Black Tide Rolls In

May 3 2010

Guest Editorial by Monique Verdin

Monique Verdin is a resident of St Bernard Parish and a native daughter of southeast Louisiana. Her collection of photo and video documentation, exposing her homeland and indigenous heritage, began over a decade ago. Verdin has intimately witnessed and captured the backlash of Louisiana’s environmental loss and the marsh-level realities of global climate change that challenge the bayou communities of her homeland. Her photography has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and is included in The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous, Yale University Press (2008) and Nonesuch Records’ Habitat for Humanity benefit album Our New Orleans (2005).

Monique is in the process of updating her website and will be posting regular updates from the affected parishes.

We Delta Dwellers living in the bayou communities of South Louisiana wait with uncertainty as a black tide rolls in.

Five thousand feet below sea-level BP’s Deepwater Horizon well continues to leak hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. They tell us they are weeks away from implementing a quick fix that they are not sure will work and months away from drilling another hole to siphon the leaking well.

South Louisiana is famous for end-of-the-road highways, leading down fingerling ridges reaching south towards the Gulf of Mexico. On Friday, April 30, I drove to Venice, the southernmost drivable dead-end along side the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish to watch the sunrise and see if I could smell that sweet Louisiana crude washing into the delta.

Later in the afternoon, I ventured down the road from my house to the little Isleno fishing village in St. Bernard Parish known as Ysyclosky and another dead-end known as Shell Beach, overlooking the decommissioned saltwater dagger called the MRGO (Mississippi River Gulf Outlet).

In Ysyclosky, Brad Robin, an old podnah of my fathers, watched as deckhands unloaded the last sacks of oysters from the Ms. Donna Ann. “I’m an oyster fisherman today,” he said, “but I don’t know what I’m going to be tomorrow.”

Selena and Josie Gonzales, senior citizen friends of mine who have fished oysters for over 40 years fear what the black tide of oil will bring to their lives and to the lives of those around them. Mrs. Selena said she thought it might be the end of the world, citing 2012 prophesies.

On April 24, I was at a Blessing of the Fleet in Pointe au Chenes, our ceremonial celebration to usher in the shrimp season. The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries opened the season last week, 3 weeks early, so fishermen would have a chance to harvest before the estuaries are inundated with oil.

Fisheries in St. Bernard Parish were closed as of yesterday, May 1, 2010.

My neighbors Phillip and Jason are two brothers born and raised in St. Bernard with deep Delacroix Island roots and strong ties to the marshes and waterways that surround it. One is a fulltime commercial crab fisherman the other a fireman who fishes on the side.

The fisherman brother was not allowed into the water yesterday, losing out on his crab trap investment. BP is training fishermen to harvest hazardous material in an attempt to save their way of life. For the last two days, the fireman brother has been diligently working on his crab boat, the Devil in Disguise, converting it into an oil clean-up vessel.

The weather here on south Louisiana’s coast is oddly similar to tropical storm weather, grey skies and spitting rain mixed with strong erratic winds. The south wind continues to blow out of the south at 30 mph, churning the oil storm’s gulf waters.

We wait with uncertainty as the Black Tide rolls in.

Oil Storm permitting, we are planning a Black Tide Blues Bash on Pensacola Beach, Florida, at the Paradise Bar and Grill on Friday, May 7, 2010 from 6-10pm. The event will be a fundraiser for Gulf Restoration Network and Voice of the Wetlands. Their work is more important now than ever.

Houma blues boys Josh Garrett and the Bottomline will be playing and Zack Smith and I will be exhibiting Wetland photography.

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