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From fires to foreclosures: BlackArthur (MacArthur Blvd) displacement crisis

June 10, 2016

A youth-led report is released at the emergency press conference

by Cassandra Guzman, Mario Vega, Ty’Ray Taylor, Kimo Umu, Amir Hughes, Zair Cornish, Tiburcio Garcia, Tiny, Muteado and Queenandi X Sheba, Poor News Network

Ten families, the owners and operators of 10 small businesses on MacArthur – BlackArthur in Deep East Oakland – lost everything in a mysterious fire in the wee hours of the morning on May 21. This photo was taken at 4 a.m.

Ten families, the owners and operators of 10 small businesses on MacArthur – BlackArthur in Deep East Oakland – lost everything in a mysterious fire in the wee hours of the morning on May 21. This photo was taken at 4 a.m.

“We miss our home,” said Donald to the crowd gathered at the emergency press conference on displacement held at Homefulness last week. Donald, a recently displaced, long-time resident of MacArthur Boulevard in Deep East Oakland (Huchuin Ohlone Land) – BlackArthur, as the Black Riders who have their headquarters here call it – has been an intentionally blighted, working class and very low-income Black community for decades. In the last three months, Donald along with many other residents of this small stretch of hood between 73rd and 98th have lost their homes to gentrification.

The recent insane rise in evictions along with the already high rates of eviction inspired youth and adult poverty skolaz from Deecolonize Academy and POOR Magazine to launch an investigation and release the BlackArthur Displacement Report.

Aunti Frances from the Aunti Frances Self-help Love Mission in North Oakland passionately decries gentrification at the Emergency Press Conference on Displacement held May 26 at Homefulness. – Photo: Tiny, Poor News Network

Aunti Frances from the Aunti Frances Self-help Love Mission in North Oakland passionately decries gentrification at the Emergency Press Conference on Displacement held May 26 at Homefulness. – Photo: Tiny, Poor News Network

“No one in the neighborhood believes that fire was an accident,” continued Donald about the recent tragic three-alarm fire that completely destroyed 10 small and very small thriving businesses on 73rd and BlackArthur. Along with the eradication of people’s long-time rented and owned homes through all means of politrickster moves and paper trails which the youth skolaz reveal in their report, local businesses are under attack.

Important rooted community businesses owned by long-time residents and churches such as the Fish Shack and the Kingdom Builders furniture shop were completely wiped out due to a suspicious fire that ripped through the walls and up into the ceiling at 3 a.m. on May 21.

“It hit like a hurricane, all at once, and with no warning. One day we had a little business – and a home – and the next day we lost it all. One of the business owners (who wanted to remain anonymous) from the 7300 block of BlackArthur whose business was lost in the fire spoke with POOR Magazine. “We were just a humble business. We barely owned the equipment in our store. Now we have nothing,” she concluded.

“They are eradicating our hoods, stealing our children and stealing our land. This is why we write, report and fight back,” said Queenandi X Sheba of POOR Magazine at the emergency press conference.

“I know the new owners had no intention of us being here in their plans,” said Master Frohm, founder of the beautiful martial arts school that transformed the block of Seminary and Foothill for the over 16 years he was there. Frohm’s Martial Arts thankfully found another location not too far away and is now raising funds to buy his building, which is an important part of degentrifying a neighborhood, as we call it at POOR Magazine.

Youth WeSearch findings on Frohm’s Martial Arts, 5864 Foothill Blvd, an excerpt from the BlackArthur Displacement Report

  • Important, Black-led business and part of the BlackArthur (MacArthur) community
  • Almost as soon as the building was purchased for over a million dollars, Frohm’s rent was increased by thousands of dollars, which was unaffordable for them and they had to relocate out of a neighborhood they helped to transform
  • Owner who increased the rent claimed to be the owner of building, but it turns out his name was not registered in the tax assessor’s office

What we found out was that it is owned by the city, which is very suspicious.

