Mr. Tommie

He has been featured in major newspapers and his artwork hangs on permanent display in the Louisiana State Museum. Tommie Mabry’s stream of consciousness writings, written on the walls of a flooded public housing complex, captured the immediate confusion and terror of a city besieged by water.

As Hurricane Katrina bore down, Tommie held up in his aunt’s apartment in the B.W. Cooper Housing Project. Tommie, physically and mentally disabled himself, spent the last four years taking care of his adopted aunt. Tommie’s aunt allowed him a safe place in return for the completion of household chores. It was a symbiotic arrangement, one that demonstrated the invaluable role of family in preventing homelessness.

It appeared that New Orleans was spared epic destruction. Then the levees failed. Water soon engulfed the B.W. Cooper. After several days of waiting for assistance, he decided to push his wheel-chair-bound aunt through the water to the Super Dome then waded back to his apartment.

For months, Tommie documented his thoughts and activities on the walls of the apartment. These simple, but eloquent observations of an apocalyptic, flooded New Orleans captured the hearts of thousands. Historians extracted the walls to preserve his writings. Unfortunately during the preservation, Tommie was forgotten. The man who captured the struggle of New Orleans in felt-tip marker was forced from the unit; homeless again.

A year later, outreach discovered him on a freeze night in a two-room apartment in the basement of a flooded house. Finally, Tommie was on his way to housing and healthcare; outreach later learned that the frail man was a famous Katrina poet.

Today, Tommie has been housed for over two years and volunteers with outreach on freeze nights. He continues to write on his apartment walls.

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