Walter Williams, creator of the iconic “Mr. Bill” from the glory days of Saturday Night Live, recently sent an email to his “Sluggo” list. In it, he describes a wonderful act of free speech and resistance directed at the sponsors of Jazz Fest, or what has become known as “Shell Fest” on the beleaguered Gulf Coast.
Shell Oil is the “Sluggo” of the Mississippi Delta. Coastal scientists estimate that oil companies have caused 40-60% of the coastal land loss Louisiana is experiencing. Current estimates published by the Gulf Restoration Network to repair the Gulf Coast and protect cities like New Orleans is $50 billion. Taxpayers should not have to fix what Big Oil broke.
Here is Walter’s email:
Sunday, as sunset approached on a beautiful day, our native sons the Neville Brothers returned home to perform for the first time since Katrina. Suddenly, up in the air…is it a bird? Is it a plane? Yes, actually it is and towing a banner reading “Shell Hear The Music Fix The Coast U Broke.”
I heard many exclaim, “I don’t think that’s supposed to be there.”
Thanks to the Gulf Restoration Network, which did a similar Shell protest two years ago, for taking my idea seriously and financing it, there it was. And thanks to Tab Benoit and his Voice of the Wetlands organization, it stayed up an additional hour and closed out one of the most beautiful closing days in memory. The T-shirts were a big hit also. Two girls at the ticket booth wanted them and wore them and you could spot people all around making it feel like the official theme of the Fest.
Once again, before any feels too sorry for Shell, saying they provide jobs and pay taxes. Well, all of the real jobs have moved to Houston and they’ve been using that line for decades and getting away with it. Now people are starting to wake up to the reality that Shell and the other oil companies involved in southern Louisiana have made us vulnerable to total destruction every summer and fall by eating away our natural defense; coastal wetlands.
And besides, before Shell took over it cost about 25 bucks to get into the Jazz Fest...I paid 50 on Sunday. I guess they are passing on the cost of all of those Shell flags to the customer. Please present the idea of the oil industry paying to restore our coast to your representatives and let them know that rebuilding our coast is a national issue.
Thanks to Michael Sustendal for taking the picture of me when we bumped into each other and for Alycia Daumas for taking the close up from her house. I think the whole event was awesome and everyone’s talking about it.
Keep hope alive,
Here is a permalink to Walter Williams' documentary titled "Restoring the Gulf Coast: Who Pays?"
Environmental activists contend that Shell Oil has co-opted Jazz Fest, a cultural institution, by becoming a major sponsor. Comments welcome on "who should pay?"