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Poor people need your help to survive corporate greed’s heat wave and fees

July 13, 2015

by Tiny, daughter of Dee, Poor News Network

The heat rose from the asphalt beneath me like a snake with no head. It circled around my body and landed in my nose and mouth. I began to have choking sensations.

It was at least 111 degrees with heavy smog in downtown LA that day and I had already been working for eight hours, but me and my mama had no money to eat so I couldn’t leave our vendor stand cause I still hadn’t made a sale. After two more hours out there, I fainted and I ended up in the county emergency room begging the nurses to let me out so I could go back to work.

It was at least 111 degrees with heavy smog in downtown LA that day. I fainted and I ended up in the county emergency room. This day came back to me as a terrifying memory as I reflected on the thousands of deaths of poor workers and houseless people all across Mama Earth recently dying from heat exposure.

I was a hard worker used to standing for hours in heat, smog, humidity, rain and dust at our little unlicensed art stand to make a sale, but this day’s intense heat and thick smog almost killed me, literally. This day came back to me as a terrifying memory as I reflected on the thousands of deaths of poor workers and houseless people all across Mama Earth recently dying from heat exposure.

Over 1,400 poor workers homeless people and ‘beggars’ die from heat exposure in India

A few people in Bangladesh find shade under a row of trees.

A few people in Bangladesh find shade under a row of trees.

People already know that the destruction of Mama Earth and its resulting climate change is bad – bad for Mama Earth and her peoples – but in the last two months the horrible reality of its specific impact on poor people just became clearer to the world than ever.

Those of us who have lived on the margins of survival, getting asthma from environmentally racist and classist oil drilling in our backyards and neighborhoods and cancer from dangerous chemicals being off-loaded in our streets and fields and lakes, are already are quite familiar with the connection between corporate destruction and our poor bodies.  This summer we’re reminded that the corporate greed-caused rise in the earth’s temperature is causing dangerous allergies and asthmatic symptoms in more and more of our babies and elders, not to mention Fukishima, Japan’s nuclear disaster, poisoning our fish and much of the Pacific Ocean plus more chemical spills than we can remember, us poor folks.

People already know that the destruction of Mama Earth and its resulting climate change is bad – bad for Mama Earth and her peoples – but in the last two months the horrible reality of its specific impact on poor people just became clearer to the world than ever.

Death toll from heat wave in Karachi, Pakistan, hits 1,000

In Pakistan, deaths from a record heat wave were another example of poor people faring the worst; most of the dead were “homeless people and drug addicts,” the New York Times reported. In a similar situation earlier this year, poor families in Detroit lost their water service due to corporate theft. Energy companies operate a class-based system of energy access all over the world, with low-income neighborhoods of India and Pakistan facing prolonged, unannounced power outages and periods of extremely low voltage, while rich people’s neighborhoods get the energy they need.

The recent issue of Decolonewz, a newspaper of the Blackarthur neighborhood by Deecolonize Academy and POOR Magazine youth and poverty skolaz, outlines the ways that climate change immediately impacts poor communities of color. In India last month and Pakistan last week, we see global implications beyond our human comprehension.

But lest we think, “Oh, that’s only those poor people in South Asia,” this same disgusting phenomenon happened in the racist, classist stolen land called Arizona in October of 2006 as reported by POOR/PNN houseless poverty skola correspondent Michael Woodard.

Arizona is one of the worst places to be a poor or migrant worker or houseless person. Due to a plethora of anti-poor people laws, constant police harassment, hardly any services or truly affordable housing and a severe lack of shelter beds, scores of houseless people died on the streets from “asphyxiation,” or exposure to temperatures that are higher than the human body can withstand and no access to water or shelter.

Let’s be very clear this isn’t just about climate change; this is about colonization, scarcity models and the theft of Mama Earth’s resources by companies trying to make money off the finite resources of Mama Earth.

Let’s be very clear this isn’t just about climate change; this is about colonization, scarcity models and the theft of Mama Earth’s resources by companies trying to make money off the finite resources of Mama Earth.

People all over the world have differing versions of feudal and class-driven social deterministic beliefs that allow them to rationalize away any culpability for the people who are outside with nowhere to go, no other jobs to work in, no homes to sleep in. Oh, they got themselves there, they drink or use drugs, and they made bad decisions in life, so that is their fate.

