by Tiny Gray-Garcia, POOR Magazine
Decolonizing or dying?
I mean how can we talk about just transfers
and still b owning her while she b desecrated and yet we keep buying and selling and buying
Mama earth is who I speak of
Our great mama who like our mamas we only have one of
Leads to all these violent Evictions and sweeps that got us poor peoples dying
From Winnemucca to Wood Street to around the corner from 1st nations elders to grandmamama like iris Canadá and elaine turner
Buying selling renting and dwelling – if u po’ u lucky if u win the real esnake monopoly end up housed instead of at the mercy of scamlords, poLice and more jailing
If u worked all yo life to own yo spot – I ain’t mad at ya – it’s all we been taught
Sold and told it’s what we shud attain jus to b safe in a krapitalist pyramid game that keeps poor people in chains breaking poor peoples backs grown on poor peoples labor and intentional poverty by the ongoing lie of private property
Would u sell yo own mama ?
Would u put her on the auction block
Would u evict and sweep
So u never have to see
How much she got robbed, thawed and bought
What’s the answer ?
Clarifying the problem
It’s a complete stop to same ole same ole process
Stop the Wealth hoarders so can’t steal and profit
And tell the Philanthro-pimps don’t dole out yo blood-stained dollars
Cuz they stop exchanging mama earth on the market
Begins by questioning all you have bought
All you have been sold and all u have been taught
Fight for 1st Nations and Black land BACK
Fight for no more hygienic metaphors about the poor
Question the multiple lies of rent
The scamlord and the poverty pimp
The ones you pay to keep a roof
The one Who gets paid to Help you while seeing your struggle as moot
Fight for her –
Your mama –
our mama – our Mama Earth
fight for her so we all stop this hurt
“A lot of us elders, disabled elders, who have been here for decades have been evicted and are now homeless,” said Jim Ayer, one of many lifelong First Nations residents of the Winnemucca Indian Colony which was “established” by the US settler government in 1917 for “homeless indians.”
The Winnemucca tragedy which ended in the eviction of scores of long-time elder Indigenous residents of the colony on Dec. 2 is sickeningly ironic as the “colony” is on land already stolen from First Nations peoples to make them “homeless” in the first place and now in the 21st century, Indigenous peoples from Turtle Island in many settler towns make up the majority of the unhoused population in their community.
“200 years ago before colonization there wasn’t even a concept of homelessness,” said talking chief and spokesperson of the confederated villages of Lisjan-Ohlone and co-founder of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust at a powerful shellmound to shellmound walk from the over 5,000-year-old shellmound in West Berkeley to the centuries old shellmound in Emeryville which the settlers and CorpRapeshuns turned into a mall.
Poverty has been a consumer product of krapitalism since the settlers first came here, as a matter of fact, poverty and disability was a crime in all the countries the settlers came from.
So where did homelessness come from?
Its origins are not, as many 21st century researchers will tell you, because of lack of rent control, redlining, violence, trauma or profiling, ableism, racism, eviction and gentriFUKation, those are most definitely what has made homelessness go to terrifying epidemic levels.
But these are not its roots, and homelessness as we now experience it could not have taken hold had it not been for the original theft of Turtle Island, implementation of the deep settler lie of private property to launch the real eSnake speculative industry and a multitude of extractive industries set up because of that original theft for, profit, extraction and colonization.
“I’ve been staying under the 101 offramp on and off for the last five years and then one day, they came and took all my belongings and threatened me with with guns if I didn’t leave,” said Rogelio G., an elder migrante houseless relative from Michoacan, Mexico, now residing houseless in San Francisco.
So why are the origins necessary to see clearly? Because it enables us to clarify what we are fighting against and fighting for. While we recognize the violence of homelessness, including death from exposure, sweeps and poLice terror.
The criminal acts called sweeps against houseless people’s bodies are increasing from Seattle to San Francisco and they are directly tied to the commodification and decolonization of Mama Earth.
Settler poltricksters want us to be CONfused so we don’t question, upset and resist the original crime. So we don’t all recognize our deep connections to each other’s struggles as houseless people, Black, Brown, Indigenous, migrante and even po Wite or what i call broken settlers.
