We all remember the day Hurricane Katrina swept through South Florida. We breathed a sigh of relief and prepared to go to work the next day. Hurricanes have become an accepted thing in South Florida life, and as such, we South Floridians have come to take hurricanes seriously, but not too much so.
Unfortunately, the people of the Gulf Coast, mainly in New Orleans, La., did not have that luxury on Aug. 29, 2005. The city below sea level was not equipped to withstand such an impact. As a result, massive flooding killed many people and destroyed a great deal of property. But the worst was not the hurricane itself. Rather, it was the treatment of people after the storm.
A group of young ladies set out to document the post-Katrina New Orleans that was never shown on TV, called “Not As Seen on TV.”
Shannon Sonenstein, director and producter of the documentary short, Talkin’ Water, decided to follow four young women, Sade
Falebita, Briceshanay Gresham, Suprena Levy, and Rodneka Shelbia, on their journey to document and report on post-Hurricane
Katrina New Orleans. Sonenstein’s film is a 38-minute short documentary on the findings of the four young women.
“You don’t see minority, teenage girls reporting on these kinds of events,” said Sonenstein, who works with the Youth Program at the
Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV), a production company that serves the community of New York. “I wanted to see what stories they would tell.”
Falebita and the other young ladies were sponsored by ProTV, the youth division of DCTV.
Their story showcases the hardships of the people in New Orleans left to pick up the pieces of their lives, and gives them a strong voice. Sonenstein was inspired to make Talkin’ Water when she saw these four young women trying to make a difference in the lives of the people they know, because they felt that “the media hadn’t done its job.”
Their journey was especially important to Gresham and Shelbia, because they are both New Orleans natives. Falebita and Levy, New York natives, were partnered with the other two young women to get the real feeling of the conditions in the once-vibrant city.
“These four young women are amazing, strong, intelligent, and positive role models for their peers,” said Sonenstein, who currently lives in New York. The young women ranged in age from 16 to 19 years old during the filming in the summer of 2006.
Currently, Falebita, Levy, Gresham, Shelbia are all in college and expect to graduate in the next year or two. They are just a few of the many young people ProTV helps to guide and mold in the New York City area.
It’s hard to watch Talkin’ Water and not feel sad, angry, despairing, and hopeful. These girls represent a community of people whose children worry about affordable housing and making sure they have enough money so that the hurricane won’t come back.
Talkin’ Water isn’t just about the lives of the people still living in poverty in New Orleans. It’s about the journey and healing that takes place for these girls through the resilience of the people of New Orleans who are working hard to rebuild and bring up the spirits of the young people.
These young women went on a journey to help heal those affected by Hurricane Katrina, and wound up healing themselves.
Sonenstein summed up their documentary: “How empowering to give a young woman a camera.”