Black Men Who I Admire: John Keller

John Keller is one of the many heroes of Hurricane Katrina, he stepped up and cared for others when the government abandoned all the victims who were left to deal with the aftermath of the deadliest hurricane in modern United States history. John Keller is a family man, an ex-marine, an African-American man and a resourceful, attractive and most importantly, a selfless person.

John Keller, a New Orleans native,  led hundreds  of people to safety when he assumed the role of leader of the American CAN apartments. He was born into a middle class family and growing up he attended a private school. Keller has always been a leader, he was voted Class President in highschool and was also on the basketball, yachting and ski teams. He always noticed the disparity between the opportunities that white students had and the opportunities that his Black friends from the lower-income background had. He questioned whether the disparity was racial or economic, later during Hurricane Katrina,  he would encounter the racial disparity of America head on.

After attending Xavier University briefly, he enlisted in the marine corps. When Hurricane Katrina hit his leadership skills, athleticism, diverse background and intelligence would become invaluable survival assets. When Katrina decimated the surrounding areas, Keller was left with a building full of elderly people, both black and white, as well as neighbors and people who sought refuge after losing their homes.

The people in the building were in need of food and water. Some of the elderly required insulin and other medical supplies. John Keller who was trained in recon in the military, stepped up and arranged to take control of the building. He and some other people began to gather supplies needed to survive.  At one point, John Keller swam to Winn Dixie and (in his own words) “looted.” He took all the food he needed so that he’d have enough for the people in the building.   Later, the media would typecast all the people “looting,” as criminals, but research overwhelmingly showed that most of the young Black men who “looted,” were in fact taking the food to their families and friends.

John Keller helped ration the food and control the security of the building. At one point, Keller made a  journey in a boat to try to check up on his family who resided on the other side of town. However, after rowing all day through murky water, while dead bodies floated in his path, he arrived only to find his family had left the building and boarded up the house.

When Keller returned to the American CAN, he began trying to signal the helicopters to drop food and supplies.  Keller wrote on the apartment roof,  “water is rising DRP MRE AND H2O FOR 170,” still no supplies were dropped off. This picture has now become famous around the world. After the government refused to pick up some of the Black survivors and wouldn’t drop off supplies, some racial tension amounted. Keller helped to smooth over the racial tension within the building by reminding  some of the angry and frustrated Black survivors that  “these white folks didn’t do this to you. They’re stuck out here just like you’re stuck out.”

It was only after Keller had all the white people in the building stand on the roof that food was dropped off within 15 minutes. 

Keller helped to ferry the remaining survivors in the building to safety at the Superdome and elsewhere.

Keller said,

“I could have got in that boat and paddled my ass out of here…What made me stay was the old people. I just realized that nobody else in here could have gotten those people out. They would have sat in here for five more days. And they didn’t have five more days…It’s ridiculous. Made me feel like a second-class citizen, I was in Iraq during Desert Storm. They dropped me food and water in the middle of nowhere. But you can’t get food and water to residents in a big city?”

source source 2

They’re supposed to be making a movie about it, Will Smith is producing it.

Here Are Some Black Men I Would Like to See as John Keller

1. Will Smith

2. Morris Chestnut


3. Idris Elba


Black Women Who Could Be in the Film:

1. Meagan Good


2. Gabrielle Union


3. Loretta Divine


You may be wondering what role would the Black women play, well they would play the mothers, girlfriends, survivors etc.

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