Paper knives destroy poor people’s lives

Terry-Berry-family-1400x1308, Paper knives destroy poor people’s lives, Local News & Views
Terry Berry family

by Tiny Gray-Garcia aka povertyskola, daughter of Dee , Mama of Tiburcio

From treaties to probate to evictions, Mama Earth’s commodification continues

Paper knives cut poor people’s lives 

In half 

Causing our now-houseless bodies

To crash

Into streets 

Covered in grief 

Never safe again to sleep 

Under roofs that require more paper knife proof 

That paid for yo stay otherwise u outside in one day 

“We are a multi-generational Black family of six and have been living in my husband’s childhood home for the last 10 years with my mother-in-law taking care of her and helping her pay the mortgage – and now we are homeless,” Mama and eviction survivor Terry B tried to unpack the complicated journey of her family caught, destroyed and broken by what i call the paper knives. On Po’ Peoples Radio last week, she said, “Three days after my mother-in-law’s funeral, my sister-in-law began probate.”

Terry explained the complicated, impossible process of settler lies (I mean, laws) that stole her family’s home from her family. As her tearful words poured out, I was reminded of the Sloan family,  the Williams family, the Ramirez family, Brokin Cloud and his Great Aunti Kathy Galvez, Sam Drew and his Great Great Aunti, martial arts leader and owner of Casco Martial Arts Sifu Bill Owens and his wife and  dozens more multi-generational Black, Brown and Indigenous families that this jailhouse lawyer and fellow revolutionary advocates at POOR Magazine have advocated for to get back inside. All of them lost their family homes, businesses and lives to paper knives and settler lies (laws) that have stolen poor and Indigenous people’s lands, homes and stability from them for generations. 

“She even hired the serial evictor David Bornstein to evict us,” Terry concluded. 

The story of Terry is long and winding and terrifying and, as with all the other families, intentionally complicated, requiring high priced lawyers and advocates to sift through all the lies (laws) which poor people never have resources for and are rarely. if ever, taught about.  Consequently, after terrifying  battles full of so much CONfusion, these families become houseless.

Brokin Cloud ended up on the street for over 20 years, Kathy Galvez, already a disabled elder and following a protracted battle in the courts stacked against her as a poor Black elder woman, ended up walking the streets at night with her dog, dazed and traumatized by the loss of her home of over 40 years, becoming forever locked into the Unhoused Nation. We enacted our underground SRO railroad so she got off the streets but there was no space for her belongings and she ended up losing all of her assets. 

Isn’t it “ironic” that we poor folks are systematically stolen away from anything we managed to work for, slave for, strive for, from treaties to grant deeds to foreclosures. 

How different are these pieces of paper stating you “own” Mama Earth from original treaties that stole Mama Earth from Indigenous peoples? The impossible process to understand what was never meant to be understood, to read words scrawled on pieces of paper that somehow meant you no longer had the right to live, breathe, pray or die in your lands of origin. That enabled the desecrating of the Great Mama Earth that gave your family, community and people all you needed to survive and thrive and perhaps the most violent, the desecration and destruction of your ancestors’ sacred burial grounds

“We were paying the mortgage and we were current but nothing mattered. She managed to convince the sheriff to evict us,” Terry, aka Mr. Lewis, told us.

It must also be said that families become so blinded by greed for the blood-stained dollar that they turn inward on their own family. This happens constantly because of the violent lies of so-called private property. As long as Mama Earth remains a commodity to be bought and sold for profit and paper dollars, we can’t change that, but we can look systemically at the lies that privileged people with more legal access and paper access and markers of krapitalist success automatically garner more support in the courts than poorer people with no money for lawyers and arbitrators.

These same paper knives turn into the daggers called unlawful detainers, the multiple processes that enable the eviction of Black and Brown and poor people from their homes of decades – elders like 100-year-old Iris Canada. POOR Magazine and other advocates were able to prove that their evictions were actual abuse under penal codes of elder abuse in the state of California. 

Stand with Mr. Lewis

In the sea of so much sorrow, we were excited and honored to hear the story of Mr. Lewis, an elder fighting eviction from his family home, supported by the beautiful revolutionaries at Moms4Housing and CRC 

(Community Ready Corp) which quelled another in a long list of eviction attempts made against Mr. Lewis. 

“Her stated goal is to put us out on the streets. Her and attorney Bornstein claim we are squatters in our own home, a home we pay the mortgage on. We have never ‘paid rent.’” Terry concluded our very sad interview for Po Peoples Radio with this kind of tongue twisting impossibility. 

At this point, Terry’s family is literally on the street. We are trying to raise money to get them into a motel. And we need an attorney to get them some rights in that completely unjust, arbitrary probate court system where the well funded parties always take legal precedence over any kind of so-called justice. The liberation lawyers at Sustainable Economies Law Center are also working to support them and we are planning a press conference soon. 

To support the family, please email or, if you can, donate directly through Venmo to poor-magazine and note it’s for Terry B’s family. 

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 many more and co-founder of Homefulness, a homeless people’s solution to homelessness. Reach her at or @povertyskola on Twitter.