I’ve seen so much criticism of Elon Musk and Tesla in the news lately because of him publishing is own opinions and thoughts but almost zero media coverage of what he is doing in Puerto Rico which is really huge.
He’s (and Tesla) are pretty much the only ones keeping the lights on right now in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria damaged Puerto Rico so badly that their power grid is still messed up. And Tesla is stepping up in many amazing ways.
Hurricanes Katrina, Rita And Harvey Are Why What Elon Is Doing Touches Me Deeply
Let’s go back to the summer of 2005. I was only 22 and still living in my hometown of Shreveport, LA. I was working in a lumber yard and doing my art. I was a painter. This was before my move to Atlanta and meeting Daryl who would forever change my life. I was barely making it, but this was one of my happiest times. I had my first apartment, was doing successful art shows and enjoying life.
I was part of the Trapped Truth Society, a weekly poetry group that met every Sunday at 4 over at Johnny’s Pizza on Fern. One Sunday, I went and a friend was saying she went down to New Orleans but had to come back. There was a huge hurricane going on. I didn’t have a TV and only heard bits and pieces of the news here and there. Mostly from word of mouth. Sure I read the paper and go online once a week but my focus was my art.
But then the horror stories rolled in. The storm hit. Hurricane Katrina was beyond devastating. A friend was volunteering at the shelters that were set up in Shreveport and she had many a horror story. One of my best friends was in the LA National Guard which was activated. She called me and told me about the bodies floating. They were floating like logs.
Even though Shreveport wasn’t hit by Katrina, this was a time of chaos and extreme heat conditions. I met people who lost everything and faced loss on a magnitude that at the time, I was unable to comprehend. Even homelessness as a child could not compare to the devastation of a category 5 hurricane.
Our store chain had a store in Pearl, MS and it was damaged. I vaguely remember talks of no generators, water being scarce and no power. And then came Rita. The eye passed right over us.
I remember a phone call with my mom who had moved to Atlanta the previous year to take a job. I remember her saying that if I need to come to Atlanta, to come on. We were terrified that the storm would leave us without power, flooded and displaced. In fact, the way my apartment was set up probably would have left me injured if Rita had been a cat 5 when it hit us.
My apartment was in a ‘bridge’ that connected two buildings. My bathtub was part of the old building so the night that the worst part of Rita passed over saw me sleeping in the bath tub. I fell asleep to screaming winds and nonstop rain, but the next day we still had running water and power.
A week later, my landlord came to me and said:
“Kevin Costner rented out the whole building as headquarters for his movie, The Guardian,” and I need this space.
He was planning to film his movie in New Orleans but Katrina changed that and he picked my hometown. And my landlord was the lucky guy to land a lease for the movie headquarters.
Yep. I got kicked out but was given 30 days to vacate which prompted my move to Atlanta. My mother had already left Shreveport by then so I followed in her footsteps to a new city that she was doing well in. Even though I’d graduated high school, I discovered Job Corps and went with it. I had the time of my life in South GA and really met some life long friends and learned a lot so I have no regrets on that part.
Fast forward to 2017. I’m married and Mo and I just moved to Houston. Our store in Dallas was closed due to the mall closing the gallery I was managing for them and we decided to take a shot on a new city. I wanted to be by the beach plus one of my best friends was there. I opened another store and we moved into the apartment across from it. Then one day, our truck was stolen. We suddenly had no car.
He wound up having a job interview in North Carolina and I went with him. HIs sister lives there and something told me to pack my jewelry making supplies and tools. I knew we were coming back to Houston, but it was one of those weird instincts that wouldn’t let me go. We get to North Carolina and he has his interview, gets the job and we plan to move there. I decide that we will just leave my tools there and right when we are planning the return trip to Houston, I get the phone calls,
“Hey Johnna, I’m just checking on you and Mo. Heard about the storm.”
“Hey Johnna, are you alive?”
Those were questions from friends in Atlanta, Dallas and Shreveport.
Then one from my client,
“Your store and house are underwater,”
I didn’t believe it. We were just in Houston. I was just home. There’s no way it could be underwater. I later found out that because our store was on the second floor, we had minimal damage. Our apartment was a first floor apartment though. And we lost everything. We were unable to get back to Houston to recover our items from the store and decided to cut our losses and be grateful because we were safe.
We applied for Fema aid but got denied. We weren’t the only ones it turns out. Several of my clients also got denied aid even though their homes were declared unlivable.
And this brings me to what Elon Musk is doing in Puerto Rico.
Why It Matters What Elon Musk Is Doing In Puerto Rico
Have you ever lost your home? Do you know what it’s like not knowing what you are going to do? What about electricity? Or have you ever wondered how you are going to bathe? Cook?
