Volume 21, Number 6
Mississippi’s SB 2988
Bruce k. Gagnon
A War on Communities
Z magazine Readers
Sean Bell Verdict
Damming the Flood
Triumph of Lunacy
Dr. Wall Street
Colombia Trade Deal
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
War on Communities
This foreclosure crisis isn't just about people losing their homes," said Cheryl Lawrence, tenant organizer for City Life/Vida Urbana in Boston, Massachusetts. "It's about people losing their communities, their neighbors, the relationships they have with others that give them history and make them feel connected."
I spoke to Lawrence at an 8:30 AM rally in front of the Meyers's family home in Dorchester, Massachusetts on April 16, 2008. The police were scheduled to show up that morning to evict ten people from the three-family home they were renting.
"This is an amazing case," explained Steve Meacham, another tenant organizer from City Life. "US Bank/Wells Fargo/Premier Servicers foreclosed on the owner and are now trying to evict everyone in the building. That includes four brothers and sisters and a licensed day care center. Each household was paying rent of $1,000-$1,300 before foreclosure. They are willing to pay rent again. The bank will not accept it."
The statistics on foreclosure are alarming. The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that two million homeowners who have been sold unfair and deceptive loans will face foreclosure in the next two to three years. Over the last 4 years, there has been an almost 300 percent increase in the dollar amount of subprime loans outstanding. One in five subprime mortgages originating during the past two years is likely to end in foreclosure. In Boston alone, 2,000 families will face eviction in 2008.
But the statistics don't tell the full story. "At a tenant meeting last night," Lawrence told me, "I spoke with someone whose grandmother's house had recently been foreclosed. This was the house where family members had been born, where they had celebrated weddings and birthdays. One of the family members is a midwife. When they have to leave their home, the community loses part of its fabric.... We're not just losing buildings. We're losing our midwives, our activists, our day cares. There is a social cost to the community, not just an economic cost."
Moments later a school bus pulled up and one of the children ran down the steps, through the crowd that had gathered to stop his family from being evicted, and up on to the bus. You could easily imagine that bus pulling up and no one being there to board. You could imagine how hard it must be to concentrate in school when you're not sure if police are moving your furniture onto the sidewalk.
"But when people gather like they are here this morning, they're saying, ‘We won't let our communities die.' We won't stand by while people suffer the trauma that comes from being uprooted from their homes."
In Boston, as well as in cities around the country, activists recognize foreclosure crisis for what it is— part of an ongoing, sustained war on people and communities—and are mobilizing to defend themselves. "The profit-making structure and a sense of community don't go together," says Lawrence.
Thanks to the organizing efforts of City Life/Vida Urbana and the courage of community members willing to physically block the eviction and risk arrest, the Meyers family won a temporary reprieve from losing their home. In the process, the community won a degree of stability, a child left for school knowing he could come back afterwards, and a group of activists had another chance to learn the power of standing together against forces that value profit over people.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.