As a houseless child who almost died from exposure and later a houseless mother who almost died from mold poisoning in poor people housing, I am here to tell you, that is bullshit. There are no “deserving” versus “undeserving” poor; there is only apathy.

There is exhaustion, there is racism, there are borders, non-profiteering and for-profiteering, real estate speculation and rich people’s resource hoarding, the historical trauma of chattel slavery, eugenics and the original theft called colonization that not only raped and pillaged Mama Earth but also her people, leaving so many of us lost to the lies of success, capitalism and corporate destruction.

Don’t let corporate greed stop Homefulness from housing the homeless

Where does this leave us now? In small revolutions to hold on to what little might be left. But this is also a challenge to launch and change and repair – to start enacting really real reparations and true wealth redistribution.

Help transform more people from houselessness to Homefulness in East Oakland, where there’s room for four straw-bale houses, the first to be built in any city in the country, but the cost of building permits is sky-high. PG&E wants a total of $42,000 and East Bay MUD wants $38,000. The first PG&E installment of $8,000 is due in only two weeks! An effort to persuade the utilities to reduce or waive the fees and “sponsor” this historic project is underway, but the $8,000 must be raised now or the entire project may collapse. To offer help of any kind, contact Tiny at deeandtiny@poormagazine.org.

Help transform more people from houselessness to Homefulness in East Oakland, where there’s room for four straw-bale houses, the first to be built in any city in the country, but the cost of building permits is sky-high. PG&E wants a total of $42,000 and East Bay MUD wants $38,000. The first PG&E installment of $8,000 is due in only two weeks! An effort to persuade the utilities to reduce or waive the fees and “sponsor” this historic project is underway, but the $8,000 must be raised now to keep the project alive. To offer help of any kind, contact Tiny at deeandtiny@poormagazine.org.

We have launched just such a liberation movement in the poor neighborhood of color called East Oakland, or Huchiun Ohlone territory. This is a neighborhood intentionally blighted, abandoned and criminalized, just in time for the social workers, police and developers to come in and “clean it up.”

We po’ folks call our project Homefulness, a poor people-led solution to homelessness, which we hope to help other poor and indigenous people launch all across Mama Earth as a way to decolonize people from the lie that anyone owns Mama Earth or her resources. The Homefulness movement is rooted in poverty and indigenous resistance and is led by poor and indigenous peoples.

We don’t engage with the people who kill us or the lies that separate us. We walk the walk of personal accountability, respect and love every day, no matter how hard it gets.

We are working very hard with minimal resources to bring us down eventually to net-zero energy use, so we can enact a truly “green” project that heals Mama Earth and all of us colonized people, but in the process we are noticing the ways in which corporate energy and water companies not only steal resources and then sell them back to us at crazy prices, they make poor people-led liberation almost impossible by charging thousands of dollars for the permits just to “use” their stolen resources.

The Homefulness movement is rooted in poverty and indigenous resistance and is led by poor and indigenous peoples.

The other important process that we as a people need to understand is that we have been lied to so long about the myth of independence and capital driven success that we believe it. So many people without realizing it have bought the deserving versus undeserving poor notion that some people matter more than others.

As conditions get worse on our Mama Earth, it will be more important than ever to recognize the harm that colonization has done to all of us and the responsibility that we all have to each other. This cuts across race, class and spiritual practices.

This isn’t just a revolutionary or indigenous people’s perspective; this is the basic idea of all faiths. This is what spiritual revolutionaries like Jesus Christ were really working to make us understand – just like Mohammed, Moses, Buddha and many more. This is inter-dependence, something we all need to practice.

POOR Magazine and Homefulness have launched a Booster campaign to raise money to pay for the over-priced corporate utility permits that they have to pay before they can build the straw bale houses for houseless families and the sliding scale cafe in Deep East Oakland. To support them, click HERE.

POOR Magazine and Homefulness have launched a Booster campaign to raise money to pay for the over-priced corporate utility permits that they have to pay before they can build the straw bale houses for houseless families and the sliding scale cafe in Deep East Oakland. To support them, click HERE.

Tiny – or Lisa 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 deeandtiny@poormagazine.org. Visit POOR at www.poormagazine.org.

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