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Post-Katrina activists take Democratic National Convention by storm

August 25, 2008  

By Stephanie Grace

Despite the unfamiliar setting - the mountains looming over the skyline, and the distinct lack of humidity in the air -- there were plenty of familiar faces milling about downtown Denver on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.

Ruthie Frierson, founder of Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, showed up with two colleagues, all dressed in their trademark red. And Anne Milling kept busy, herding a dozen members of Women of the Storm from stop to stop, pausing to field phone calls, including some from staffers for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who's gotten to know Milling on several trips to the region.

Both organizations were among the honorees at Sunday night's big Friends of New Orleans bash, featuring the Voices of the Wetlands Allstars band.

But while the recognition was nice, the groups' main agenda was the same as the musicians': to spread the word on Louisiana's post-hurricane progress and its ongoing needs to the activists and players who flock to political conventions -- and to enlist their help in keeping Katrina on the front-burner.

At its information table outside the giant New-Orleans themed delegate party earlier in the evening, the Women of the Storm a displayed a list of members of Congress who had yet to visit the storm zone, and handed out postcards to delegates who wanted to urge their own representatives to make the trip. They kept a particular eye out for Vermonters. No member of that state's three-person Congressional delegation has visited since Katrina.

Inside, they tossed miniature plastic footballs embossed with a key talking point: That one football field of land washes away every 50 minutes due to coastal erosion.

Smart move. Any convention veteran can tell you that souvenirs are a big deal.

But being new to the game, neither group realized that the hottest convention collectables are always the buttons. Delegates from all over the country snapped up the limited supply to add to their collections - sometimes, to the dismay of the New Orleanians, slipping them inside bags rather than pinning them to lapels. Frierson said she brought about 150, which went quickly. "We should have brought 500," she said.

They'll surely pack more next week, when members of both organizations head to Minnesota for the GOP convention.




September 2006