Joshua Tyson, a Morehouse College senior, wasn’t going to sit by casually while the U.S. government reacted slowly to the relief efforts taking place in the Gulf States during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
So he, along with six other HBCU students, packed two of their cars with food and other items, filled their gas tanks, and headed to southern Alabama.
A common thread bonded them: they were fed up with the government’s slow response in helping hurricane victims, particularly blacks, and they were taking matters into their own hands.
"We can no longer sit idle while government officials sit and watch our own die," said Tyson, 21, in a telephone interview Thursday.
The seven students: Jeruselem Barnett of Clark Atlanta University, Jamaal Smith of Morehouse, Brittny Oshun Ray, Jiel Latimer and Sandile Hlatshwayo of Spellman University and Megan Williams of Dillard University who transferred to Georgia State University after flood waters ravaged her New Orleans school.
"It’s kind of like seven strangers who came together for a cause and bonded over a weekend," said Tyson, biology, pre-med student.
The group established a non-profit organization called "7even" in lieu of the group number, Tyson said.
On September 3, the bunch drove the cars filled with items like baby food, canned vegetables, toothbrushes, deodorant and feminine products, in hopes of helping needy black people get back on their feet, he said.
When they arrived in Alabama, they went to different shelters to drop off some of the goods. Then they headed to a black neighborhood to talk to displaced families and to give away more provisions, he said.
"Watching the television does it no justice," Tyson said. "It’s no comparison to actually seeing these people."
Tyson said he met a black family that was camping out on their porch and who were living off a dwindling food and water supply.
"The porch was the only thing that remained of their house," he said. "That’s the severity of the hurricane. Emotionally these people are drained. You can see it in their faces. They’re just overdue."
The group raised nearly $800 for their hurricane relief efforts.
Still, Tyson said that it was not enough considering that they planned to help more people still living along the decimated coastline this past Saturday.
"We’re pressed for money. We’re starting to get down on supplies," he added.
On campus, he continues to ask for donations, but some of the students decline since they have already given a donation.
"The first week, everybody was giving. But, it’s just like CNN and the mass media. When the story breaks everybody is in on it. But as time passes-" his voice fading. "It was almost like pulling teeth.”
“I’ve already donated,” he said quoting a passerby.
"Well, give again," Tyson responded.
Despite the penny-pinchers he says that his core group of Good Samaritans remains faithful to the cause.
"It’s just a lot of people being selfless," Tyson said of the group which grew to 30 students this week. "It shows that they are just about doing something and not just talking."