Alabama resident Billie Jean Young was one of the lucky ones when last week’s tornado struck her state, indiscriminately destroying urban and rural areas alike. The county she lives in wasn’t hit as hard as many others, but in the past several days, the long-time community organizer and activist has been hearing first-hand accounts of the terror that African-Americans living in poor rural areas of the state have experienced.
In some of the communities she has visited, people who cannot afford to buy a home live in trailers. Several of them were so completely destroyed that they now look like sticks or pencil shavings. With no electricity for several days, their food spoiled, not that they would have been able to cook.
“One woman told me about getting caught in her trailer as the roof fell off and debris and rubble fell on her. People had to pull her out,” Young said. “You see a lot of people’s lives in bushes, where their clothing and other possessions have flown. They’re scrambling around looking for memorabilia and valuables—whatever they can find that the tornado may have left behind.”
In other areas, Young said, trees have been uprooted, looking more like “a turnip somebody pulled up” or their tops have snapped off.
“It’s something to behold,” she marveled. “It looks better on television than when you’re right there, seeing it with the naked eye. It’s horrible.”
But it’s times like these that bind people together, so Young and her neighbors have taken under their wing an extremely poor community of approximately 60 residents in Tishabee, providing them with tarps to cover their roofless trailers, food, clothing and other needs. It’s the sort of place that is overlooked, while larger cities like Birmingham and Tuscaloosa get the lion’s share of media attention.
The Southwest Alabama Association of Rural and Minority Women, Inc., is accepting donations for the community. Residents say that in addition to food, one of the things they’d like most are children’s books and other items that will keep kids occupied so they’re not completely focused on the devastation that surrounds them.
People can send contributions to the organization at 607-A 44st Street, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 35405 or P.O. Box 2087, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 35403.