Lies they tell: lazy leeches and welfare queens

 

When the media tells your story, you have to be prepared for the negative responses… 

You have to be prepared for the backlash…

for the targeting…

for the trolls…

for the downright hatred.

You have to be prepared for the hurt…  

for it to get personal (really, really personal).

You have to be prepared for it to go the exact opposite way you desire it to.

But most of all, you have to be prepared to take control of the narrative and to continue to shape it and speak it.

Here was my go-to response to negative comments (as you can see the beginning in most of these screenshots). I find it very necessary to make sure that I am in control of what is being said about me. I knew today was coming, I knew the comments that would be made, I knew how my story could have been spun, so I was ready to take the time to try to have conversations about it. This is what I want everyone to know that the video didn’t speak on when it comes to my life…

“Everyone commenting will be happy to know that I do, in fact, have a job and am a contributing member to society as well as a tax payer. When I first qualified for Medicaid expansion, I was doing marketing for Chick fil A and was a freelance writer who focused on the important issues in south Louisiana like government and non-profit partnerships, education, disability rights, and religion (one of my articles was even given to the Pope himself and many of the conservative leaders, including Bill Cassidy since I wrote about his wife’s charter school, have praised my work).

Now, I own a community advocacy organization that pours every cent into community development. During the flood here in BR last summer I helped over 1,000 families get OTC medication, first aid treatment, prescriptions from an RN, food, hygiene supplies, bedding, clothing, cleaning supplies, school supplies, etc. I also supplied many of the distribution centers with the items they handed out to their communities. I also worked in the shelters, bringing awareness to policies that were not providing for those who had been displaced that were struggling in shelter environments due to autism and those who were deaf or hard of hearing who needed services like interpreters, as well as bringing awareness to issues for pet owners and the treatment of pets in the shelters.

I’ve worked closely in the community regarding police reform starting with human trafficking several years ago (with specific training regarding human trafficking now being required for every officer and Louisiana leading the country in new policies in that regard), and now currently with issues of race and the shooting of Alton Sterling and now the shooting of DeJuan Guillory. In fact, when it actually flooded in my home city, I was in NYC doing a 4 day police ride-along to understand some of the policies they have in place regarding protest and community outreach.

I keep the public aware of bills that are going up for the current legislative sessions and what that means for our citizens, families, and children. And I attend as many school board meetings, metro council meetings, legislative sessions, and community outreach meetings as possible, as well as organize for others to be involved. I also help register people to vote, make them aware of who their representatives are, and help them learn their rights as citizens.

I am in the process of raising funds to open a community outreach center focusing on emotional support, family development, and community involvement. Providing nearly free groups and services when these areas are not being addressed in our community as a whole on a regular basis. And the five year goal is to also open an alternative education center and affordable housing complex for single mothers.

Medicaid has allowed me the opportunity to do the things I do because I am not dependent on receiving healthcare benefits from an employer that pays minimum and eats up 100% of my time. I also am able to take the money I save for my healthcare and my children’s healthcare each month and put that directly back into products and services for the community.

I was raised conservative republican and understand 100% the talking points and the fears. One of the clips is from a meeting with healthcare leaders, representatives from the Dept of Health and Hospitals, and community advocates. I’ve also attended meetings with the Governor and Mayors from around the state and heard the positive that has come to our state from Medicaid expansion. How it has SAVED our state money, how it has saved LIVES, and how it has helped businesses just like mine.

So, hopefully, that sheds a little light to my story. You can view my company Compassion Louisiana LLC on FB.”

One thing that I fully wanted to get across with my healthcare message is that it truly is hardworking citizens who use these benefits, and that we need to shift our mindset as a whole to recognizing the ways that government programs can help create a stronger community. When you’re working 3 jobs and still rely on benefits like a lot of the single moms in my community, only to consistently hear the rhetoric that you are lazy, a mooch, unworthy, a welfare queen, etc. it doesn’t create a sense of hopefulness for your future. However, when you receive benefits and are being uplifted and told that you can accomplish that vision you have in your head of your ideal career, it makes you do and be better.

I included the FB comments that I did because these are not just rogue, random trolls. This is the mindset that revolves around the discussion. I included them because when you know my story, when you know my family, when you know the work I do in the community, you know that those simply do not apply in any way. Like I said in the video, this is not a religious or political ideology. This is about humanity and compassion. In a meeting I sat through earlier this week, we discussed how the ITEP (industrial tax exemption plan) has robbed Louisiana of $842.6 million in revenue since 2000 (imagine if the study had gone all the way back to 1936 when this plan began), with $28.8 million being robbed from our school system and $71 million being robbed from our public entities as a whole last year alone, it hurts that I as an individual, as a business owner, as a tax payer, and as an advocate for our community am vilified as the epitome of what is wrong with our country and why our state is in the position it is in.

