“Nobody should be put out alone into this cold night,” said Benita Turner, mother of Jessica St Louis, who died after being released from Santa Rita County Jail at 1:30 a.m. on July 28. “We want to make sure that we are gathered here to remember that a woman lost her life because this institution thought it was OK to release a young woman at 1:30 in the morning,” said community organizer Sister Krea Cristina Gomez to the large crowd that gathered for the vigil.
“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. “We are here to meet with Ben Carson,” we all said.
There we were – the unhoused, the evicted, the displaced, the disabled, Black, Brown, Indigenous, poor white, youth and elders on one accord, all colors, all nations, all cultures, all ages, all abilities. The 2018 Poor Peoples March on Washington was originally launched by impacted poor, houseless and formerly unhoused people from the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign 15 years ago. Poor folks walked in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor Peoples March on Washington in 1968.
“This is the Black Panthers’ vision, and it’s being evicted,” said Aunti Frances Moore, revolutionary founder of the Self-Help Hunger Program and poverty skola and teacher with POOR Magazine, speaking on the impending eviction from her North Oakland home of eight years and the base of her deep rooted revolutionary community work with the Self-Help Hunger Program at Driver Plaza, a small pocket park at 61st and Adeline, a block away from her apartment.
There are so many untold stories of how and why people become un-housed. Loss of a job, a partner, the onset of an illness or a crisis, but most of the time, in the Bay Area, it’s because of a greed-inspired landlord raising rent, evicting for profit so he or she can house the droves of 20-30-something wealthy, mostly white people streaming into town for the tech industry.
Constant boos, shouts to fire Chief Suhr and Ed Lee and get justice for Mario Woods, Alex Nieto and so many more came from both second floor sides of the rotunda filled with angry community folks, drowning out the ceremony. Finally the tragic inauguration comedy was over, but not before at least 15 people were dragged out, several arrested and hundreds more unsuccessfully intimidated for the sole act of not being OK with this theft of a public office, a city and thousands of our lives.
The broken windows model of policing uses code words like “disorder” and the metaphor of “broken windows,” focusing on the importance of “fixing,” aka policing, getting rid of, cleaning out broken windows as a way of “preventing” more “serious crime.” The poor, disabled and houseless scholars from POOR Magazine who have experienced the violence of this private policing launched the WeSearch Policy Group in 2013.
I listened as the supervisor at the Housing Authority of Monterey County rattled off a long list of reasons that they thought released their agency from any responsibility for the crisis of Bessie Taylor and her disabled son Devonte, who are now living houselessly in Salinas, California, because the Housing Authority took too long to move on the family’s reasonable accommodation claim, and they subsequently lost their home of 22 years.
Auntie Francis is a woman who all of us at Deecolonize Academy’s Revolutionary Youth Media Education Program hold close to our heart. She started a program called Auntie Francis Love Mission Self-Help Hunger Program where she feeds her community every Tuesday at Driver Plaza in North Oakland. People really appreciate the love and the effort that she puts into making sure that they are taken care of and well fed.
Maya Angelou had to be the name of a poet. It is too perfect, too lyrical to fit any other personality. She blazed an incandescent streak across the heavens as the voice of memory – as poet, actress, author and activist. She taught generations of students as an honored professor of literature. As a young woman, she struck the boards as an African dancer. And she was a close friend and colleague of Malcolm X.
The San Francisco Housing Commission meeting of Sept. 4 on a new acronym called Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), code for selling public housing to private investors, was still. Still like a grave. A grave for all us poor people destroyed by the massive privatization of our public housing. Us unprioritized and barely housed, the forgotten elders and disabled folks, the very poor, the displaced, now houseless and rarely remembered.
As the corporate domination of our food, land, air and water continues and the resistance heats up to the monster known as Monsanto, it must be said that in the U.S. it’s us po’ folks of all cultures and ages that are getting the worst of it. Some obvious, most not. And no one is really speaking for us. “The poor people’s plate is rooted in capitalist hate for the three job working mamaz caught in the welfare state.”
This is but one example of many acts of interdependence, love and revolution achieved by our family of poor and indigenous peoples at POOR Magazine. It is how we walk, live, struggle, dream, activate and revolutionize. It is what launched Homefulness, it is what started POOR Magazine and it is what kept me and my po’ Black-Indian Mama Dee alive.
From the Mission District in San Francisco, to West, North and now East Oakland, several neighborhoods in LA, young Black and Brown men, convening, talking, laughing, being young, are viewed as “dangerous,” “suspect” or criminal. Laws like the gang injunction are instituted and applied, and eventually we are completely wiped away like we were never there.
Unseen scars are what so many of our single parents in poverty are struggling with, living with, pushing through. Add the requisite criminalization of poor parents through welfare systems, child protective services, landlords and school systems and, for immigrant parents, the anti-immigrant hate and racism; it is a constant battlefield.
It had been over 20 years since me and my mama were houseless on the streets of LA, sleeping in our car and facing police harassment for the sole act of being poor and without a roof in the U.S. The only place we could go to get a break was skid row because it was the one place the police seemed to leave us alone. Now I was back, but something was bizarrely wrong.
The story of the violent crime of foreclosure and its roots in capitalist greed has been covered, albeit rarely, in mainstream and independent media. But the never heard voices are those of the thousands of families and disabled elders – majority people of color, like Ms. Galves – who have been literally thrown into the streets post-foreclosure and are now homeless.
From Philly to New Jersey, from the South Bronx to Haiti, us po’ folks don’t need Hurricane Sandy to have a crisis, ‘cause we already in Hurricane Survival. Between gentriFUKation, removal, violence, poverty and struggle just to be housed and clothed and fed and safe, the crisis called Sandy is just one more thing to deal with in an already impossible situation.