by Tiny Gray-Garcia aka @povertyskola
A Houseless Baby was born in a porta potty
On BlackArthur in Deep East Oakland on the eve of MLK’s born day
Could it be the 21st century Baby Yeshua (Jesus)
Or just another Homeless person that makes u look away from us
Cuz … there is no manger
But there is endless eviction, jail cells and danger
For that baby’s houseless mama to hide from in exchange for physical labor –
To cry from –
To seek poisons to deny from –
To sleep when u can’t cry or ever get love
And there is no Room at the Inn –
Cuz poltricksters and poLice keep sweeping us instead of give us Houzin
To dream there might be another way
Or just another Homeless person that makes u look away
Cuz you can’t figure it out – and anyway,
your also Burnt out
A Baby was born in a porta potty that we rented at Homefulness because when you are in poverty
your body and its functions are criminalized for trying to pee …
A Baby was born to a houseless mama at Homefulness on the eve of Dr. King’s born day …
And I like to think that it was Dr. King’s Dream to lift that baby and all of us Up
The unSeen, the rarely dreamed –
the swept, the kicked, the notices to evict and us
the ones no-one wants to B
I like to think Dr. King Dreamed this baby into life
Who was spit out of her mama’s womb by torture, terror and unspeakable strife
Who landed in the hole with the shit and the pee – the places and the ways people think of us without a roof should actually be
Me, my mama Dee, Aunti Frances, Leroy, Israel, Muteado, Corrina and So many of we have a dream too – standing into – living into Dr. King’s dream – of mama earth liberation not more poor people eradication –
We have a dream – But will the Oakland Politricksters be able to see? Will the permit gangsters block us yet again with all their fake reasons and requirements for more money –
will a homeless, landless peoples’ self-determined movement even be able to be?
Right here on BlackArthur in Deep East Huchuin where a baby was born in a porta potty to a destroyed and terrorized mama
Who had nothing left inside her to care for her own daughter
A Baby was born in a porta potty – And believe it or not Dr. King is with us lifting up that tiny body and crying out – so loud – so clear – I have a dream – to not die
to be healthy, housed
to mamaFest liberation into a poor baby’s LIFE.
At 11:30 p.m. on the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King’s born day, a houseless sister walked into the porta potty on the sacred land we houseless peoples call Homefulness and had a baby.
The exact trail of that walk is important to the village system we operate under at Homefulness and what we teach to fellow poverty skolaz and radical redistributors at PeopleSkool, as it is the foundation of what we call love-work, a direct resistance to the extractive systems of so-called hellthcare and the poLicing and baby-stealing of the anti-social work industry.
It also must be said that we, houseless, poor, Indigenous and disabled peoples with no money ourselves who are all formerly or currently houseless at POOR Magazine and Homefulness are only able to rent this disability accessible outdoor bathroom which costs over $600 per month because of the radically redistributed ComeUnity Reparations dollars we raise from housed and owning class people who have graduated from PeopleSkool and live into the teachings we share rooted in the poor people theory of Poverty Scholarship.
To tell this herstory of love and creation, we must begin with the story of the two Israels.
The tale of two Israels
Homefulness, in addition to five houseless families, myself and my co-suns included, is “home” to two Indigenous, migrante, houseless poverty skolaz. One of them is Israel No. 2, who lives unhoused in the carPartments – as I call them – directly in front of Homefulness and who we support with food, work, roofs, kkkop-guarding and bathroom use.
He operates low-key security and vigilance on the land, which all of us very close to the ground always do, works and gets paid a living wage with the Homefulness work crew and is supported by us in multiple other ways.
Israel No. 1 is a formerly houseless single father who last year built his own home at Homefulness and is now permanently and safely housed. He is one of our co-leaders and poverty skolaz who also does front-line advocacy and support, is a founding member of the Love-Security Team of Homefulness and one of our many Poverty Scholarship-informed tactics of never calling the poLice.
The trail of love
At 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 14 a young houseless woman, who stayed part-time in one of the carPartments after being evicted with her man from a nearby motel, walked into the porta potty at Homefulness. After a few minutes, Israel No. 2 heard a whimper, then a soft scream for help, and ran into the porta potty – only to find a woman giving birth.
He ran to Israel No. 1, who then ran to Muteado Silencio, co-leader and co-founder of Homefulness, who then ran to me, Tiny, co-leader and co-founder, who then told the youth poverty skola co-suns, residents of Homefulness, and we all ran out.
The scream was coming from the “hole,” this powerFull infant standing up, on top of all of that shit and pee, demanding life.
Within seconds of our arrival, it was unclear to any of us what exactly was happening. And then we heard a faint scream. Mama had already walked out of the porta potty in a terrified daze.
The scream was coming from the “hole” aka the place our bodily waste goes. I screamed to Israel No. 2, “The baby is in there! Get the baby out of the toilet!” He reached in and there she was, this powerFull infant standing up, on top of all of that shit and pee, demanding life. Israel No. 2 wrapped this fierce baby in one of Israel No. 1’s blankets and swaddled her and cleaned her off.
