Scott Crow, co-founder of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort Common Ground Collective, has written a memoir detailing his radical roots and how they met head-on with the realities of Katrina relief efforts and put anarchism into action.
PM Press, an Oakland-based publisher of radical fiction and non-fiction, will be publishing Common Ground Collective co-founder Scott Crow‘s memoir “Black Flags and Windmills: Hope, Anarchy and the Common Ground Collective” this fall.
A great deal of people—indeed, many millions of people—are unaware that when George W. Bush’s federal government, the Louisiana state government and the City of New Orleans were all paralyzed by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a group of people (mostly Anarchists) created the relief effort Common Ground Collective.
As PM’s press release states:
When both levees and governments failed in New Orleans in the Fall of 2005, scott crow headed into the political storm, co-founding a relief effort called the Common Ground Collective. In the absence of local government, FEMA, and the Red Cross, this unusual volunteer organization, based on ‘solidarity not charity,’ built medical clinics, set
up food and water distribution, and created community gardens. They also resisted home demolitions, white militias, police brutality and FEMA incompetence side by side with the people of New Orleans.
Crow’s “Black Flags and Windmills” is a memoir that explores the author and organizer’s radical biographical details and how they met head-on with the realities of Hurricane Katrina.
Common Ground was founded in the aftermath of Katrina by Crow, Malik Rahim (community organizer and former Black Panther) and Sharon Johnson and many other activists and volunteers.
Rahim, Crow and Johnson called in four medics to New Orleans’ to tend to those in the Algiers neighborhood by offering free (and unauthorized) medical care. (This, of course, is in the spirit of the “Hobo Doctor” Ben Reitman, an Anarchist doctor who roamed the country providing free medical care.)
Rahim stated in a Mother Jones article “It was just about the noblest thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life. It was the street medics who really stopped this city from exploding into a race war, because they were white and were serving the black community at a time when blacks were fed up. Those are the real heroes of this thing.”
Over the following years and months, Common Ground continued to offer free medical care, attracting activists and medical professionals from all over the country and Europe, and also began offering to gut homes, tarp roofs, prisoner advocacy, free tech support for non-profits, legal counseling and organizing the creation of community and backyard gardens, amongst other free services.
Common Ground reflected the Anarchist philosophies—both thought and action—of the founders and many of the volunteers (though not all were Anarchists), and Crow was integral to this process.
But, as Crow notes in the book trailer, things weren’t always the picture of perfection.
“Community-based revolution was in the air. Everyone was in the streets. It was electric. But the jubilation was always tempered because there was such extreme amounts of violence from the state. Volunteers were harassed. I was made to lay face-down on the ground with guns pointed at my head. But the violence that we faced as volunteers was a sample of what residents had to face daily.
“Was it more important to go after looters or is it more important to feed people and get them to emergency care,” states Crow. “The fact that we existed was against the law of the state, but we didn’t care because the mission of what we were doing was way more important than the laws the state put before us.”
He goes on to say, “You know even as we were doing this I could hear the tired old critic’s mantra over and over again, ‘Well, without the state, who is going to take out the garbage?’ Our answer is: We will. I’ll take it out myself. My neighbor will take it out because we have vested interest in doing that.”
“I believe that people can do amazing things given the chance to do it without coercion.”
And so for a more truthful reminiscence of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, and proof that we don’t need the state to get things done—indeed, it paralyzes action in many cases—buy a copy of Scott Crow’s “Black Flags and Windmills” when it is published in Fall 2011.
According to the PM press release, Crow is also co-founder or co-organizer of several other social justice and education projects throughout Texas, including, “Radical Encuentro Camp, UPROAR (United People Resisting Oppression and Racism), Dirty South Earth First!, and North Texas Coalition for a Just Peace. He has trained and organized for Greenpeace, Ruckus Society, Rainforest Action Network, A.C.O.R.N., Forest Ethics, and Ralph Nader, and many smaller grassroots groups. He is currently collaborating on long-term sustainable democratic economic mutual aid projects within Austin.”
Watch the fantastic book trailer below.
To learn more about Scott Crow and his various efforts, visit his website ScottCrow.org.