Part 2

by Tiny, aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, Poor News Network

“We are surrounded by Black cops,” said Leroy Moore, with POOR Magazine and Krip Hop Nation, about the 15 Black cops who surrounded us houseless and formerly houseless mamas, uncles, children and elders from the Poor People’s March when we walked humbly into the Washington, D.C., office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to demand our housing back.

Cheri and Tiny, “guarded” by cops, “sit in” at HUD’s DC headquarters when their request to meet with HUD Secretary Ben Carson was initially rebuffed. The creation of HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) in 1965 was applauded by the Left for its intent to be the federal government’s advocate and supporter of poor people. Instead, it has been a cash cow for developers. – Photo: Tiburcio Garcia

“We are here to meet with Ben Carson,” we all said.

We poor folks, most of whom are on Section 8, living in public housing and/or no housing at all, paid a visit to the Washington, D.C., headquarters of HUD on Day 12 of the Poor People’s March from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., only to be surrounded by police officers (all of color), blocking us at the door when all we asked for was a meeting with the housing director, Ben Carson, who is fulfilling the neoliberal and neoconservative dreams of dismantling poor people housing as we know it.

“HUD changing their own door locks to keep us out is a perfect metaphor for the ways poor folks are locked out, swept up and treated as though we are trash, when we are evicted from our public and private housing and end up on the streets,” said this reporter and poverty skola Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia, about HUD actually sending locksmiths to the front of their building to change their main entrance locks.

After a tense stand-off at the HUD entrance, we were all told that one of us could get a meeting if the rest of us left the building. We figured this was another politrick, but we complied in the hopes that at least we had a slim chance of actually getting a meeting. So as we all filed out, Cheri Honkala, marcher and founder of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign in Philly, stayed inside the building, determined by any means necessary to “get a meeting.”

“We sit down with McCormack and Baron all the time,” said a smooth talking HUD public relations (PR) officer. While we were waiting “outside,” HUD’s PR person walked outside ostensibly to “answer” our questions. When I asked him about the destruction of poor people housing as we know it aka the benignly named RAD program, which sells the mortgages of public housing buildings on the private stock market to for-profit banksters like ING and Citigroup and gives the management over to for-profit and non-profit housing developers that me and we at POOR call the e-RADification program, he claimed complete ignorance about how it was rolling out in San Francisco, one of the five demonstration cities that struggled with it first before they unveiled it on the whole of the U.S.

“So you are aware that the RAD program reneges on HUD’s guarantee to provide housing for the poorest among us and is demolishing buildings all across the country, building buildings we are not able to get back in,” I asked.

Evading the question, he looked away and then came back with, “Well, in Baltimore, tenants have a written right of return guaranteeing them housing when demolitions happen.”

“You mean like the Hope VI right of return, which meant no hope and no return?”

“So you are aware that the RAD program reneges on HUD’s guarantee to provide housing for the poorest among us and is demolishing buildings all across the country, building buildings we are not able to get back in,” I asked.

“Well I don’t know about all that, but I know what we have in Baltimore.” As he was popping his Brooks Brothers collar, I was thinking to myself, that’s not what I heard from poverty skolaz in Baltimore.

“So that’s not what I have heard about Baltimore, and I know that in San Francisco the housing developers McCormack and Baron are trying to sweat out Plaza East residents by never replacing their broken appliances and plumbing and heating and making it impossible for them to getting any recourse or justice.” At that point he revealed the sick, sleazy relationship between corporate for-profit and non-profit housing developers and how they talk “all the time” and then walked away from me.

Sadly, after pretending to take Cheri up to a meeting, they just escorted her to the back entrance and when she refused to move, they arrested her. “People are afraid of us organized poor,” said Cheri Honkala as she was being dragged away from her disabled sun Guillermo and all of us by police agents of the state at HUD.

“They are selling off all of our public housing,” said Louie from Picture the Homeless, speaking to Poor News Network when we did our Stolen Land-Hoarded Resources Tour about just a part of the ongoing destruction by HUD of all of our poor people housing, a story POOR Magazine poverty skolaz Tiny and QueenandiXSheba released in 2013 in the SF Bay View.

Green Party 2012 vice-presidential candidate and founder of the Philadelphia-based Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign Cheri Honkala is arrested by Black cops at HUD headquarters in Washington, D.C. Told she could meet with Housing Secretary Ben Carson, she was escorted to a back exit and arrested when she refused to leave. – Photo: Jason Bosch

A real Poor People’s March

From San Francisco to San Juan, Puerto Rico, we Black, Brown, Indigenous, poor White, disabled, children, adults and elders all took part in this powerful poor people-led march to highlight and manifest poor people-led solutions to our crises of evictions, displacement, incarceration, criminalization and brutal anti-poor people-hate that are increasing across this stolen indigenous territory. (Read Part 1 here.)

After our first day getting police called on us for Sitting While Unhoused in amerikkklan on the porch in Philly, the police presence and harassment continued throughout this historic march. We walked past wealth-hoarders and land-stealers from Oxford, Penn., to Baltimore, Maryland. The police harassment us marchers got was an example of the micro-abuses that happen every day in amerikkka to unhoused and disabled people of all colors.

