If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise – Spike Lee

20 10 2010

If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise – an HBO documentary from Spike Lee

Around a year after Katrina I spent a week serving in New Orleans. What I saw and heard changed me. But how quickly we forget!

Recently I watched the HBO/Spike Lee documentary “If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise”. You may want to do the same. It’s rough. If you can wade through this entire production it will rock you. I had to watch it in four sittings. This is reality. Don’t look away. …see below…

Spike Lee returns to New Orleans five years after Katrina to follow reconstruction efforts. This four hour documentary, from HBO, walks through the local impact, initial response, long term plans, real estate changes, and the struggles for hospitals and schools to move forward. It also visits Haiti after its tragedy bringing light to the connections with New Orleans. Before wrapping up, this experience also details the Deep Water Horizon explosion where BP’s well had a catastrophic leak into the Gulf for at least 86 days. This will likely affect the Gulf Coast for more than 20 years.

Did this stuff really happen? These three separate incidents will certainly mark history. I knew that I did not know much about each of these events, but I was not aware of how little I knew. Sure I had read about what was happening at the time. Yet, it’s a good time to learn more. By no means is this documentary comprehensive. Taking in the human experience is, well…learning…as much as listening to the facts that were represented.

Immediately I remembered driving through the Ninth Ward. There and elsewhere we had seen houses destroyed with still, at a year later, with no work being done. Taking pictures in one neighborhood, one resident asked me if I was the insurance guy. I met a family whose house was completely lifted off the foundation. It landed on a street. During the evacuation a hole was cut into their house so that cars could drive through. They lived in a tent on the foundation for five weeks. The church I served in New Orleans was near a water treatment facility. This meant that a week after the storm they still had more than a foot of sewer sludge in their facility. They pulled together, at first just the pastor and his wife in boots with shovels, and cleaned having their first worship meeting within two weeks of the storm. A year later and other large churches in the area were still not resuming services. Several stories like this ran through me during the chapters of this presentation.

The still and video images chosen will keep you involved in the story line. Many of the major players in these events are interviewed here. You will see a very balanced measure of perspectives juxtaposed.

Schools and hospitals serve all of us. Yet there is enough to learn about their normal function to write a series of text books. The conversations about how the storm impacted both schools and hospitals give you a real sense of what real life must be like. It’s not pretty. Life there is hard. If you’re reading this the chances are that you have it easy in comparison.

The interviews of everyday people and those making top level decisions provide so much perspective. You learn about what has impacted New Orleans. You learn about who is trying to shape New Orleans.

Spike Lee stays true to his form. Thankfully the choice of music does not follow the mellow dramatic or glam rock flavors you might expect from a current network video production.

I came away from this with a sense of shared experience. There is so much tragedy in the world. New Orleans, Haiti, and the Gulf of Mexico have certainly seen their share over the past decade. Having recently spent time talking with friends about how quickly we forget about the experience of 9/11 and its affect on NYC…being reminded of suffering in New Orleans rocked me. I don’t think that the average American has a sense of how much these events affect our present and will impact our future.

Beyond that, I came away with a fresh urgency to learn more about our new city Baltimore. Maybe we have more to learn about what questions we should be asking.

Why is it, corruption in power has become such a taboo topic? Have news outlets become more obsessed with competition than with the truth?

Responsible governance can work best in the way of servant leadership. This means working for the best of the people as a whole. When individuals serve a purpose that is greater than themselves, they are at their best! Why does this seem to be such a secret to leaders and media outlets?

US cities have much in the way of untapped resources. We have millions of people with something to offer. Is it possible that we lack connectedness? The US would be greatly improved by more of our personal energy given to causes that release our potential.

We are now asking ourselves how we can serve our neighborhood and the communities of our city. It’s possible that through serving we can learn how decisions are made. Maybe through service we can impact things for the better.

God help me not become distracted by my own life to the point of ignorance.

God help me learn about other people.

God help me ask the right questions.

God help me be creative in how I can help.

God help me make a positive difference in Baltimore, New Orleans, and our great country.

If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise.

A word of warning: there are a few sections of the documentary that are graphic in nature.


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