On Monday, August 27th MEDIA MAKE CHANGE (@mediamakechange) will launch the #RememberKatrina hashtag via Twitter. #RememberKatrina seeks to engage a national conversation about hurricane Katrina through storytelling and social media. We've invited several guests to lead the conversation all next week to discuss issues about post-Katrina relief efforts, research, and the status of communities in the Gulf Coast seven years after the storm.

Confirmed participants for #RememberKatrina include:

Marcus Akinlana (@MAkinlana) - a NOLA native, artist, and community activist. His critically-acclaimed art and music has been showcased around the country. He's been a committed cultural advocate for NOLA communities before, during, and after the storm.

Patricia Stukes (@jusbcas) - a doctoral candidate and native New Orleanian lesbian attending Texas Woman's University. Patricia is currently conducting research on lgbti identified advocacy organizations in Baton Rouge and New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. She is interested in stories regarding lgbti identified persons and how they negotiated disaster recovery. Some of the big questions she is asking include; what is the role of lgbti advocacy organizations in the aftermath of a disaster event like Hurricane Katrina? Does sexuality impact the way in which groups begin the recovery process? Does sexual orientation matter when sexual minorities apply for assistance from faith-based organizations? It is important to think about disaster and the potential environments left before they happen so that minority groups are sustained after the event?

Kellen Smith (@provondatrack) - a NOLA native and artist. He's been featured in two digital documentaries on hurricane Katrina, including A Region of Survivors and Story Melodies Vol. 1: A Tale of Two Cities.

Myron Strong (@AllRealDeal) - a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of North Texas and an Adjunct professor of sociology and women studies at Baltimore City Community College and Community College Baltimore County. His areas of interest include gender, race, social relationships, and pop culture. He has publish articles on pop culture phenomena such consumerism and video games, as well as ideology and education. His current research explores gender role ideology of Blacks and Whites between the ages of 18-30.

MEDIA MAKE CHANGE wants as many people engaged in this conversation as possible. Share with us your reactions upon first hearing about hurricane Katrina in late August of 2005. Talk about ways you and others can support individuals and their communities affected by Katrina and disasters that followed, most notably the BP Oil Spill. Use social media, blogs, and digital video to share your stories.

Some Numbers

It's been nearly seven years since hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, leaving thousands of US-American citizens homeless and displaced. Since then, impoverished communities still struggle to recover. Perhaps more than any other city located in the Gulf, New Orleans continues to struggle to rebuild neighborhoods severely affected by the storm. Among the most devastated neighborhoods in NOLA is the Lower Ninth Ward, comprised of 98% African Americans.

According to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, "there are an estimated 35,700 blighted homes and empty lots in New Orleans (down from 43,755 in September 2010)". Last year, I spoke to native resident Kellen Smith, who told me that "New Orleans is actually worse because the jobs are less, which means more crime."

In 2011 alone, NOPD reported a 10% increase in overall crime (however, murders were significantly down during the 1st quarter of the year).

Though the government has spent $14.5 billion in floodgate and levee reconstruction, neighborhoods like Lower Ninth Ward remain noticeably neglected. With hurricane Isaac currently barreling down the Panhandle and towards NOLA, one can only hope that this high priced infrastructure will be worth the cost.

Despite these statistics, many NOLA residents I've spoken to remain optimistic. Though there is a sense of indifference to tourism's impact on the economy, NOLA's rich culture remains strong primarily because of resilient residents and their stories.

We believe that storytelling can inspire social change and impact policy. So in efforts to continue the national dialogue of remembering our neighbors and rebuilding communities post-Katrina, MMC invites you to join us and follow the conversation on Twitter all this week at @mediamakechange #RememberKatrina.

Related stories

On Katrina's Anniversary: A Bit of Homework (Melissa Harris-Perry Blog)

Vast Defenses Now Shielding New Orleans (New York Times)

From Virtual Volunteers of Katrina to Cyberactivists of Arab Spring

Story Melodies Vol. 2: A Tale of Two Cities

Teaching The Levees (Teachers College, Columbia University)

Image Source