Archive | March, 2015

UPDATED AL SHRIMPER PAUL NELSON LETTER HAND-DELIVERED TO GOV. BENTLEY’S OFFICE AFTER COMMEMORATION OF 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF SELMA TO MONTGOMERY MARCH: “I had planned to attend the events commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery but my health won’t let me….Since Katrina and BP I know of 100 Impoverished People who Died, Most Without Medical Insurance…”

2 Mar

The following are excerpts from Alabama 3rd generation shrimper and community leader Paul Nelson’s “Open Letter to Gov. Bentley”; Mr. Nelson, age 63 has blood clots in his legs and is condemned by the governor’s refusal to allow Alabamian’s the available Medicaid expansion:

“The photograph below, published in December 2010, includes 21 people from my community celebrating a victorious grass roots trip to DC. Five of them, 24% of them, died in the next five years. The photo was part of our invitation to the December 2010 ribbon cutting of our $200,000 solar panel donated to us by the Elon Musk Foundation for our grassroots Fair Katrina and BP advocacy and on recommendation of President Barack Obama’s administration: &#8230😉 “

south bay communities alliance meeting sept. 2009


Dear Mr. Governor,                                                                                             March 13, 2015

I had planned to attend the events commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery but my health won’t let me. This march was key to our country’s greatest social movement – the Modern Civil Rights Movement – that ended American Apartheid which had denied the voting rights of African Americans since the 1901 Alabama Constitution. As Bailey Thompson documented in “Century of shame: Alabama’s 1901 constitution: a series of editorials published in the Mobile Register October 15-22, 2000” the Civil Rights Movement also restored the right to vote for poor and working class whites in Alabama who had lost their right to vote through the poll tax.

I am writing to let you know that I could soon be one of the next victims of your policy of refusing to accept the federal funding for Medicaid expansion for people who do not earn enough to qualify for insurance under the Affordable Health Care Act – one of our state’s greatest problems today that hits people of all color. Three of us die every two days in Alabama because we have no health insurance.

I have diabetes, and blood clots in my legs which could break loose and kill me any day. I cannot work and have applied for disability benefits back in September (see attached letter from a local fisher and seafood worker coop recommending my application).

My claim is still pending. My family can no longer afford to loan me money for my insulin. I will run out of insulin this week and will be facing a fate worse than death – unless a blod clot takes me quickly. Like my childhood friend Darlene Branch – who after a four year battle to get her Katrina home repaired – could no longer afford her insulin: she first lost her feet, which put her in a wheel chair; then both her legs became infected and had to be cut at the knees. Her body became septic and she anguished bedridden for many days until finally the infection shut down her heart. Darlene was tortured with constant pain and hideous amputations for one full year. Her fate was indeed one that was worse than death, which finally came to her as a blessing.

Its seems too easy politically to play politics with the lives of people rather than accept your duty to support their humanity Mr. Governor. For example, how does your argument that Medicaid expansion ‘will make us too dependent on government’ fit with Darlene Branch’s suffering? Or that which is in store for me?

Since Katrina and BP I know of 100 impoverished people who Died, Most Without Medical
Insurance, Many Whose Homes Were Destroyed by Katrina
and Their Health Destroyed by BP’s Oil and Dispersant

I hope that this letter will help you, Mr. Governor, to perform your humane duty. For I know about 100 people, mostly poor and without insurance, who have died in the small commercial fishing communities on the Mobile County Alabama Gulf Coast since Katrina, the BP oil and its dispersant came into our bays and bayous. Many of them I have already written about, including this quote that made it to a United Nations human rights meeting in Geneva Switzerland in 2010:

“Among the 1,020 families who are eligible for federal home rebuilding assistance [in Mobile County Alabama], 39% earn less than $15,000 a year; 31% care for elderly and disabled family members; and 58% have children who are cared for by single parents or grandparents (, Feb. 26, 2009; and). Brochure for Neglected, Displaced Katrina Victims in the City and County of Mobile, AL, March 2009”

“’Coden has never seen so many people pass away in such a short time. My neighbor Delaphine Barber, age 75 lost her home and died from a heart attack about a year after Katrina. Other neighbors who died, trying to survive in the [formaldehyde emitting] FEMA campers, and hoping to see their homes rebuilt were: Sally Dismukes, age 72, died of a heart attack; Tommy Barbour age 56, died of lung cancer; Michael Goleman, age 36 father of two teenage daughters, suicide; Shirley Clark, age 65, complications from a staph infection; Randy Hall, age 45, lung cancer; Nancy Maples, age 57. Most have spouses or children who are still hoping to see their family homes rebuilt. My mother Hilda Nelson died after living in a FEMA camper over a year and hoping for assistance to rebuild the family that never came….’”— Paul Nelson (, Dec. 3, 2010)

