BP Gulf Oil Disaster—NAACP Investigation INTRODUCTION

From May 27th through June 10th, the NAACP National Office conducted an Investigation throughout the affected areas of the Gulf Coast to: observe and document the impact of the BP Oil Drilling Disaster; meet with communities to hear about their experiences as well as their demands; discuss with State Conference and Branch Leadership their current and desired level of response;  ascertain how other organizations are responding to the disaster; and begin to develop priorities for NAACP National engagement in the disaster.

The Investigation started with my visits with communities in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.  NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous then made a trip to the region and engaged in:  a community meeting in Biloxi, MS;  a tour of the Peninsula, which is a primarily African American and Vietnamese community in Biloxi; a meeting with Mayor of Biloxi, Honorable A.J. Holloway; a Luncheon with Black Leadership of Biloxi; a Helicopter Fly-Over of the Oil Disaster and the coastal areas; a visit to Grand Isle and Fourchon in Lafourche, Louisiana;  a Town Hall meeting in Houma Louisiana where the Houma Nation featured prominently among those offering testimony; and multiple meetings with NAACP State Conference and Branch Level Membership.

The BP Oil Drilling Disaster has overlaid another travesty across a region ravaged by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina when communities were still far from recovering from the impact of those disasters of 2005. Therefore the largest environmental disaster in US history was visited upon communities who already suffered from compromised economic status, displacement and substandard housing, fragile mental and physical health status, and socio cultural disruption.

The timing of the tragedy also places the disaster at a time when it has the most potential for negative impact. It comes at the critical moment of great economic impact because it occurred at the beginning of harvest time for shrimp, crabs, and oysters. There is also the threat of elevated pervasive impact because of the start of the hurricane season, which has the potential to both stop/setback clean-up efforts as well as accelerate/intensify the onslaught of oil and dispersant on the shores of the Gulf Coast.

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