‘Banished’: How West Oakland and Hunters Point are fighting that fate

Marcel Diallo, owner of the Black New World Social Aid and Pleasure Club

by Minister of Information JR

Last week’s Black New World/ Block Report Radio fundraiser showing of the new documentary “Banished” was a huge success in the way of helping to politically educate one of the Bay Area’s oldest Black communities, West Oakland, about what’s at stake when it comes to protecting our communities. While the 1940s brought Black people to the West Coast by the trainload from the South to work in shipyards and factories to aid the war effort, in the first decade in 2000, we see Black people in the same area losing their property right and left, as they fall victim to economic depression, sub-prime lenders and other corrupt tactics that the government has sanctioned to take Black people’s land from them “lawfully.”

He stressed the need for people to buy property collectively and develop plans that would work as safety nets when people can’t afford to pay their mortgages.

After this soon to be classic film, in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Black New World, panelists Marcel Diallo, owner of the Black New World Social Aid and Pleasure Club, and Willie Ratcliff, publisher of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, spoke articulately about their respective businesses and neighborhood economics.

West Oakland resident Marcel Diallo spoke about some of the issues facing the Black New World, like the incident a few weeks ago when the police came to one of the functions there and shut it down for lack of a cabaret license after admittedly being tipped off by a non-resident white man that has ambitions to buy some land “next door” soon. As a result, the Black New World, in wanting to stay open, has to turn itself into a members-only organization where, for $10 a month, members could enjoy everything that goes down there.

He stressed the need for people to buy property collectively and develop plans that would work as safety nets when people can’t afford to pay their mortgages. He also exhorted the land buying public take advantage of the depressed market to buy land at cheap prices.

Willie Ratcliff spoke about the battle going down in Hunters Point dealing with the community facing off against the Lennar Corp., which for only one dollar was given the best land on the Hunters Point Shipyard for free by the City and has come into this low income historically Black community to build housing that the current residents would not be able to afford, in effect replacing the old residents with new ones with bigger incomes, who also tend to be white. As Ratcliff explained, this is only one of their crimes, with the other being, to build their newest housing settlement, Lennar is cutting through serpentine rock in the earth, which projects asbestos dust all over the community, leading basically to a poisoning of the unwanted, largely Black population that resides in Hunters Point now.

Ratcliff talked about the “Yes on Prop. F” campaign, which would mandate that 50 percent of all new housing built in San Francisco be sold or rented at rates affordable to the current population, which means that half of everything Lennar builds in HP would have to be affordable. Lennar calls Proposition F a “poison pill” that would make them pull out of Hunters Point, a result that Ratcliff said the community would celebrate. He also made the connection between police terror and murder in the community, politicians and preachers being bought off by Lennar, and the land grab.

It was a historical night, with Prisoners of Conscience Committee (POCC) members from across the country being in attendance, along with Joyce Gordon, who owns a prominent Black art gallery in downtown Oakland, and Geoffrey Pete, who owns a prominent Black club in downtown Oakland. POCC Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. gave the crowd the last comment of the night.

If y’all missed out, you need to see “Banished” at the next Bay View newspaper fundraiser and get involved in these community discussions that are taking place around the Bay Area regarding land systematically being grabbed in Black communities all over the nation.

Email POCC Minister of Information JR at blockreportradio@gmail.com and visit www.blockreportradio.com, hiphopwarreport.com and myspace.com/blockreportfilm.