Instead we demand land from systems put in place by the settler government that will NEVER give us “land” because it was taken for the sole purpose of profit. We demand actual affordable housing, which will NEVEr happen because then no-one would make money on that housing.
We demand access to not be poLiced and incarcerated for sitting, standing, walking, sleeping on Mama Earth without paying ground rent, which will NEVER happen because we are taking up space without paying for it and therefore no-one is making any money on the spaces we inhabit – not to mention our mere presence, “lowering property values,” as we poor people are told by scamlords, realEnakes and racist, classist neighbors all the time.
So as we resist the onslaught of violent criminalization and sweeps against our unhoused bodies all across this occupied land we need to incorporate the larger demand of decolonization. It’s not enough to fight against criminalization, we need to fight against the settler lie of ownership of Mama Earth itself.
How is ownership of Mama Earth a lie?
Well technically, it’s not a lie, because ownership of Mama Earth happens everyday, everywhere and in occupied Turtle Island aka the US, it is the most “solid” krapitalist investment there is, as reported by ekkkonomists constantly. But all Indigenous peoples and ancestors across Mama Earth will tell you Mama Earth has not now, nor ever will be for sale, and selling, renting, profiting and extracting from her and off of her is the roots of most colonial terror we deal with today, including poLice terror, gentriFUKation/displacement, eviction violence and of course the endless laws created to criminalize poor and disabled people from being alive on her without paying money to someone, aka rent.
The settler colonial narrative of ownership began way back with the feudal societies creating papers and documents asserting that they owned Indigenous peoples lands of origin in Europe, launching the idea of the landed gentry – the roots of gentriFUkation – and then suddenly charging people rent for the lands they had peacefully stewarded for centuries, this led to massive evictions and huge and deadly exoduses by people.
One of the most famous examples was the wrongly named potato famine – it should have been called the scamlord famine because what is rarely talked about is it led to the eviction of literally hundreds of thousands of Indigenous peoples from their lands.
Historians and others have long debated the exact number of people who were evicted during the famine years, with some estimates suggesting between 250,000 and 500,000 families were removed.
But the famine evictions were part of the second wave of deadly evictions – preceded by the Pauper Laws (anti-poor people law), which of course was the precursor for the anti-poor people, anti-houseless people laws we have today in the United Snakes.
Famine era evictions occurred in four great waves. Firstly, following the introduction of the Irish Poor Law Act in 1838, landlords began to remove tenants, ushering them to the newly created workhouse system where they were somebody else’s problem.
At those times, just like now, it mattered not if you were an elder, disabled, sick or a child, if you were in the way of profiting off of rent you were evicted. Period. Thrown on the street with the clear knowledge you might die. This kind of evil became the template for removal that was codified and exported into the genocidal style of land removal and land theft when the same wealthy slave and land-owner class came here to suddenly “own” Turtle Island.
And then of course all these lies (I mean laws) led to the Ugly Laws and the criminalization of being disabled and poor in so-called public, which was just another way to profit off of poor people’s bodies by throwing them in jail and settlement houses – the early forms of shelters which were supported by the settler governments again.
The public relations project called ‘parks’
As concerns about the impacts of development grew, and illegal land use by corporations expanded, a new idea emerged. A number of leaders including President Theodore Roosevelt, naturalist John Muir, and Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, began to advocate for some of the lands in the public domain to be set aside for the use and enjoyment of all people.
At the turn of the century, settler heroes like John Muir rode in with their lie of Parkkks, forest service, Teddy Roosevelt and the equally CONfusing lie of public land to wash their genocide, land theft, slaughter and extraction with supposed public good land grabs which was even more stolen land Indigenous land mass across Turtle Island.
The funny not funny thing about parks in today’s reality is several houseless folks hide and sleep and live in parks like me and my mama used to do, but god forbid don’t get “caught” by the park poLice who will not only tell you to move but also call the poLice, CPS, DPW, CalTrans and any other acronym state agencies on you to sweep us like we are trash.