This document submitted to the United Nations had to be limited to ten pages, and the social justice groups from Louisiana were kind enough to give us one full page, and only part of my quotation of my family and friends who died. Here is the rest of my statement:

“Three people listed on the edge of the San Sous, Alabama Human Casualty Map [see “Brochure on Displaced Katrina Victims in the City and County of Mobile, Alabama, by Paul Nelon,” March 2009] lived a few miles from my neighborhood. Tommy Barbour lived a couple of miles north in Bayou La Batre. He was a longtime leader of the oystermen’s union, and a long time close friend. I helped Tommy realize his last request – to have his FEMA camper door widened so that the Providence Hospital bed could fit through the camper door. He wanted to live his last days at“ ome” with his wife Becky – who has yet to receive any assistance to rebuild their home of some 20 years.

“Randy Hall, lived a few miles east of Sans Souci, in Alabama Port, not far from Mobile Bay. He was also a labor leader among our commercial fishermen and a strong voice against coastal pollution”.

“Larry Roberts, was in his late 50’s and lived on rental property in Bayou La Batre. He was a seaman, and cherished life even after his second leg was amputated. He was an outspoken member of the African American community and publicly criticized FEMA on our local CBS TV affiliate for leaving an eviction notice on his FEMA camper while he was in Providence Hospital in Mobile. His last speech was as a patient at Providence in October 2006. He was escorted in his wheel chair to an Alabama Arise meeting in the hospital’s conference room. He addressed the crowd of 40 people with a 15 minute passionate talk about the injustice faced by Katrina survivors from Texas to Alabama.”

“Three more Sans Souci neighbors died during the 2008 holidays, including Jim Fuller, the first President of South Bay Communities Alliance. Margaret Singleton, who has depended on a blue tarp since Katrina, in her often wet and cold trailer, died last month of respiratory failure. Another recent victim, Mary Alice Lee, lived at the corner of Kennedy Road and Railroad Street for decades – next to the wetland where the City of Bayou La Batre plans to build a condo- friendly waste treatment plant with about 25% of the total of Katrina CDBG Funds received from HUD for our state.”

“All four homes and the barn on Kennedy Road were blown away by Katrina. One can see their foundations by zooming in on the above map. Mary Alice’s son and daughter in law, Tommy and Faye Lee lived in a home halfway down the road. Their homeowners insurance only paid $1200 on their home, with a market value of $80,000. They had completely paid it off years ago. They have been waiting on a Katrina CDBG since they lined up with 4,000 others in January 2007. They have lived for several months in a shed so their three children, granddaughter and daughter in law could have more room in the FEMA camper. Two of their teenage sons have moved out, quit high school and gone to work. An Op-Ed featuring their tragedy, and the inequitable distribution of Katrina relief in the state — including quotes from a protest letter composed by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – was printed during the summer of 2007 in three major Alabama Sunday papers.” []

“Tommy Lee invited Junior Sprinkle, his childhood buddy, to live on his mother’s property last year, where they built a small shack near the ruins of Mary Alice Lee’s home. Mr. Sprinkle, homeless and ill, had lived with family in Bayou La Batre until it was demolished by the city. Junior Sprinkle was found dead this past Christmas morning. Recently, several of us tried to visit again with Mrs. Ngieu Nguyen of Bayou La Batre. We learned from a family friend that she is now in the hospital and very ill. Mrs. N Nguyen’s caseworker says her “dying wish” is for help “… to repair the house for her daughter to live there after she’s is gone because she wants to keep her house and the land
together.” [ Mrs Nguyen in her final days returned home to die in Vietnam, in late 2008].
(Open Letter to President Barack Obama, Feb. 11, 2009, by Paul Nelson, attached)

With unjust Katrina policies still taking its toll we had to then face the BP’s debacle in April 2005. One of the first to perish just a few weeks after the toxic substance flowed into our bayous and bays was my friend Becky Barbour, whose husband had already died of lung cancer in their formaldehyde laced FEMA camper. She had to wage a fight to keep the former Bayou La Batre Mayor from forcing her off her land into “Safe Harbor”. (See National Public Radio report: “The Gulf Coast’s Recovery: Uneven And Uneasy”, August 27, 2009 2:10 AM ET

Fishers who I personally knew were, and who took part in the BP so-called cleanup included: Christopher LaForce, who died of a heart attack at age 37 while shrimping on his boat, in 2011, Christopher had lost his home to Katrina damage, 5 years later he tirelessly spoke out against the unjust BP and local corrupt policies (see Remembering Christopher LaForce/Bridge the Gulf; and
Eulogy Given at Christopher LaForce’s Graveside Service; Tony Bosarge died at age 60 in early 2014 of cancer; Clarence Springle died of cancer, at age 50, also early last year; Doyal Davis died last February 2014 at age 45 of a stress-related stroke.

