Black activists leading the struggle against foreclosures welcomes OWS to their communities
ANDALUSIA KNOLL, TRNN: As police evict Occupy encampments across the country, protesters have regrouped in communities connecting with other movements fighting for social and economic justice. December 6 was declared a national day to occupy our homes, an action to take over abandoned and foreclosed homes. In New York City, Occupy Wall Street joined with community organizations with over 1,000 people marching through East New York, a low-income community of color in Brooklyn that has been heavily hit by foreclosures, at a rate five times higher than the rest of the state. The protests were part of an orchestrated blitz of actions throughout New York and across the country. Mimi Pierre Johnson has been fighting the foreclosure of her home for the past four years and started organizing against foreclosures with New York Communities for Change.
MIMI PIERRE JOHNSON: Now you have home after home that are foreclosed. And with that comes you don’t know who’s moving in. There are a lot of scams that’s going on right now because of this. And, you know, the homes are empty. So people are moving in and renting out to people, and they don’t even own the homes. It is the foreclosures not only are devastating communities, devastating families, and devastating the real estate industry, the construction industry. So if the government is not willing to do something extraordinary to take back these homes and help the homeowners, then this is what we have to do. We have to take the street, take the homes back, and take our streets back. And this is basically what’s happening all across this country today.
KNOLL: Back in September, Malik Rahsaan helped launch the Occupy the Hood movement to connect the issues that poor communities of color face with the Occupy Wall Street movement and to bring actions like this one to neighborhoods throughout the city.
MALIK RAHSAAN, OCCUPY THE HOOD: When the white community has a cold, the black community as a flu. I mean, it’s always been the case. I don’t want to blame it on anybody, but when you’re a person of color, you know, poverty, you get hit the most. We’re like the canary in the mine. So if we’re not doing well, you know, the rest of America’s not doing well. You know. And that’s how it goes. You know. So even this movement that’s come out of Occupy Wall Street, we’ve been having these complaints from day one. Foreclosures are not new. Predatory home lending is not new. None of these things. Low wages are not new. I mean, it starts with us first.
CHANTING: This is what democracy looks like! Show me what democracy looks like!
KNOLL: As the march weaved through the streets of East New York from one foreclosed home to another, those who were at risk of losing their homes in the neighborhood joined in.
TERRENCE LOCKE, FORECLOSED HOME OWNER: –getting three or four hundred thousand Christmas bonuses while we’re suffering. We can’t even feed our–we’ve got to make the choice between eating and having a roof over our head. So what are we going to do? We’re going to either put ourselves out in the street–or what? This is what’s going on, and it’s bad.
KNOLL: Other East New York residents stood on the side, but also voiced their support.
GREGORY TEFFLEN, EAST NEW YORK RESIDENT: Yeah, I’m cool, ’cause I’ve never seen nothing like this in my neighborhood. So I’m supporting it.
JARMUSE TEFFLEN, EAST NEW YORK RESIDENT: Whatever y’all got going on here is very, very, very positive, ’cause we have a lot of bad things going in this community. For some reason [incompr.] forget about us. The only thing they’ve got here is cops, cops, cops, cops, which is–they’re really not doing nothing but harassing people. So, basically, like, they don’t have, like, no type of program for the kids.
SYONIE, ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENT: I want them to have their homes back, their jobs back, and their dignity.
KNOLL: The march paused at a foreclosed home, where a 30-year-old man, Quincy Drayton, told his story to the crowd.
QUINCY DRAYTON, FORECLOSED HOME OWNER: I’m Quincy, and I’m getting evicted. Somebody stole my deed, and I’m being evicted today. I have a mortgage that I have to pay back, but I’m still being evicted.
KNOLL: He later explained that he had been tricked into signing his deed over to someone without understanding that the repercussions would be losing his home. Some march participants accompanied him to his house to successfully resist his eviction that was scheduled for the same time as this day of action. The march culminated at a block party, where a homeless family had taken over abandoned home to live in, with the support of community organizations and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Alfredo Carrasquillo, the father of this family and a member of Vocal New York, a community group comprised of people affected by HIV/AIDS, drug use, and mass incarceration, addressed the crowd.
ALFREDO CARRASQUILLO, VOCAL-NY MEMBER: I want to thank all you people who came out today in the rain, with nasty weather, and supported us in this occupation. This moment is really special.
KNOLL: Wayne Stark, a board member of Vocal New York, says the Wall Street movement shed light on the greed of the banks, and that they are showing here what that relation is to homelessness.
WAYNE STARKS, VOCAL-NY BOARD MEMBER: –okay, because the banks are holding on to all these properties and they’re not renting them out, they’re not doing anything with them. So we’re going to make sure that they start doing something with these properties, and that’s putting homeless people into these properties. There’s no sense of them just being sitting out here. I heard something today that struck me very, very hard: there’s more unoccupied housing than there are homeless people. To me, why not put all the homeless people in all the occupied housing? So this is what we’re starting to do. We’re starting to take back our communities and put the people back into their community and back into their home.
KNOLL: March participants vowed to support the family as they continue to occupy their home, and to also bring actions like this to other communities across the city. Andalusia Knoll reporting for The Real News, Brooklyn, New York.
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