Title: Oral History Interview with Pamela Mahogany, June 4, 2006. Interview U-0243.
Interviewer: Guild, Joshua
Interviewee: Mahogany, Pamela
Abstract: In this animated interview, Pamela Mahogany describes her family's and friends' harrowing escape from the rising floodwaters in post-Katrina New Orleans. Instead of evacuating, Mahogany remained in the Saint Bernard Housing Development in the Lower Ninth Ward, a public housing complex notorious for criminal activity. A native of the Saint Bernard projects, Mahogany defends and expresses pride in her community, describing the sense of kinship that it cultivated and noting that crime exists even in the wealthier parts of New Orleans.. She was at work when the hurricane hit. As a nurse for the local hospital, she was offered a chance to stay there, but she declined because of her son's fidelity to his friends and family, who remained in the Saint Bernard community. Mahogany recalls feeling that the hurricane was no different from others that she had experienced. After three days, however, when the waters failed to subside, she and her family and friends realized that their stay in a third-floor apartment was not sufficient. Mahogany describes how friends rescued them with a stolen boat. They remained on the Interstate 610 bridge for a day before heading to the New Orleans Superdome. Mahogany graphically describes the horrible physical and emotional conditions of the Superdome and the pandemonium that arose during the wait for evacuation to areas less damaged by the storm. Mahogany and her group of family and friends remained together and pooled their money to travel to family members' homes in Baton Rouge and Leland, Louisiana. A year after Katrina hit, Mahogany had still not returned to New Orleans. She discusses her disagreement with public housing authorities, who provided vouchers for New Orleans public housing residents to live in Texas but who she says effectively evicted them with the mandatory storm evacuation. Tenants who seek to return to New Orleans should also be provided vouchers, she argues. Mahogany describes her current efforts to restore the Saint Bernard complex and to help low-income people return to public housing.