So BP is spending $50 million in advertising to “fix” their image in the wake of the Deep Water Horizon “accident”. I’m also hearing that they’ve spent over $48 million (closer to about $84 million) to date in compensating local fishermen and companies directly associated with the fishing industry. According to company officials, they have paid 18,000 claims along the Gulf Coast to date. With bureaucracy and red tape, as always, I’m sure the frustrations of many filing claims are yet to be seen.
Luckily for some – and I use luckily very cautiously – they’re being paid by BP anywhere from $1,200 to $2,500 a day to assist in cleanup, as they take on the expense of fuel and the employment of their boats. One fisherman from Grand Isle was quoted recently as saying:
‘What they’ve done is a tragedy. But it was bad before the spill. I was lucky if I made $1,000 a month. After the mortgage on my house and other bills, we had maybe $120 a month left to buy food. We lived on chicken wings. We couldn’t afford to eat our own shrimp. Now BP pays me $1,200 a day.’ (Source)After reading the above quote, I was reminded of the many brave men and women who worked during recovery efforts at ground zero, after the twin towers fell on 9/11. As you might already know, several fishermen have succumbed to the fumes from the deadly mix of dispersant. And at $1,200 a day, though better than before financially for most. One has to wonder how any of them, like the 9/11 rescue workers, have just in the space of a few hours shortened their lifespan.
Will BP be there down the road when they develop respiratory ailments? Or will they be kicked to the curb as were 9/11 rescue workers and surviving firefighters? Will BP be there to “cut the check,” or will the government be there to ensure that they do? Would the people of the Gulf Coast who work in the fishing industry be left standing on rooftops as many residents of New Orleans were after Hurricane Katrina?
Of course I hate to throw down a race card, but what about the little guy who happens to be a black fisherman? Will their hope, lives and dreams wash away like that of Benjamin ‘Bubba’ Blue? As if they were not already struggling to compete as small fishes in a huge pond, what are they to do when nobody speaks for them, hears them as they remain invisible? Invisible in an industry where the marriage of government and big business seems to be the order of the day, where one has to pay if they wanna play?
Check out the following interview courtesy of Democracy Now!’s Amjali Kamat. She spoke with Rev. Tyronne Edwards, a pastor and longtime community activist who spearheaded efforts to rebuild the largely African American fishing community after Katrina. In the following interview he discusses what the overlooked fishermen of Plaquemines Parish are enduring as they deal with BP, and government agencies.
PHOTOS: Shawn Escoffery via The Root