Puerto Rico was completely destroyed by Hurricane Maria. And Hurricane Irma barely missed it but managed to leave around a million or so without power. But Maria really did some serious damage. And our president went there and gave them paper towels.
One of the most common reasons that I’ve seen not to aid Puerto Rico was “They are not Americans”
I’ve seen various forms of that sickening statement all over social media.
Yet we gave millions to The Red Cross for Haiti. They aren’t Americans.
Puerto Ricans actually ARE Americans. They are an American terrority which means our gov’t is responsible for helping them. They are our people. Just because they have darker skin and beautiful accents doesn’t give you a reason to judge them as undeserving, which is what many have done. Many, being the conservative types who are okay with our president joking about raping women and killing folks on 5th Avenue.
Back to Elon Musk.
According to Elon Musk, Tesla has about 11,000 energy projects going on in Puerto Rico. Tesla is the one who made sure the Children’s Hospital in Puerto Rico got power turned back on.
Tesla also deployed several of their Powerpacks to make sure the sanitary sewer treatment plant was up and running. This is vital for any major and minor city. They also helped out the Cuidad Dorad elderly community, another hospital (Sucan Centeno Hospital) and even The Boys and Girls Club of Vieques. Read more about that here.
We As Americans Need To Step Up And Join Elon
I’m not saying go pour all your resources into Puerto Rico. I’m saying do something whether large or small for your own community. We all need to step up when we can and help make a difference. The Cajun Navy got it’s start in Katrina. It’s a group of private citizens who own boats. They were the ones rescuing people and bringing in supplies when our government said not to during Katrina. They were the ones assisting the National Guard and doing what the guard couldn’t do because of red tape.
One of my friends in Houston told me he was rescued by the Cajun Navy during Harvey.
My point is that we all take running water, electricity and the ability to shower whenever we feel like it for granted. Imagine not having that. Then imagine a company like Tesla stepping up and helping you out when you’re own government mocks you. If only Tesla had been around during Katrina–imagine the lives that could have been saved.
Elon Musk reminds us to be human. People have stated to me, “he’s a billionaire he doesn’t care about you,” or “he hates women,” Yet, he does care. He read (and shared) my open letter to him. He is focused on Puerto Rico almost as intently as he is focused on Mars.
I respect him because of what he is doing with his platform. Elon hasn’t been given his billions. He worked hard for every cent and instead of using them to buy an island and disappear, he is choosing to not just make his dreams come true–but those dreams are to help us as a species. And that is humbling. Here I am, a total stranger who may never meet him yet he wants to make sure my great grand kids will be able to live on Mars one day.
How You Can Help
There are many ways to help Elon, for sure and before you go into the he is a billionaire I don’t need to help him spiel (Yes, I’ve received a lot of hatred from random strangers about that. I just brushed it off my shoulders) let me ask you something:
Why do people go to church and give billions to prosperity preachers? Joel Osteen refused to open his doors to his mega church to Hurricane Harvey victims. Until the media pushed him into it. Creflo Dollar asked his congregation to buy him a jet airplane for Jesus.
Yet so many people will give their last dollar to these churches in hopes that they will magically be blessed.
You can invest in Tesla stock. You can buy a Tesla if you have the money. Or you can look into the places Elon is helping like the Children’s Hospital of Puerto Rico and donate to them directly. You can also donate to the Hispanic Federation which helps not only Puerto Rico, but other Latin American countries that need help.
Another way of stepping up to help your community is looking up local homeless shelters and seeing if they need anything. Donate to your local food pantries.
Elon is doing it on a large scale, but let’s not forget the smaller scales. If we add them up, they will grow into large scales. I’m saying this: if everyone donated $5 whether in cash or supplies to their local shelters, food banks, or other charities that help people in need, we will all be doing something that matters.
It doesn’t matter how large or small it is as long as you do something good to empower others. I’ve been on that receiving side: I’ve been homeless and not knowing where I was going to sleep at night before. And when someone helps you out, it is very empowering. So every small act matters. If you ever find yourself questioning that, look at Elon.
About the Author
Johnna Sabri is a mineral, gem and crystal collector and wire artist. She loves experimenting with different styles of wrapping and collecting gems and minerals. Her work has been modeled by GA State University students in one of their annual fashion shows.
Johnna has also served customers all around the world including Dubai, Finland, The Philippines, Australia, Canada, the UK, China, and Hong Kong as well as people in every US state.
She learned her craft from Grammy winning guitarist, Daryl Adonis Thompson, son of Eli “Lucky” Thompson, the saxophonist who played with Dizzy Gillespie and Isaac Hayes. Daryl was well known in the Little 5 Points Atlanta community as a master at his craft. Read more on Johnna here.