Renée Dugué Co-Founder Reborn and Rising
Sixteen sweet years ago I was summertime fine, looking like a SU Dancing Doll, prancing through Harrah’s Casino. Although I had exchanged my showgirl costume for an oversized purple dress-shirt and black slacks, I was still a hot girl! Whether dealing Blackjack or spinning The Big 6 Wheel, my table stayed packed with patrons placing their bets and letting the chips fall where they may. For forty hours a week, I entertained players and put on a show. What they didn’t know was that my uniform was the mask I wore to hide the pain I was feeling. Inside I was reeling from the recent death of my sister, Katrina. Leukemia didn’t care that she was a 33-year-old professional XU graduate, perfect wife, and mother. I struggled to understand why her, and I had no clue how to process grief. So, when a friend suggested a trip to The Bahamas to sip some Bahama Mamas and lift my spirits, I said laissez le bon temps rouler!
We landed on Paradise Island, and Atlantis was just what I needed to forget my blues until Tropical Storm Twelve forced us to leave. Not scared of a little rain, or ready to go home, we headed to Miami; and so, did the storm, now named Hurricane Katrina (how uncanny). Vacation cut short, we headed home to ride it out, while drinking hurricanes and hand grenades. The rest is familiar history. Mine and thousands of people’s lives as we knew it ended. Less publicized is the psychological devastation experienced and carried with us as we relocated, labeled as refugees within our own country. No manual on this manner of loss was included in care packages. No federal funds were allocated to walk us through the seven steps of grief supposedly cause by this Category 5 Natural Disaster. And yet Sixteen years later, made stronger with melanin, we are still standing. Washed up, washed out, knocked down…still we rise. Crawling, stumbling, staggering…we’ll still fight. Walk, run, fall, repeat as necessary…just keep your eyes set on a higher site.
As I write from Houston and you read from where you are, know that our lost loves are so incredibly proud. We are truly our ancestors’ wildest dreams. We are reawakening our collective spirituality to organize, educate, empower, care for, and protect ourselves. Each of us offering the gifts we have, contributing just where we are, one day at a time. Let’s continue to honor them in all that we do. Be mindful to remain grateful, as you not only accept change but fully embrace it. Change is the only constant. I realize the difficulties faced losing my sister, Katrina, and then Hurricane Katrina were all necessary elements of my journey on my path from desire to purpose. As memories of 8/29/2005 resurface, be encouraged to connect with kindred souls who can wade with you through the lessons learned from the dark waters and times and inspire you to walk in truth and light as you move forward. Together we are stronger.