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Black community in south Alabama says they are dealing with hurricane damage and racism

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ATMORE, Ala. (WPMI) — Many Black people in Atmore who were impacted by Hurricane Sally are fighting to get help, which they told NBC 15 News that the mayor is not giving them.

Tawanna Hester said two feet of water flooded her home during Sally.

My house sits down in a downward slope. Everything washes towards me and the ditches get clogged,

she said.

Hester, her granddaughters, ages 7 and 9, and her son lost everything to water damage. But they are stuck in the home with nowhere else to go.

SEE ALSO: Local first responders lending a hand after Hurricane Sally

I tried to clean up as best as I can, so I can have somewhere to lay my head,

Hester said.

The north side of Atmore, which is predominantly Black, received much of the devastation. Trees crushed homes and cars.

An elderly woman was even trapped in her mobile home for several days. Neighbors were forced to pass food supplies and water through a window until the tree was removed. Area neighbors say they have been forgotten about by the mayor.

When he was asked if he’s going to declare this a disaster area, he said no,

Hester said.

We asked Mayor Jim Staff if the Black community is being neglected in Atmore.

No sir. We had four crews working in the Black community. This is a very segregated, I mean integrated, community,

Staff said.

The mayor spent the morning riding with the Alabama State Emergency Management Agency to assess hurricane damage. He wasn’t happy with how the Black community is viewing the cleanup efforts or with our tough questions.

SEE ALSO: Giant oil slick on Pensacola Bay after Hurricane Sally came from sunken boats, EPA finds

I really don’t appreciate that at all. We are trying our best to be one community here,

Mayor Staff said.

Atmore Councilmember Susan Smith is making her rounds to check on those impacted by Sally. She said race is an issue in this town.

Yes. I do believe that it is. But I don’t think it just started with Sally,

Councilwoman Smith said.

Smith spent time today with Hester who doesn’t even live in Smith’s district.

I had a lot of criticism myself. People saying, 'you're not helping your district.' Our district is not as affected as the northside had been,

she said.

Hester said all the Black people in Atmore who have been trying to get assistance and resources to get back on their feet after Sally have been getting backlash from Mayor Staff’s supporters and family members on Facebook.

They refer to us as 'they.' Posting comments like, 'they always want something for free. If they want something, get it from their mammy.' It’s disturbing because I’m the one who had a total loss. I don’t want anything for free because if anyone know me, they know I work hard for everything I have,

Hester said.

A local minister, Bobby Montgomery, feels the mayor dropped the ball and is now downplaying damage.

When you fail to plan, I’m talking about meeting prior to Sally, that’s one thing. But not to meet after Sally, that shows that you have no empathy,

Montgomery said.

Another issue is many Black people in Atmore are renting homes from property owners who don’t live in the area. That makes it even more difficult for tenants to receive aid.

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However, people across Atmore hope that FEMA will come through and grant the city relief, so they can start the rebuilding process.

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