Gulf oil spill: Benefit concert rolls on despite rain
As the sun began to set over the banks of the Mississippi River in New Orleans, the Gulf Aid benefit to help those affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was still in full stride Sunday evening.
Inside Mardi Gras World at one of two stages, friends Lewis Raymond and Elizabeth Fredrickson were dancing and twirling, spinning and hugging to Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys. "We're here because southern Louisiana is all about music," said Raymond, a lifelong New Orleans resident.
"It's all about culture," Fredrickson said, beads of sweat on her face. "But here's the thing: We're going to lose our culture because seafood is a big part of our culture."
Even the heavy rains, which postponed the 10-hour event by two hours, didn't keep away the crowds that gathered to hear a long lineup of local bands and headliners such as Lenny Kravitz, Allen Toussaint, Ani DiFranco, Tab Benoit, Dr. Jon and John Legend. They were brought together by Gulf Relief Foundation, formed a week ago.
"You know, in Katrina, we waited for the insurance companies, we waited for the government, we waited for FEMA, we waited and waited and waited," said David Freedman, general manager of WWOZ radio station and a member of the three-person foundation board, referring to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Big Easy in 2005. "The reality is we don't wait anymore."
Freedman described the crowd as "defiant" and cynical about outside help.
Although BP has said it will pay all legitimate claims stemming from the April 20 oil spill, Freedman said: "We know people will fall through the cracks."
There were no early estimates of the crowd or money raised. But Freedman said sponsors covered all expenses, including food and alcohol, allowing all the money to go to the relief effort, he said. He said the priority would be to help people, such as fishermen and shrimpers, then the wildlife and wetlands.
--Raja Abdulrahim, reporting from New Orleans
Photo: Elizabeth Fredrickson and Bill Wheeler enjoy the popular New Orleans group BeauSoleil. Credit: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times