Jackson attends prayer vigil in Clayton County

By Johnny Jackson

Across Tara Boulevard stood an American flag carelessly waving in the breeze and glaring in the Georgian sun. Meanwhile, the Reverend Jesse Jackson responded to distress steaming in the Delta.

"We are here to lift the hurricane victims in prayer," said Gail Davenport, president of the area Concerned Black Citizens Coalition and the RainbowPUSH Coalition. Wednesday, Davenport helped organize the noon hurricane relief prayer vigil at the Clayton County Judicial Complex.

Standing on the edge of shade cast by the complex, Jackson orated blessings and arguments for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"Rescue, relief, reunification, relocation, reconstruction," he repeated to a crowd, some seeking refuge from a devastated gulf coast.

"I refuse to call them refugees," said State Representative Roberta Abdul-Salaam. "They are our guests. We do not want to see them herded like animals."

For Renata Honore, any sort of good treatment suffices. Unfortunately, the prayer vigil may not have ended Honore's 10-day odyssey from New Orleans.

She left New Orleans with her four children at six Sunday morning and headed for Baton Rouge, La. She said she left behind her husband Calvin Hooker, who was unable to leave with her because of work.

A rescue helicopter found him trapped by flood waters, she said. He was sent to Austin, Texas, where he found a phone to called a family member who was able to get in touch with Honore.

Honore said a friend of the family volunteered to drive her family from Baton Rouge to Austin to receive Hooker last week. The family arrived finally to Riverdale on Tuesday.

"He said it wasn't there, or it was almost destroyed," Honore said about their mortgaged home. With them, they only took a few things for Calvin Jr. The family now shares a room at the Savannah Suite in Jonesboro.

Four-month-old Calvin Jr., one-year-old Re,kala, five-year-old Stacy, and 10-year-old Therinesha huddled around their mother Wednesday as they have grown accustom to since the day they family evacuated New Orleans.

"I have four children I have to stay stable for," she said. "I don't know. I have no clue of what to do. I have to keep my composure."

Honore's aunt Bernice Hardester, who said she has victims of the hurricane still living with her, told Jackson as much.

"I think people have been so generous in reaching out," Jackson said.

He argued that emergency preparedness was unprepared in the Katrina Hurricane disaster, mentioning overwhelmed disaster relief agencies and seeming disregard for resources available to them.

"We deserve better in terms of a commitment to guided responsiveness," he said. "There was a failure on the level of basic rescue."

Jackson proposed that people with property in the disaster deserve to be the first to decide on rebuilding.

"We want a freeze on mortgage foreclosures. We want a victims assistance fund. In this case, the poorer even need more."