My story doesn’t have the tear-jerking, heart-tugging narrative that the families who have had their children’s lives saved because of Medicaid expansion and the ACA. My story doesn’t seem as urgent as the individual who needs the ACA for treatment of a deadly disease. In fact, at one press conference regarding health care reform I sat at a table with those who had these stories, and I actually caught a woman as she collapsed from her illness in the middle of the interview. Some may wonder why I believe my story should even be told in comparison. I believe my story is important because my story speaks to healthcare for society as a whole beyond just the medical aspect. I believe my story speaks to the revolutionary power of an affordable, accessible, universal program. 

When I say that I will fight for equality in our healthcare system, I don’t simply mean for low income individuals, single parent homes, small business owners, or special needs families. I don’t mean I will fight specifically for any “label” that could apply to myself personally. I mean that I will fight for us as a nation to reform our system to benefit the citizens rather than the large corporations. I mean that I will fight for all of us. I will fight for it so that my children don’t have to. I will fight for it so that the basic needs of future generations can be taken care of and our system can move on to other issues.

We are truly standing in a moment of History where future generations will look back on us. I know where I stand. I stand on a side that I was not originally on, but have moved to as I have had to experience this first hand. It is truly disheartening that as a nation we can’t understand until something happens to us. I share my story in hopes that some may begin to understand without having to live the experience. I will continue to stand strongly, and I ask that you stand with me.

 

Rain, Rain, Go Away: Trauma of raindrops on a tin roof

For most, the sound of rain is sought after.

Every sound machine I have ever owned included the sound of “rain”. In fact, it included the sound of rain on many settings varying in intensity from “light rain” to even “thunderstorm”.  Many friends who have custom built homes even wanted a tin roof just for the sound. FB statuses used to be filled with statements like “Relaxing on this rainy day” or “Falling asleep to the sound of the storm”… but no more.

The sound of rain has become like a gunshot, triggering anxiety, fear, and a sense of danger. How does one sleep wondering if the water will again rise? How can one relax when your body is reliving the trauma of packing up what little you could and walking back into a muck covered, completely destroyed home a few days later? How can one read a book when you feel you need to grab your children and run?

PTSD. If you are struggling with your emotions since the flood, if the sound of the rain makes your chest tighten, you are not alone. Our city experienced major trauma. Reports of mental health crisis since the flood have doubled (that is not counting those who have no sought help), and it will take years for our emotional health as a city to level out again. If you are struggling, your feelings are real, valid, and completely understandable.

Depression, anxiety, nightmares, those are what we would automatically think of when facing stress reactions to trauma, but there are many more common reactions that you can see here. As we are in the midst of hurricane season, and with the threat of storms approaching, do not ignore your feelings of stress, fear, exhaustion, hopelessness, or anger. Know that there are many in our city who understand, and many who can help.

In fact, if you are struggling, reach out via the contact form to be connected to local resources or to just talk.

 

Flood Relief Photo Gallery

The Flood, The Beginning: August 16, 2016

All of the areas that flooded in August of 2016

While Compassion Louisiana was a dream for several years, the services I was able to provide after the flood was the culmination of everything I had been doing for almost a decade. It was the moment that I realized the community saw me as a resource separate from the organizations I had been working with as donations poured in from around the world. Donations that helped not only with immediate recovery, but have continued to service the community since. And that was how Compassion Louisiana moved from a dream into reality.

The supplies were spread from Port Vincent to Duson and everywhere in between for individuals and their families, but also for donation centers set up in churches and homes and community centers. Individuals received not only the very basics, but supplies that could last their families for several weeks or months. The goal was to provide as many supplies as possible, so that the individuals wouldn’t continually need to return for more of these basic items. Instead of providing one roll of toilet paper, the goal was to provide one pack, instead of a handful of tampons, an entire box. And while this cut down on the number of people that could be helped, it raised the level of help they were able to get.

20 of the 100 individualized crawfish sacks made for the homeless and flood survivors

I also did not turn away those who had not flooded. While many organizations were limited to helping those who could show their FEMA papers, consistent work with the homeless before the flood meant that I was keenly aware of the impact on resources beyond the ones in our community that had flooded. Many shelters had been transformed for flood relief and most of the supplies once going to the consistently homeless were now being diverted from them. No one was turned away, and no one was limited with what they could take. While this is a different practice than most, the major heartbeat of Compassion is catching those falling through the cracks or preventing those who would normally be forgotten.

One of the most heart-wrenching stories from flood relief was getting a phone call one morning from a group in Mississippi that was coming with a group of youth wanting to do demolition work. They specifically listed an area they had heard of, but that area had not even flooded. It was an area that stood dilapidated and riddled with trash even before the flood waters ruined many areas. I also received many calls of “tent villages”, yet I knew only some of them were due to the flood and the others had existed pre-flood (yes, there were areas in our city that people lived in tents before the flood destroyed many homes). If there was one thing the flood revealed to many, it was the level of disparity in certain areas of our city.