Gentrification brings late night fires, a quick way to clear out the “undesirables” so as to upscale the hood for the “beautiful people.” – Photo: Tiny, Poor News Network

Gentrification brings late night fires, a quick way to clear out the “undesirables” so as to upscale the hood for the “beautiful people.” – Photo: Tiny, Poor News Network

“What is blight?” asked Ty’Ray Taylor, 14, Youth in Media skola at POOR Magazine and Deecolonize Academy and one of the WeSearchers compiling the BlackArthur Displacement Report. “The visible and physical decline of a property or neighborhood or a city is due to a combination of economic downturns. Blight is used against poor, Black and Brown communities. By calling in someone with a blight charge, you can cause a small business owner or homeowner to lose their home.

“In 2011 a Grand Jury report found that Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency used blight code enforcement violations to harass low-income residents for many years while enriching contractors they hired who subsequently returned those favors.”

One of the many ways that low-income and very low-income homeowners lose their homes is through a multitude of paper trails and laws that are all created to support multi-million dollar development companies’ (or devil-opers, as I call them) theft of poor and working class people’s homes and communities. It was shocking to the youth and adult WeSearchers to learn when they interviewed Stave King of Oakland Land Trust and members of Land Action for their report that people literally get buried under false “citations” for blight and end up losing their homes because they can’t pay the liens and don’t know who to turn to for support. Also the developers work in tandem with the politricksters of cities like Oakland and San Francisco to use blight to steal homes and land from poor communities.

May 26, the same day as they presented their report on displacement at the Emergency Press Conference, was also Graduation Day at Homefulness for the students of Deecolonize Academy: from left, Tyray Taylor, Tiburcio, Kimo Umu, Aselah, Amir, Zair, Cheyanne and, front and center little drummer Amen-Ra. – Photo: Tiny, Poor News Network

May 26, the same day as they presented their report on displacement at the Emergency Press Conference, was also Graduation Day at Homefulness for the students of Deecolonize Academy: from left, Tyray Taylor, Tiburcio, Kimo Umu, Aselah, Amir, Zair, Cheyanne and, front and center little drummer Amen-Ra. – Photo: Tiny, Poor News Network

Blight and taxes and foreclosures and bankster paperwork and an endless litany of codes and procedures written by the colonizers who originally stole Mama Earth from the first peoples of this land is the way displacement even happens in the first place. It is why we poor mama and uncle teachers at Deecolonize Academy brought and taught our youth skolaz who have to inherit and heal and embrace this destroyed and tortured Mama Earth all about the secret and never spoken about ways that the land stealers steal.

From the Tax Assessors Office to the Planning and Zoning Department, these places operate quietly, moving the sanctioned theft and never criminalized criminals to rob poor communities and communities of color of everything they ever had.

How do you quantify loss of people, animals, faces, hearts and souls? These aren’t important, we are told, only success and profit, survival and acquisition. And yet when very small businesses manage by any means necessary “to make it” like me and my mama tried to as street artists and vendors for so many years, we are easily wiped out when our amerikkklan neighborhood is slated for development or gentrification.

This is why capitalism is such a sick lie. It was never built for all of us. It was very clearly built for a few of us who have the disease of resource hoarding and land stealing, something we are teaching on through a national tour of stolen land and hoarded resources with poor and houseless folks from across Turtle Island and First Nations leaders such as the Sogorea Te Land Trust.

“Then once they get us out of our homes through these paper trails and banisters, they criminalize us for surviving,” said Aunti Frances at the press conference. Aunti Frances Self-help Love Mission in North Oakland is currently working with POOR Magazine to launch a North Oakland site for Homefulness.

Youth WeSearch findings on teacher, musician and healer Val Serrant’s former home, 8522 MacArthur Blvd (BlackArthur), an excerpt from the BlackArthur Displacement Report

Baba Val Serrant, recently evicted from his longtime home on BlackArthur, speaks on displacement at the Emergency Press Conference while also performing with his drum class from Deecolonize Academy. – Photo: Tiny, Poor News Network

Baba Val Serrant, recently evicted from his longtime home on BlackArthur, speaks on displacement at the Emergency Press Conference while also performing with his drum class from Deecolonize Academy. – Photo: Tiny, Poor News Network

“We went to the Tax Assessor’s Office and found out that the person who ‘owned’ the building owned several other properties in Oakland under different names. The worst part about this is that there is no law against owning multiple properties, or the falsification of names.” – excerpt from the BlackArthur Displacement Report

“I lost my home of so many years when new owners bought my building. “ Another devastating blow to the BlackArthur community was the loss of elder musician, drummer and teacher Val Serrant, who shares his beautiful music with everyone he touches. He has brought his rhythmic medicine to Deecolonize Academy youth, who all come out of struggle, trauma and poverty.