Other Bayou folks that I knew, not fishers but we were all exposed to the BP oil, dispersant, and the poverty it brought were: Annette Higgins 63 years old with diabetes couldn’t get her medicine and died in early 2014. The next day her husband Anthony Higgins died despondent, they were married at age 15. My stepson, who lived with me, Kevin Craft July 10, 2014 of a stroke, he was only 28 years old. My business partner Ervin Royal who worked with me scrapping metal also died last summer of cancer at age 70, of a sudden cancer that took him out in a few weeks. Lily Harden died last year at age 69, also of cancer. Jackie Marino, an oil boat captain, died at age 59 died of cancer March of last yr.

Katrina survivors were again faced with stress and homelessness in September, 2011 – those who had been promised rent to own and rent by income at Safe Harbor saw their “rents” shoot up 250% the day after the former mayor was indicted – See:

One of the first “Safe Harbor” grandmothers to be thrown our of Safe Harbor was Ilene Roberson. She and her husband were life long shrimpers and basically raised three wonderful children on their boat. Interviewed in a front page Mobile Press article Ilene asserted that she had not even been served an eviction notice. (See: “Safe Harbor residents in Bayou La Batre contend woman’s eviction violates moratorium”, Mobile Press, June 28, 2012).

Management banned Ms. Roberson from even visiting her grandchildren at Safe Harbor, as they have done to all who are evicted from this neighborhood – built with $18 million of our federal funds. Ilene Roberson died sick and semi-homeless in January 2014, her deteriorated body was found in a dilapidated trailer.

In the photograph below, published in December 2010 includes 21 people from my community celebrating a victorious grass roots trip to DC. Five of them, 24% of them, died in the next five years. The photo was part of our invitation to the December 2010 ribbon cutting of our $200,000 solar panel donated to us by the Elon Musk Foundation for our grassroots Fair Katrina and BP advocacy (See:; and

Those who are no longer with us and pictured below are: Ernest Montgomery (first on left back row) who courageously fought the racist corruption of former Mayor Stan Wright and died of a stress related stroke in April 2013 (see:, by John Wessel-McCoy; Ervin Royal, back row third from right, my life long friend and co-worker who died in July 2014 of a sudden cancer; James Presley, life-long shrimper, front row fifth from right, died summer 2014 of a stroke; Stella Mae Smith, died of a heart attack in her Katrian rebuilt home – one of only two people in the African American community of Bayou La Batre to get her home rebuilt because “Stella Mae Smith knew not go to Bayou La Batre’s City Hall asking for rebuilding assistance: she went there and demanded it as her human right. And through sheer forcefulness and will power she got a rebuilt home! (See: “We Have Lost One of Our Own, Stella Mae Smith, Bridge the Gulf Project); and Darlene Branch, who struggles I described above.

“South Bay Communities Alliance Meeting Oct. 2009. members reported on their Oct. ‘09 bus trip to DC to grassroots lobby for the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, and for over 300 of their neighbors who qualified for HUD Katrina rebuilding CDBG, as well as the hundreds more who missed the one week deadline to apply. Congress has yet to live up to their promise for these qualified applicants – who are mostly impoverished single parents and families with disabled members.

A few days after the DC Citizen Lobby trip, homes were rebuilt for Darlene Branch (at the right end of the front row) and Phyllis Johnson(front row, 4 seats from the right). Mrs. Branch has been disabled all her life. Mrs. Johnson, single mother raising two children on a custodian salary of $12.000/yr. These life time bayou residents are among the thousands on Alabama’s Gulf Coast who had never even heard about the HUD Katrina CDBGs, and whose homes were never accounted in any government needs assessment.” (From South Bay and Gulf Coast Fund/Rockefeller Philanthropies Dec. 2010 flyer inviting people to ribbon cutting ceremony of $200,000 solar panel which was donated to South Bay for its fair Katrina and fair BP recovery policies.)

The stories above cover less than half of my 100 family, friends, and neighbors who have fallen since Katrian and BP’s inhuman “recovery policies”. Added to their sufferings have been your decision Mr. Governor to keep them from having their human right to health insurance. I hope their stories help you reconsider. I plan to continue send you more in hopes that they will not have died in vain.


Paul Nelson,
Coden, Alabama


Alabama Multi-Cultural Fisher & Seafood Worker-Owned Coop recommending Paul Nelson’s disability application Sept. 14, 2014

Jan. 2009 letter from Mobile Co Katrina CDBG Grant Adm Jan 2009 thanking Zack Carter and Paul Nelson for advocacy, also providing data and riveting stories of families needing rebuilding

Paul Nelson’s Feb. 11 2009 letter to President Barack Obama

Brochure for Neglected, Displaced Katrina Victims in the City and County of Mobile, AL, by Paul Nelson March 2009

September 2010 Letter from Mobile County Katrina CDBG Administrator commending Paul Nelson’s critical role in getting 301 homes repaired or rebuilt