Badge for work in the River Center when it became the main shelter

My work during the flood was limited compared to larger organizations since I was only one person, but I certainly wasn’t limited as far as what one person could do. I was able to do shelter work, animal rescue work, demolition and cleanup, deliveries (so. many. deliveries.), as well as attend many townhalls and community development meetings. It was 8 weeks straight of daily hustle, but during that time it proved to me exactly why I love this city. I got to meet even more amazing people in this community, and I heard so many amazing stories. The hugs and tears will fill me forever.

Baton Rouge Science March

On Saturday, April 22, 2017, over 400 people marched to the capitol voicing support for science, science funding, and science based policy. They held teach-ins and several guest speakers shared the importance and necessity of science in our communities. This is what protest looks like.

 

 

Living as a writer in Baton Rouge 

Someone recently told me they have never lived in a place where they have met so many writers as they have here in Baton Rouge. As a writer, having lived here the last 17 years, perhaps that was something I never noticed. That was just my “circle”. I never realized there was a difference in the number of writers here versus anywhere else.

But, if that really is true, I can see why. I think it’s because there is something about this small (trying to be big) city that brings out the writer in people. We have an abundance of both amazing, powerful people and unashamedly horrible ones. We are a city/state that is always last in everything except for the things you want to be last in, and in those things we are first. We are a place built upon old money, corrupt politics, judgement, and tradition. There is no end to the story, ever, you can dig forever and probably never get to the bottom of the truth even if you change your opinions 50 times along the way. And what you would believe is a safe approach to take could be the most controversially received by the public eye.

In fact, it is exactly that aspect of the truth of this city that has kindled my passion for being actively involved in change, while simultaneously stepping out of the professional writing circuit. I sat at many tables with many leaders, hearing from their mouths and the mouths of supporters the wonderful progress, the true good, the advancement that their programs are bringing to our communities, only to then speak to those these programs are supposedly “helping”, to speak to the workers, to get an inside look, and realize that there is not as much positively happening behind the scenes as I was led to believe.

There is no doubt in my mind that being a writer in this city is what has brought me where I am today. Coupled with working in the non-profit sector, I have been granted a look into the inner workings of our city that goes beyond the media representations (even the media that I myself have contributed to). I have been plunged beneath the surface, and there are no misgivings about the good and the bad. And I, for one, am proud that there are so many willing to share the stories and to keep digging.

One thing that I will be sharing in upcoming posts are articles that I have written on certain topics (school choice, government and non-profit partnerships, non-profit activities, the violence reduction strategy, etc.) and give an opinion I was not allowed to share at the time those articles were published. The opinion that isn’t as trustful of these supposedly “life changing” programs in our city. Because there is never just one side, and it was seeing both sides that has led me where I am today.

I truly hope others can see those sides as well. I believe once we get to that place, we can move beyond the agenda and bias, get past the ignorant, hate-filled comment sections, and move forward together for the betterment of our community.

THE BEGINNING

After almost a decade serving in the non-profit sector here in Baton rouge, I had a strong desire to bring all of the work I was doing together in one place. Yet, for years I struggled with when to do so. The opportunity came immediately following the flood in August of 2016 when donations and resources for the community began pouring in to me personally instead of just to the organizations I had been involved with. I knew then that it was time.

In the last 10 years, I have worked with issues such as disability rights, human trafficking, mental health, and education. I have been an advocate for women and families regarding childbirth and breastfeeding, and have been active in providing support and resources for women living in and coming out of abusive situations. I stand with the marginalized people in our community to address the injustices in our system that oppress them so that we can have a better system for all. I believe in fighting to create equality, and that it is my responsibility to utilize the balance of powers afforded to me through the Constitution. I support the right to protest, the right to petition, the right to speak. I also desire to work within the system.

The decision to form an LLC instead of a 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) stems from both the immediate need to form the corporation in light of the flood, and also from my experiences in the non-profit sector for so many years. While Compassion will work similarly in the fact that the dollars put into the company will go into the community, I am a firm believer that the process of operating within the non-profit sector inhibits instead of encourages growth. For more detailed information about that belief listen to Dan Pallotta’s TED talk “The way we think about charity is dead wrong”.

As Compassion enters into its first year of full service to the community, I am both excited and nervous to see the vision implemented in our communities. Many years of planning has gone into each step, now is the time to cross our fingers and dive right in. Thank you to those who have been here from the beginning and those who have supported me every step. For those just joining in on the journey, welcome! I can’t wait to see what we will build together!

Founder of Compassion Louisiana, Krista Bordelon, and her 3 children