Degentrification Zones, a poor people-led plan to take back this stolen and gentrified land using a twist on ‘the man’s’ killer plans
by Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia
Cuz if we don’t de-gentrify, if we don’t decolonize – our hoods will die.
If we don’t de-gentrify, if we don’t decolonize – our hoods will die.
DGZ is fo U & me. It’s for us Po’ Black, Brown, Red, it’s fo mamaz, daddys, abuelasy tias, it’s fo da babies & it’s for dese streetz. – excerpt from “The DGZ Plan” poem
Gentrification has a short-term memory loss. Few people or organizations look further back behind the high-speed evictions, redevelopment plans or endless influx of newer, richer, whiter people that we see in front of our faces, ripping communities apart, evicting families and elders, to see what came before it. For us po’ people from Oakland to the Bronx caught in the struggle of survival economies, we rarely if ever have the time, energy or resources to stop and examine the system that is criminalizing, incarcerating and gentrifying us out of our own neighborhoods, barrios and communities.
But we must, ‘cause if we don’t de-gentrify, if we don’t decolonize, our hoods will die. And we can’t de-colonize without understanding the beast we have been forced to be a part of.
After years of white-supremacist capitalist gentrification at full throttle in San Francisco, we have extreme evictions now, and like extreme sports and other white people activities, the numbers of evictions are insane, scores of people a week being given eviction notices. Most of them are disabled elders and families of color with young children, while most activists, operating defensively, endlessly fighting to keep the few people still housed and the horrible laws up-turned, have no time or space to connect the dots.
And yet as flagrantly evil as all of this is, I must ask why does it rate as shocking at all? Gentrification is built into capitalism. It is an integral part of the roots, values and laws of this Amerikkkan capitalist system, which is rooted in old colonizer laws from England – the place where the word “gentry” was birthed. It is how this indigenous land was stolen. It is embedded in colonization.
And sadly some of the downest organizers and so-called activists of color don’t speak upon the inherent in-human-ness of capitalism because long ago their families were taught to become part of it to survive: making money from capitalist philanthro-pimps and off the industry of poverty; getting degrees from institutions that, by their very existence, perpetuate the industry and its harm.
It’s true that we all exist in this highly urbanized lie of civilization and we have been stolen, lied to and separated from our lands of origin so that we only have the option of taking corporate crafted jobs, institutional educations and pay rent or a mortgage if we are lucky enough to get a home and therefore have to make more and more blood-stained dollars just to survive.
But gentrification is built into every city charter.
For capitalism to exist, thrive and continue, it must always find and feed off a “new” market. Which means that capitalism operates in a change for change sake model. In this model there is no space for history, archive, preservation or honor. And, even more frightening, there is no room for people who are not producing or consuming.
For us po’ people from Oakland to the Bronx caught in the struggle of survival economies, we rarely if ever have the time, energy or resources to stop and examine the system that is criminalizing, incarcerating and gentrifying us out of our own neighborhoods, barrios and communities.
Children, elders, ancestors, sacred places, sacred sites are all “burdens” on a capitalist system unless they can somehow be profited off of. Elder ghettos or old people’s homes function in two ways – they separate our elders’ wisdom, love and resources away from our young people, which keeps people in a vacuum of hyper immediacy and in no way connected to the roots of our spirits and love and knowledge that came before us.
And as well, and probably more importantly, it allows corporations and government entities to make money off the care and housing of our elders. Similar to age-grade, institutional schools, it allows for separation of our young people from us. Their growing un-knowing and eventual disrespect of us and older people as well as the easy criminalization, productization and ghettoization of our young people occur without our clear supervision or intervention.
And by us collectively not always talking about gentrification’s relationship to capitalism, our silence is a tacit and dangerous form of approval of the framework of the system that supports it, relies on it and demands it.
In San Francisco, this looks like many of the same people who vehemently fought the circa 1999 dot com evictions in the Mission, signing off on the 2010-12 development plans to gentrify the Mission District of San Francisco, because their paycheck comes from the poltrickster government bodies who are invested in the gentrifying.