Similarly, with the hypoCrazy of parks, aka so-called public land, our comrades at Self-Help Hunger program (SHHP) are another ridiculous hypoCrazy example. the SHHP transformed a pocket park into a food giveaway, love and healing space, and was constantly harassed for using public land for the “public” good, as founder Aunti Frances often beautifully says.
The violence of homelessness itself and its connection to colonization
Strangely, there is a misperception that movements for BlackLand, First Nations LandBack and Homelessness are separate. They are actually entwined in more ways than one. In many settler towns across Turtle Island, like so-called Bellingham and Seattle, the largest population of houseless people are in fact First Nations peoples of that land.
In addition, in Oakland, like in so many settler cities, the largest population of unhoused peoples are Black and then finally in many cities, the broken settler stories, poor wite people are also huge populations of houseless people. Our lives intersect on the street, with all of our messiness, trauma and struggle. And is why the roots of this krapitalist disease called “ownership” must be dissected and seen and decolonized.
“Do you see that houseless mama and daughter sleeping in a tent, that’s cause we don’t have money for the rent.” – Povertyskola
There are many reasons we got here, not the least of which is systemic racism, wite supremacy, fake-ass skool profiling, profiling, poLice terror, abuse, domestic violence and more trauma than can fill a settler dam, but the thing in this society that brings us all together, democratizes our struggle, is the inability to function within a system that puts a price tag on the Mama Earth below our feet or our tent. To be exact: Our inability to pay rent. Even if we lose our places because we had to flee an abusive partner, lost our job, got in struggle with addiction, can’t take the pain inside our heads, we are never able to get back in.
Sup. Matt Haney of San Francisco just put a legislation out that I thought was interesting: To cap the security deposit that scamlords charge equivalent to one month’s rent. As it now is, it can be up to three or more months’ rent that these scamlords charge prospective tenants just to get inside, not to mention insane credit and job requirements that no-one low/no-income or houseless can ever attain.
But the oddest thing to me was that the example given in the report was a $5,000 per month two-bedroom apartment. Who can afford $5,000 per month in the first place, even if we only have to pay one month’s rent deposit?
Back in the day when me and mama were houseless, she would insist that my 12-year-old self would don the “rent starter” suit and leverage my skin privilege to lie to scamlords about my job, credit, age and ability to pay exorbitant rents. Racism is alive and well in the United Snakkkes so they would often believe me instead of my single, disabled mama of color, about making ridiculous sums of money and having all kinds of credit.
The sad part is that within months, no matter how hard we worked, we couldn’t keep up the rent, and we worked really hard all the time at a micro-business, and the rent at that time was between $800-$1,100 per month for studios and one-bedrooms in Oakland and San Francisco. In the end, landing us outside. Again.
Ownership is your ticket out of poverty
In the process of decolonizing our minds from ownership, there remains the reality that “ownership” is told and sold to poor people as the “way to make it” out of grinding poverty. We are sent to workshops and bombarded with ads about how buying is surviving. I know this is true and I ain’t hating no-one that got their little piece of Mama Earth. But I also know that the system is set up to steal poor people’s land and homes.
This is the story of Brokin Cloud, an Afro-Indigenous elder who was on the street for 15 years after his aunty lost the house she worked her whole life to buy behind an unpaid tax lien. His aunty’s spirit was destroyed by all that, and his as well – called “service-resistant” by anti-social workers and case manglers. He is now finally homeFULL, in his rent-free home at Homefulness.
Not to mention the thousands of elders coldly and violently evicted due to the viscous-ness of gentriFUKation, to their death as POOR Magazine has reported for years. Eviction is Elder Abuse was a campaign POOR Magazine launched and was supported by many other organizations, but shot down by then-District Attorney George Gascon.
Finally, our homelessness and our homefulness is absolutely connected to our collective liberation and Mama Earth’s decolonization and this story is a plea to other povertyskolaz and badass organizers to join POOR Magazine in recognizing that homelessness is much deeper than we have been fighting for and so our fight and resistance must be rooted in Mama Earth’s beautiful soil. Our guides and our leaders must be First Nations/Indigenous ancestors and their descendents, from Huichun to Palestine, from West Papua to Puerto Rico. And together we can UnSell and Unsettle Mama Earth for her and all of us.
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.