In the march they manifested as churches that “let” us stay in their basements waiting for us to leave at the crack of dawn. Or posted up in their church lobbies like we were going to steal something – not sure what, maybe a basketball hoop, considering we were in the gym sleeping on the floor.

The police harassment us marchers got was an example of the micro-abuses that happen every day in amerikkka to unhoused and disabled people of all colors.

And then we arrived in Washington, D.C., the rich white man’s house, to take back what he stole from us – like our theme song sung by Tara Colon’s beautiful daughter throughout the march reminded us. And the beautiful crazy was on.

“We have a permit,” said poet, drummer and revolutionary Pastor Bruce Wright from the Florida chapter of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign to the park police as they began an onslaught of harassment of us unhoused folks when we arrived to build Resurrection City on Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., a few blocks from the (Rich) White (Man’s) House.

“Our permit was revoked,” said Cheri Honkala to all of us. After a two hour stand-off between park ranger police and us unhoused and formerly unhoused Black, Brown and White people who built the historic Resurrection City in honor of the 50-year anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s march on Washington, our permit was revoked for no reason at all.

We weren’t causing any trouble, we weren’t fulfilling any racist and classist stereotypes about poor folks. We were just sleeping while houseless in this stolen territory – just like the multiple other unhoused folks who slept on the perimeter of Dupont Circle and were continually harassed every day by park police for the duration of our time there.

At POOR Magazine-Homefulness, we houseless and formerly houseless Black, Brown and Indigenous people learn from our teachers, elders and ancestors that parks like Dupont Circle Park and Golden Gate Park are a lie in the first place, just a way to sanction the stealing of land from First Nations people. That a “hero” like John Muir was just a sanctioned gangster who created documents that claimed ownership on huge swaths of stolen Indigenous territory on Mama Earth, locking it up and calling it “public” but never really intending it to be for “all” the public.

Marchers gather in the morning to plan their day. Making ways to achieve economic human rights takes a lot of planning and a lot of patience as people scarred by poverty struggle to build trust among and love among comrades. – Photo: Eva Cristo

Which is why revolutionary poor folks like Auntie Frances and her Self-Help Hunger Program are harassed for serving food, for living, sitting and standing or planting trees while unhoused in amerikkklan. Her attempts to put a porta pottie in gentrified Driver Plaza in North Oakland are stymied by politricksters and hipsters alike. And it’s why Corrina Gould, First Nations Ohlone-Lisjen land liberator and co-founder of Sogorea Te Land Trust and Homefulness Elephant Council member, has to fight so hard to save another sacred site, this time the West Berkeley Shellmound, from more desecration.

So there we were, the actual poor folks trying to honor, lift up, seize and manifest Dr. King’s dream – the one excerpted, sliced and diced and used over and over in propaganda in public relations campaigns for airlines to parades – and we were threatened with arrest, displaced and evicted. Another perfect metaphor for the treatment of lives and bodies of houseless people across the US.

“These are the purveyors of the American Dream, which for all of us poor folks, Black and Brown folks is the American nightmare,” said revolutionary pastor and fellow marcher Keith Collins, outside the Poor Peoples March’s last stop, the Chamber of Commerce, which, as Cheri explained, was the real power behind the (Rich) White (Man’s) House.

And as poverty skola comrades at Western Regional Advocacy Project (wraphome.org) and POOR Magazine Wesearch teach us, the chambers of commerce in every stolen city in amerikkklan are the backers and promoters of the “Business Improvement District (BID),” which is one of the reasons us poor folks are “swept” off of the sidewalks like we are trash.

This march was a really real representation of 21st century poverty and included some amazing mamaz, daddies, youth, elder and disabled skolaz providing rides, support vehicles, back up food, blankets, air mattresses, tents, love and medical support, like Lisa and Leon Richards and their fabulous daughter and photographer Eva Cristo, and all their fierce and beautiful children, Tara Colon and her sons and daughters and granddaughters, carrying us with their beautiful singing voice and support, Julia and her sun Jeremy, Cheri and her son Guillermo, and Ondre and “T” and Robert and POOR’s mentee Josie, and Eddie Somerset and his amazing brother Gaylen and Pablo and Curtis and Sha and Steve and me and my son Tiburcio and Bilal and Leroy so many more.

“This beautiful march was life-changing for me. Thank you all for your hearts and love,” said “T” one of the powerful unhoused poverty skolaz from St. Petersburg, Florida, who marched with us through thick and thin and spoke at our beautiful closing circle and prayer on July 12.

“We all know this fight isn’t over, and we as poor folks need to be leading our own fights and our own liberation,” said Pastor Bruce Wright.

For more information about the Poor People March on Washington, go to economichumanrights.org. For more information on one of the templates of poor people-led housing we po’ folks call Homefulness, go to poormagazine.org/homefulness.

Tiny – or Lisa Gray-Garcia – is co-founder with her Mama Dee 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.

3 COMMENTS

  1. That was very informative I read a lot of stuff that I did not know and I am one of those people that live in Plaza East in San Francisco and it is very true about how they are trying to push us out and I just want to say thank for shining some light on how they do try to do the poor people and the low-income people.

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