“Luckily, I had community who could house me temporarily, but now I am essentially homeless,” he concluded. One after the other, our humble communities get dismantled by this war called displacement, ripping us apart one human, one business, one family, one elder at a time. This is war and that’s why we need to fight back.

“We compiled this report so our communities could fight back, so we won’t lose our elders, our teachers and our families,” said Kimo Umu, 13, Deecolonize Academy youth skola and WeSearcher.

Resistance tactics for low-income, working class and communities of color renters and homeowners, an excerpt from the BlackArthur Displacement Report

At the Emergency Press Conference on May 26, Deecolonize students Zair, Aselah, Amir, Kimo, Tibu and Tyray present their BlackArthur WeSearch articles published in the new issue of their skool and community newspaper, Decolonewz. – Photo: Tiny, Poor News Network

At the Emergency Press Conference on May 26, Deecolonize students Zair, Aselah, Amir, Kimo, Tibu and Tyray present their BlackArthur WeSearch articles published in the new issue of their skool and community newspaper, Decolonewz. – Photo: Tiny, Poor News Network

Adverse possession is a way to get property in your name. In Roman law they allowed someone who owned something without a title to become the replacement for the real owner if the real owner did not show up. The Land Registration Act said that after 10 years the adverse possessor would be able to apply for ownership of the product or property.

The way this helps poor and houseless people is that if you occupy an abandoned house and pay property taxes for five years, you can put the paperwork in to own the house. Currently Land Action and the Oakland Land Trust are working on trying to get properties from the City to grant to grassroots, non-profit organizations to ultimately house poor and working class folks in Oakland.

Homefulness is a poor and indigenous people’s self-determined land liberation movement funded entirely through community reparations. We’re currently working on a Homefulness project for East Oakland, North Oakland, LA and Salinas. If you are a person with stolen or hoarded wealth, please consider enrolling in the upcoming session of PeopleSkool for folks with race, class or formal education privilege to begin the process of redistributing resources to working class communities of color, unhoused, low-income and/or First Nations people. For more information, contact poormag@gmail.com.

Degentrification Zones

POOR has also been conducting Stolen Land Tours – this one in Oakland’s Piedmont District – going door to door to talk to the 1 percent about redistributing some of their wealth. They’re even finding some who are willing to discuss how they can help. – Photo: Tiny, Poor News Network

POOR has also been conducting Stolen Land Tours – this one in Oakland’s Piedmont District – going door to door to talk to the 1 percent about redistributing some of their wealth. They’re even finding some who are willing to discuss how they can help. – Photo: Tiny, Poor News Network

Learn how to use “the mans’ paper” against them. Landmark zones, homesteading and legal advocacy may be options; as soon as you get any notices of blight, tax liens, evictions or notices of pre-foreclosure, seek legal advice. Starting in June, every Thursday. 1-2 p.m., at Street Newsroom and Sliding Scale Cafe at Homefulness, 8032 MacArthur Blvd, we are collecting the stories of displacement for a community archive of resistance. We will also be giving paralegal and legal advice on how to stay in your home.

The BlackArthur Displacement Report was compiled by youth and adult poverty skolaz at POOR Magazine and Deecolonize Academy’s Revolutionary Journalism class without any funding or grants to teach ourselves how to fight the ongoing removal of all of us from our hoods, towns and barrios.

Deecolonize Academy is a poor mama and uncle-led arts, science and social justice-based school for low-income children and children of color on the sacred land called Homefulness. We are currently accepting applications for children 4-17 for the fall 2016 semester. As well, our free adult classes in radio, journalism and book publishing will be held all summer. Please email deeandtiny@gmail.com for more information.

The writers – activists, journalists and skolaz with Poor News Network and Deecolonize Academy – can be reached via deeandtiny@poormagazine.org. Visit POOR at www.poormagazine.org.

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  7. Ms Hendrix

    Thanks I knew something new was coming when I saw PGE and a man with a tie on obsevering the property a week before the fire smh. I guess a residential housing development will be build and ready to move in 2017-2018.

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