Derrick Christopher Evans is a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, an advisor to Bridge the Gulf Project, and a managing advisor of the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health. This interview with him was recorded in 2012 for the report "Troubled Waters: Two Years After the BP Oil Disaster, a Struggling Gulf Coast Calls for National Leadership for Recovery," by the Institute for Southern Studies. Bridge the Gulf released the video this week to mark eight years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast. In it, Evans talks about the deep historical and spiritual significance of hurricanes for the people of the region:
Let me tell you something about disasters. Native Americans have referred to North America as "Turtle Island." Historically, the people in this part of Turtle Island are no stranger to disaster. Hurricane Camille, the hurricane of 1947, [others] have frequently blown through here with a vengeance and a fury, like few other forces if any on earth. So that's a defining regional reality.
Let me tell you something about hurricanes. The word "hurricane" is from the Caribbean Islands, from the Taínos. It's an indigenous word -- huracán. Huracán was a deity, a god of chaos and destruction, that they celebrated. Why would they celebrate it? Because what it did was it blew out and eliminated the old, the weak, the dying, or whatever it didn't want to have stick around, to create new life. To them, it was like the god of creation.
And what burns me up to this day about the recent disasters in this part of Turtle Island, these disasters that have plagued the Gulf Coast haven't fulfilled that hope or promise of Huracán. I would have thought -- I did think, like a fool -- after Hurricane Katrina that the very best minds from academia, from every sector of American life, would have blown in to combine with the good that survived here to create a bold, better, and creative, sustainable, healthy future.
But in the aftermath of Katrina, and every day since then, and in the aftermath of BP, all of these emperors with no clothes, they can't get nothing right. Use total destruction, total chaos, to come back better, come back stronger. I mean, why waste a good huracán? Why waste a good BP oil disaster, you know?