--An interview with Jordan Flaherty
Jordan Flaherty is a journalist, an editor of Left Turn Magazine, and a staffer with the Louisiana Justice Institute. He was the first writer to bring the story of the Jena Six to a national audience and audiences around the world have seen the television reports he’s produced for Al-Jazeera, TeleSur, GritTV, and Democracy Now.
Flaherty’s most recent articles have tackled a variety of important stories. His article, Jena Sheriff Seeks Revenge for Civil Rights Protests, follows up on the Jena Six story and exposes a wave of post-Jena 6 arrests directed at activists and the Black community in general. New Complaints of Police Violence in New Orleans, reports that “
This summer, Haymarket Books will release his new book, FLOODLINES: Stories of Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six, and this fall he will be touring with the Community and Resistance Tour. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the book and tour, please see floodlines.org.
Jordan Flaherty: Floodlines is a firsthand account of community, culture, and resistance in
From post-Katrina evacuee camps to organizing with the family members of the Jena Six, Floodlines is the real story behind the headlines. The protagonists of this book are the people who have led the fight to save New Orleans.
A3N: What will it show readers about
JF: If this city is going to recover, the first step is getting out the truth that
The other crucial element of this book is a tribute to grassroots resistance and culture in
A3N: What is one of your favorite stories from the book?
JF: A central story I focus on is the case of the Jena Six, and the people’s victory it represents. Our movements should be proud of what happened in Jena. We should claim it as a success. Fifty thousand people marched in Jena, in a mass movement led by the family members of these six kids who were facing life in prison for a school fight. These
The massive national support these courageous families brought together helped the students. All of them remained in school rather than going to prison – and they are all now either in college or on their way. Without the world watching, the DA and judge could have done whatever they wanted.
A3N: You have written several articles focusing on the
JF: Every year, thousands of New Orleanians are shipped upstate (or upriver) to prisons like
The state of
Prison makes us all less free—by breaking up families and communities, by dehumanizing the imprisoned both during and after, by perpetuating a cycle of poverty, and by making all citizens complicit in the incarceration of their fellow human beings. Since so many New Orleanians live in prisons around the state, the stories from these prisons are also the stories of New Orleans itself. Louisiana State Penitentiary at
Angola or another “lifers’ prison” is frequently the final stop on an unjust journey that begins with children born into substandard health care and housing; then shuttled into a school system that treats them like criminals from a young age; then left with few job options in a tourism-based economy in which corporations such as those that own the city’s hotels profit while the residents are left out; and finally entangled in a criminal justice system that treats them as guilty until proven innocent. This is the “cradle-to-prison pipeline,” and nowhere is it more entrenched than here in New Orleans.
Perhaps the most dramatic example of the injustice perpetrated by this system is the case the Angola Three, locked in solitary confinement because of their political beliefs.
The problem is not limited to Louisiana State Penitentiary at
A 2008 legal petition filed by Herman Wallace echoed Alexander’s words. “If Guantanamo Bay has been a national embarrassment and symbol of the US government’s relation to charges, trials and torture, then what is being done to the Angola Three… is what we are to expect if we fail to act quickly….The government tries out its torture techniques on prisoners in the US—just far enough to see how society will react. It doesn’t take long before they unleash their techniques on society as a whole.” If we don’t stand up against this abuse now, it will only spread, he argued. The vigilante violence enacted on the streets of
The case of the Angola Three is truly an international issue, and Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King are an important part of the city’s civil rights history. Among those who know this history, the Angola Three are an urgent and ongoing concern.
A3N: Any closing thoughts?
JF: Those who have not experienced New Orleans have missed an incredible, glorious, vital city—a place with an energy unlike anywhere else in the world, a majority–African American city where resistance to white supremacy has cultivated and supported a generous, subversive, and unique culture of vivid beauty. From jazz, blues, and hip-hop to secondlines, Mardi Gras Indians, and jazz funerals, New Orleans is a place of art and music and food and liberation.
In 1892, Homer Plessy and the Citizens Committee planned the direct action that brought the first (unsuccessful) legal challenge to the doctrine of "separate but equal"—the challenge that became the Supreme Court case of Plessy v.
You could say the spirit of the Panthers was born in
So there is an intense and terrible history of racism and white supremacy in