(AllHipHop Features) Trae Tha Truth was out there saving lives. Bun B gave the truth and it went viral. Willie D spit straight truth to power. People died and others saved, but more importantly, a community galvanized to combat Hurricane Harvey’s devastation.
I grew up in Houston and I love the city. My career in the entertainment business started in H-Town and many of the people in the business there are family to me. My heart is torn right now. In the wake of the storm I reached out to my H-Town music family to ask them what was going on, to ask them to tell me the story of their city in their own words.
As you read, please remember that this is the fourth largest city in the United States with many of the residents hailing from the previously devastated New Orleans. New Orleans has yet to recover from Hurricane Katina in 2005 and the work still isn't done. Houston faces a multi-decade recovery and the people in the community need all the love and monetary support that we can offer.
It was August 24, 2017. The day before Houston experienced a biblical deluge for four days that flooded more than 30% of the city. Everything was different. The rich folks looked down on the city's poorest neighborhoods from their glass towers, ignorant that the playing field was about to be leveled by nature's most powerful element: water. As local music producer and my mentor Kojack said during our interview “Fire can't put out water, but water can put out fire.”
“This sh-t affected everybody from the top of the food chain to the ants. White people, Indians, black folk, Lebanese – you can have everything, money in your bank accounts but you stuck in the shelters too,” Kojack elaborated . “You can't get to your money, no ATMs operating. We aren't any different than each other, we're on the same playing field now. That'll humble a mother f—ker” And sure enough, it's humbled people.
This humility has created a newfound sense of community. Local business man and record label owner Tha Natural, from Houston's Northside best describes it in my opinion. He said, “I feel like really and truly, the storm, we look at it as a disaster, but at the end of the day, I feel like this storm is what's going to help bring this city back together. With humility comes prosperity. Now, you have to talk to your neighbor, you have to knock on the door to see if people are OK, but y'all ain't spoke the whole time y'all been living next door to each other.” Now lives have been lost. Neighbors are dead or displaced. As local legend Derrick “D Wreck” Dixon said, “Even the people who lost, if you still have the ability to cleanup and stand on two feet than you're blessed because some people lost their lives.”
However, the general unity is still overshadowed by skewed media coverage and criminal neglect on the part of first responders. Willie D of the Geto Boys, who has evolved into an outspoken man of the people, didn’t mince words.
“There is a sense that people are coming together, but it is tempered by the blatant neglect of first responders, and emergency workers for Houston't poorest neighborhoods. Some of them saw people stranded, and drove right by the them in emergency vehicles.” The absolute disregard for America's poorest citizens and preferential treatment of the rich is a problem in the wake of every natural disaster. I know when my home state, Louisiana, was rocked by hurricane Katrina it was no different. The media looked down on 'looters' as police murdered starving citizens in the streets.
Cajun Navy, from my native Louisiana, got more media praise than Houston's own citizens and that is pathetic and unbalanced reporting. That’s not to take away from their efforts. Local DJ, Buddha, who acted as a remote first responder in collaboration with Southeast Rescue to save over 500 lives recounted, “Those Cajun Navy motherfu—ers showed up with their boats and a coonass can-do attitudes, they're true heroes.”
The issue is: The Cajun Navy's fearless efforts weren't the only ones in boats helping, a narrative shaped by the media. Willie D chimed in, “One thing you likely didn't see on the news are the number of specifically Black men who stepped up during the storm and rescued people in the Black community using their own boats, pickup trucks, and fuel. We didn't wait on the government. I think the whole Katrina, FEMA thing was in the back of everybody's mind.”
Leading the charge were Bun B and Trae Tha Truth, a pair of Hip-Hop’s finest-turned-heroes. Trae was literally at ground zero as the waters started to swell and pulled people out of flooding homes. Bun B was the spokesman and mouthpiece for the city, organizing a massive fund raiser. There were more though. Paul Wall using both music and movement, helping raise money and helping fix homes. Z-Ro recorded "Houston 2Gether,” the first song about the tragedy after Hurricane Harvey.
The American Red Cross' efforts are another media driven phenomenon. Kojack said, “Red Cross ain't giving no bread to the people. JJ Watt (the football player is) doing more for the people than the Red Cross. The Grammys did for me [more] than Red Cross, their Music Cares Foundation is sending me a check.” So the real question is where do we put our money if we want to help? Where do we donate responsibly to ensure that our funds touch the people of Houston?
The JJ Watt Foundation, named after the All-Pro defensive end for the Houston Texans, and Gallery Furniture’s Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale has been hailed as a hero for his response in the wake of this disaster. JJ Watt has already raised $30 million and Mack continues to accept donations at all Gallery Furniture locations. So do Trae's We Are One GoFundme efforts. All go directly to the folks who need them.
These storms won't stop coming. Right now, Hurricane Irma is sweeping through Florida and wiped out islands in the Caribbean. We have to remember human, which trumps American. We must remember that people's lives, their futures and their families are being disrupted and destroyed by this weather and well as the inevitable “hurricane gentrification”.
Please, send help if you can. In this uncertain future the only that is certain that we must take care of each other or no one will.
Chuck Creekmur contributed to this story.