Now we have exactly the same thing going on in Oakland. Never really progressive Mayor Quan and many non-profiteers are shuttling in developers, real estate snakes and land-stealers to slice and dice the entire town of majority working-class communities of color. This is already resulting in the evictions of poor elders, poor Black, Brown and migrant/immigrant families using cracker codewords like “beautify” and “clean up” when describing our people’s hoods, our barrios, our gardens and our bodies.
In addition to the building of plantation prisons and the leeching of our public school systems, another logical progression of the brutality of white supremacist capitalism is the privatization of public housing, which is being sanctioned, supported and underwritten not just by the corporate developers but by the non-profiteers and non-profit housing developers.
So where do we as poor and gentrified people really need to take this fight? We first need to take it out of the fog of daily life – the blur of the “I’ve got mines” cult of independence – where only my survival and “happiness” matters. My ability to attain more and more things, newer and newer things means I have “made it” because as long as conscious people continue to take part, if even partially, in the very system that is profiting off of so many people’s destruction, it will continue.
‘Cause if we don’t de-gentrify, if we don’t decolonize, our hoods will die. And we can’t de-colonize without understanding the beast we have been forced to be a part of.
The next place we have to take it is what I call the De-Gentrification Zone (DGZ) a pro-active movement, led by us po’ people, landless people, that uses the man’s plans and codes and laws and lines to seize back what used to be ours. ‘Cause if we don’t de-gentrify, our hoods will die.
The DGZ is a 10-point plan for liberation – barrio to barrio, hood to hood, calle to street – an offensive move to take back stolen, colonized streets, developed and privatized indigenous lands, scam-lorded buildings. We intentionally use the colonizers’ words and ridiculously confusing acronyms all throughout the “plan” ‘cause it’s the same words and terms and papers and laws the colonizers have used for centuries to kill, jail and most importantly confuse us, not to mention colonize our indigenous spirits and steal and profit off the theft of Mama Earth and our indigenous bodies’ communities.
The DGZ is a four-pronged strategy that includes collective, poor people-led media framing, street-based outreach and community organizing, pre-IMFed savings circles and middle-class allies in humble solidarity working to become conscious revolutionary donors. Us poor folks are working in solidarity with humble non-profit allies who aren’t trying to own and claim and profit off anti-gentrification work to jam politrickster moves – like creating a moratorium on development, gentrification and removal and finally man-plan-jamming, from research to wesearch, from preservation to landmarks, from real estate snakes to land trusts, from codes to maps. We CAN preserve what’s still left and do our best to take some of this colonizer theft back.
Sadly, a DGZ is almost impossible in San Francisco and many other already deeply gentrified neighborhoods across this stolen land the colonizers call Amerikkka. But many cities and towns like Oakland still have a chance.
‘Cause if we don’t de-gentrify, if we don’t organize, our hoods will die.
DGZ is fo U & me. It’s for us Po’ Black, Brown, Red, it’s fo mamaz, daddys, abuelas y tias, it’s fo da babies & it’s for dese streetz
This is how Homefulness was and is being built, a landless people’s land liberation movement in Deep East Oakland. Us humble poor mamaz, daddyz, brothers and sistaz from POOR Magazine, Healthy Hoods, Black Riders Liberation Party, Peoples Community Medics and more aren’t trying to lead this fight, we are merely trying to make sure more of us folx aren’t erased from our hoods, like we were never there.
Please contact us by email at deeandtiny@ poormagazine.org if you want us to visit you and do a DGZ assessment and help you launch a DGZ in your barrio, hood or street, become a white or middle-class solidarity donor or supporter or visit our DGZ weekly talk-circle at Street Newsroom on Thursdays from 2 to 3 p.m. at the sacred land we call Homefulness on the streets in front of 8032 MacArthur Blvd in Deep East Oakland. You can also join our DGZ page on Facebook.
Tiny – or Lisa Gray-Garcia – is co-founder with her Mama Dee and co-editor with Tony Robles of POOR Magazine and its many projects and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America,” published by City Lights. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.tinygraygarcia.com and www.racepovertymediajustice.org.