 homes in three states, according to the American Red Cross -- four times as many as Hurricane Andrew did in 1992 when it struck South Florida.

Since Katrina, black philanthropic groups have noticed major increases in their Web traffic, individual donations and small gifts.

John Vaughn, program director at the Twenty-First Century Foundation, an endowed African-American institution that promotes philanthropy, said that after the hurricane hit, his foundation received 25 e-mails asking how to contribute.

''Many people have been moved by what happened and don't want to go to the traditional disaster relief agencies,'' Vaughn said. ''There has been historical suspicion among communities of color that their money isn't going to where people need it the most.''

Throughout South Florida, churches have mounted giving campaigns, raising tens of thousands of dollars.

And individuals are giving anything they can sacrifice.

''To see these people crying out for help and no one was reaching them really touched home with me,'' said Johnny Owens, a Pompano Beach air-conditioning contractor who donated $1,000 recently to blackamericaweb.com. ''I'm going to give until I can't give anymore.''

Latisha Dennis, who works at Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Miami, gave $50.

''I may not be the richest person in the world, but I can give to someone who is less fortunate than I am,'' Dennis said. ''I have a place to stay, I have clothes and I have food.''

And blacks aren't only giving money -- they're also volunteering, collecting goods and inviting evacuees into their homes.

Sallie Tillman-Watson, a Fort Lauderdale crossing guard, helped organize a donation drive that collected enough supplies to fill a U-Haul truck.

''I just went out around here and went crazy,'' Tillman-Watson said. ''Broward went without a direct hit for so many years, I thought we should step up to the plate.''

At Fort Lauderdale's New Mount Olive Baptist Church, worshipers created a Hurricane Katrina Relief Committee that has 10 members. So far, the committee has raised $26,000, which it donated to churches in the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Mount Bethel Baptist Church, which sent a trailer to the Gulf, blackamericaweb.com and the American Red Cross.

New Mount Olive gave money last year after Hurricane Charley, which ravaged Punta Gorda and surrounding areas, and donated to Haiti after Tropical Storm Jeanne flooded parts of the island.

But Katrina is different, said Margaret Haynie Birch, secretary of the church's relief committee.

''Katrina threw us for a loop, '' Birch said. ''It let us know that we needed to have a standing committee to help the victims.''

Nationally, African Americans have contributed millions to hurricane victims. Among the most recognized effort is syndicated black radio personality Tom Joyner's blackamericaweb.com.

As of last week, Joyner's group had raised $1.8 million -- 80 percent from individuals -- to help families who are housing evacuees. Joyner has also raised an additional $1.2 million in grants for students from black colleges in Louisiana such as Xavier, Dillard and Southern universities to help them transfer to other schools.

''Black people have always tried to help each other; it's just part of our nature,'' Joyner said.

''Back when we were brought here as slaves, we didn't have FEMA or Red Cross or the Bush administration that was supposed to help us. We had to help ourselves.''

 

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