Coming Home: The Dry Storm
Dir. Michèle Stephenson | 2010 | 44min
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Coming Home tells the story of Sam Jackson, a 52 year old resident of the B.W. Cooper housing projects in New Orleans in order to publicize the struggle of post-Katrina, public housing residents and public housing residents around the country, and frame their struggle in human rights terms. Sam was born in the Gulf Coast in Mississippi and then moved to New Orleans as a young man. He spent decades living in B.W. Cooper raising five children and living a very muted life. Hurricane Katrina served as a kind of catharsis for Sam, and this somewhat reclusive quiet man became a passionate advocate for his community reaching out to people in his neighborhood, as well as around the nation and the world to develop allies for the public housing struggle.
The film begins at a point where Sam has gotten involved locally but is still somewhat reserved and tentative. He is about to spend a week in Thailand and Indonesia on an exchange between post-Katrina and -Tsunami community activists. Sam finds he has deep commonalities with the marginalized coastal communities of South Asia, and forges some strong bonds. He returns with a lot of added motivation and new knowledge. He also returns to find that the government has plans to demolish 4,800 perfectly sound units of public housing (almost all of public housing in the city) despite a severe housing crisis and increasing homelessness. The film chronicles the fight to save these homes, as well as Sam’s transformation from a resident, to a housing activist, to a human rights activist. Sam increasingly globalizes his vision – at one point he called a human rights expert in New York and asks, what is the difference between civil rights and human rights? – he now has contacts around the country (and is traveling to conferences and movement meetings) as well around the world. He has become the point-person in New Orleans for the Zero Evictions Campaign, which is a global housing rights campaign that has adopted New Orleans as its first U.S. site.