September 20, 2005. Club Breakers, a Houston pool hall, is packed with folks enjoying a much-needed night out on the town. Partygoers bop through the crowd, exchanging long hugs and big pounds as if they haven’t seen each other in forever. It hasn’t been forever, maybe. But for a lot of them, the last three weeks have surely felt like the longest ones of their lives. They are survivors of one of the most devastating natural disasters in American history, Hurricane Katrina. Evacuated from the only hometown most of them have ever known, tonight they are here to check in, to reunite, maybe to start starting over.
If you didn’t have to travel through Texas streets to get to the spot, you’d have no idea you were in Houston. The speakers blare classic New Orleans rap songs only, and everybody’s chanting along with every word. No Geto Boys, no Scarface. Nothing from Mike Jones or Paul Wall. No disrespect, but this is an all–New Orleans night. There are swarms of folks wearing Soulja Slim T-shirts. Groups take turns shouting out what N.O. ward they’re from. Underground New Orleans artists such as 5th Ward Weebie, Chopper and Magnolia Shorty mill through the throng; as does the evening’s host, the Crescent City’s biggest rap star, Juvenile. It’s his night actually, Juve Tuesday. He’s throwing the party for his people.
Obviously, the situation in New Orleans is terrible. What happened to Magnolia and the Third Ward? How are your family and friends?
I mean, it went under the water, there’s no secret about it. Parts of the Third already had shut down. It was pretty much condemned in certain areas, but the bulk of it, where the people were true hustlers and playing the streets real hard and really had nowhere to go stood in them areas… I wanna know where they at. That’s why I’m doing the Juve Tuesday thing. It’s not about the money, it’s for my peoples.
I just wanna rebuild. It’s not about me. My thoughts ain’t about me. I love my wife, and I wanna make sure that we live comfortable. She wanna stay there, and that’s what we’re going to do. The boss has spoken. At first, my mind was pretty much made up: I’m not going back. I don’t wanna deal with no more hurricanes. I don’t wanna do that again—build a house, build buildings… The water’s on the house, the water’s in the house. We gotta burn all this shit down to make shit. The person who developed the land, he gonna burn it ’cause of the contamination. I just bought a brand-new Corvette. Everything was new.
All we lost was our home. A lot of people lost their lives. But we lost beyond a house or a door. We lost an environment. So we lost everybody. Everybody lost. We lost that spirit that… There ain’t nothing like New Orleans. We got spirit. We the smallest city, the highest in poverty. We was the lowest in the education system. We was just about to go on strike with the teachers. The school board system was corrupt. Our police system is corrupt. Our judicial system is corrupt…
So it’s like it was a big minus, but it was a plus. We enjoyed the pluses that we had. It was open 24 hours by law. You can walk out the club with your drink in your hand on a Sunday. We didn’t have no curfew hours. We had drive-thru liquor places. We had clubs that never closed. We had crawfish, we had gumbo, we had second lines, we had Mardi Gras, we had parades. We had it all! And that’s a lot for a person to sit and let go.