From “The Great Deluge” by Douglas Brinkley. (New York: William Morrow, 2006)
Among the guests staying in the Hyatt were the Black Men of Labor, a social club that was a legendary part of New Orleans’ annual Labor Day Parade. Five members of the club – Fred Johnson Jr., David Sylvester Jr., Todd Higgens, Reynard Thomas, and Roland Doucette – had boarded up their homes, sent their families away, and evacuated to the Hyatt.
They were worried about the poor and elderly who hadn’t evacuated New Orleans. Together they decided to be the first first responders. While almost everyone else was looking for cover, the Black Men of Labor stared out of the hotel lobby windows, anxious to help storm victims.
“Divine Inspiration brought them together,” Banks recalled. “These weren’t guys who waited around for FEMA. They didn’t get a quarter. They were native sons of the city. What the Black Men of Labor understood was that it was our friends and family members stuck. Nothin’ could hold them back.”
Black Men of Labor Parade – 2002
From the notes to the videomaker:
“I recorded these sounds and images in 2002. The Katrina disaster is ongoing. Many including Black Men of Labor co-founder Fred Johnson are still displaced. If you can donate time or money please find one of these local groups to help. DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY ON THE RED CROSS! Music by permission of Fred Johnson/Black Men of Labor. Words by permission of Professor Helen Regis, LSU Department of Anthropology.”
An in-depth audio program about the Black Men of Labor with interviews produced by WWOZ