Within seconds the kkkops and paramedics arrived. And then the questions and criminalizing gazes began. But this no-poLice-calls-ever village of houseless, Indigenous peoples at Homefulness immediately gave a “statement” to the poLice clearly explaining away all the criminal “intent” the state endlessly places on our poor and houseless bodies. We also demanded that mama accompany baby to the hospital. And no poverty skolaz were incarcerated in the birthing of this fierce life
“How did I do that?” Mama walked slowly up the dirt path from BlackArthur to Homefulness the next morning and met me and Israel No. 2 in front of the Ancestor Forest. Mama’s deep Black eyes shone light, with little sparks, as she shook her head and repeated, “I don’t know how I did that,” to both of us.
“Because you are a fierce, life-giving mama,” I said to her. A smile I had not ever seen transformed her tired face.
“Gracias a ustedes,” she said softly, almost a whisper. “Mil gracias. Thank you both,” she repeated.
knowing we would not judge her, criminalize or hate her, but rather would help her – from one survivor, houseless person to another
There are so many things to say about this moment. Some details we can’t say, to protect mama and baby. But the lessons for anyone reading this, the traumatized almost-childs becoming mamas, the pain and violence that we women bodied people hold and normalize. The colonization of birth, life-giving and mamahood.
The criminalization of poor mamaz and children, and the work of bringing back our fierce birth workers like sistar Mama Juju Angeles and Samsarah Morgan. The racism and classism of the Western industrial hellthcare complex and the struggle to bring racial justice, disability justice and poverty justice into those spaces, which POOR works on doing all the time, as do some fierce infiltrators like Ana Rebeca Delgado and Rupa Marya at UCSF.
But it is also about homelessness, Poverty Scholarship-informed actions versus profit-driven Savior Industrial Complex, ComeUnity Reparations and ultimately and most importantly Homefulness, a homeless people’s solution to homelessness.
This young sis, caught in the multiple struggles of her own mind and involvement with an abusive relationship that abruptly ended, was left outside, alone and pregnant and not even able to think about the life growing inside her and unable to even tell anyone or seek help. She told us she had never even gone in for prenatal care.
This young houseless mama felt safe enough to walk onto Homefulness, knowing our culture and already receiving support from us in many ways, journey into that bathroom, knowing we would not judge her, criminalize or hate her, but rather would help her – from one survivor, houseless person to another.
We pay $600 per month for an accessible and clean bathroom, until the city stops blocking us at every turn and we can build our own.
This is the magic of Poverty Scholarship-informed housing, the very housing the city of Oakland is blocking from opening. This is the magic of Poverty Scholarship-informed radical redistribution which currently supports over 810 poor and houseless residents of Oakland and San Francisco.
Our pee is not illegal
When the houseless residents of BlackArthur needed an uncriminalized, safe place to relieve themselves, aka urinate and defecate, we went to POOR Magazine’s solidarity family of radical redistributors and the sacred, Poverty Scholarship-informed vessel we call the Bank of ComeUnity Reparations and set up a withdrawal of $600 per month to pay for an accessible and clean bathroom, until the city stops blocking us at every turn and we can build our own.
So while these kolonial named towns, built on stolen, Indigenous lands, perpetrate on their poor residents the settler colonial lies of scarcity, Mama Earth commodification, predation, evictions, sweeps and hate like San Francisco, Oakland, Austin and Eugene do, we counter with Homefulness the World.
As soon as we can open our housing, we will be launching a poor people free healing clinic with leaders like Sistar Juju co-leading, just like our jailhouse lawyering clinic we hold right now at Sliding Scale Cafe to help families for free who are facing eviction.
Homefulness is rent-free, love-filled housing rooted in struggle and resistance, which is why we counter the scarcity and poor-people-hate question always being asked, “What should we do about the Homeless problem?” with listen, follow houseless and Indigenous people’s leadership for MamaEarth and her Earth peoples, cause all of us together cannot continue to operate in this same hater scarcity model.
And if you won’t listen to this poverty skola, maybe you can do it so this tiny new life, who is so determined to live, can lead the next generation into liberation, love and support.
The DeGentriFUKation and Decolonization Seminar at PeopleSkool, which is only offered twice a year, is coming up on Jan. 29 and 30 – to register go to this link. To support us with your radical redistribution go to www.poormagazine.org/rev_donor or @poor-magazine on Venmo.
To get a copy of “Poverty Scholarship: Poor People-led Theory, Art, Words and Tears” or any of our other publications or curriculum, go to poorpress.net. To invite me to speak or teach at your community, go to www.lisatinygraygarcia.com – or follow me @povertyskola on IG or Twitter.
Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia, aka “povertyskola,” is a poet, teacher and the formerly houseless, incarcerated daughter of Dee and mama of Tiburcio and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America” and “Poverty Scholarship: Poor People-led Theory, Art, Words and Tears Across Mama Earth” and co-founder of Homefulness, a homeless people’s solution to homelessness. Reach her at www.lisatinygraygarcia.com or @povertyskola on Twitter.