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Survivors Village joined forces today with recently evicted Occupy NOLA protestors to successfully disrupt a Sheriff’s sale of foreclosed properties.  Delaying the sale for two hours, the protestors chanted:

“This auction is illegal and immoral. It is a way to steal homes, redistribute wealth and prevent the right to return. The sale of blighted property is the city’s attempt to remove poor homeowners who have already suffered tremendously from economic and natural disaster. Blight has become an excuse to gentrify.  Charging poor homeowners outrageous fees in order to steal their homes is an underhanded way to keep people displaced. Stop capitalizing off of crisis! This process is corrupt! You are stealing homes! STOP NOW!”

The sale was scheduled to begin at noon.  At approximately 1:45 pm, after several potential buyers had already left, the police arrived and threatened the nonviolent protestors with arrest.  Before declaring that the remainder of their protest would be silent, the protestors announced their intention to physically defend any properties sold:  “We will be in court.  We will be in the streets.  We will be in the houses–defending them, boarding them up, and occupying them”

Protestors specifically identified two properties and successfully urged buyers not to purchase them.  The Fight Back Center, a long-time community center in the St. Bernard neighborhood in New Orleans’ 7th ward was slated to be auctioned at today’s sale despite city personnel having acknowledged that there were numerous legal problems with the process.  “This is community space and we will fight to keep it that way,” protestors declared.

Protestors also urged buyers not to purchase the home of an individual who had approached them to express thanks for what they were doing.  The individual’s home had been completely renovated, but the city refused his offer to pay the $575 fine that had been assessed, refusing to waive the thousands of dollars in fines that accrued daily since the home was declared blighted.  He was financially unable to pay these fees and thus faced loss of his home. Following the protestors’ declared intention to defend these properties, neither received a minimum bid and thus remained unsold.

Protestors also distributed flyers educating the crowd about the realities of the auction.  The flyers declared:

“This is an auction of stolen properties. When a property in New Orleans is declared ‘blighted’ it is because homeowners are unable to complete the necessary work on their properties to comply with the city’s codes. The city gives the homeowner a fine of $575 and orders the homeowner to finish renovation or demolition of the property within thirty days and pay the fine or face additional fees of up to $500 per day. When poor homeowners are charged thousands of dollars each week—money they would put into their homes if they had it—the city leaves them no choice but to go bankrupt or hand over their properties. This is state sanctioned theft under the guise of “recovery.”

The protestors’ disruption at the Sheriff’s sale occurred less than eight hours after Occupy NOLA was itself evicted from their encampment at Duncan Plaza.  Around 4 pm, Occupy NOLA was issued a temporary restraining order by U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey who said he was “not happy” that the city opted to clear the camp while a motion for a TRO was pending.

Today’s protest was also carried out in solidarity with a call from Occupy Wall Street, who declared December 6 a day of action on the foreclosure crisis.

View videos of today’s protest at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FYTocI1MGU&feature=youtu.be

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The Katrina Commemoration Committee will sponsor its annual march from the base of the Industrial Canal in the 9th ward to Hunters Field on the 29th of August 2011.

Last year the prevailing thought was that the 5th year event was going to be the last chance to really make a statement because after that the media and others around the country/world would definitely move on to other events and disasters. That is probably true from a media marketing perspective, but for those of us that lived and are still living the disaster, moving on is not an option. The storm that brushed by New Orleans on August 29, 2005 was never the cause of the disaster. The shoddy work of the U.S. Government that led to the levee failures and flooded the city was only the beginning of our troubles. The real disaster began immediately after the storm when the city’s white supremacist economic elite and its “colored” collaborators decided to remake the city in their image, which strongly resembles a 21st century plantation. These collaborators which included the mayor, city council, head of HUD, and almost every black elected official, thought that the plan would only affect the poor, who they never represented anyway! They were not only unprincipled, but pretty misguided in not realizing that the majority of people in New Orleans were working poor and anything that affected them would change all the power relationships in the city.

It started almost immediately with the governor labeling blacks in New Orleans looters and giving the police department and National Guard the power to shoot to kill. This was parroted by the then mayor. We now can see how that worked out. Then the state took control of the public school system, firing all the experienced teachers and breaking the union. This was done for the expressed purpose of privatizing the industry, so now profit is the goal, not serving the children. Then it was decided that certain areas in the city should not be repopulated; all of these areas such as New Orleans East, the Lower Ninth ward, and all of the traditional public housing developments were areas that were almost exclusively black and working class. Then the decision was made to not open the public hospital that was a critical life line for the black working poor community.

Then the political attacks began, and are still going on!! Though the city is only 30% white, the white supremacist economic elite has used the weakened state of the black community— as well as the failure of blacks, other people of color, and progressive whites to forge any kind of united front–to take away any semblance of power by blacks and people of color in the city.  All of the major power bases in the city that were majority black are now majority white. This includes the mayor, city council, district attorney, police chief, school superintendent, and judges elected since the storm; in fact any position of power that has been filled since the storm has most likely been filled by a white person or a non New Orleans native. This has been accompanied by a sustained war against the poor, the homeless and all other lower working class persons in the city. Since New Orleans was declared a blank slate, we are the social experimental lab of the world. Anyone with money and a new idea…come to New Orleans…”they will accept anything.”

 This is just meant to be a sample of what has happened to the city since the storm. As a native New Orleanian and a Black person, I could go on and on with examples of how sad it feels to be politically and economically powerless in my own city. Suffice it to say calling this a 21st century plantation is not meant to be a joke.

 All people that believe in social justice should make it a point to march on August 29th. We cannot afford to move on because the disaster is not over; it’s an ongoing living event that seems to get worse each year since 2005. Therefore we must march each year in order to remind ourselves that we are in a fight and cannot rest!! We have lost many battles, but the war is ongoing and we must not quit!

I hope to see you at the levee breech on the 29th! 

AND after the march and program at Hunters field, everyone is invited to join the residents and former residents of the St. Bernard community in their annual

“UNITY IN THE COMMUNITY

CELEBRATION OF LIFE”

AT

3820 Alfred St

(the 3800 block of St. Bernard Ave.)

4pm-until

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On July 21st, several news channels in Dallas covered what they referred to as a “riot” or, better yet, a “stampede” for rental assistance vouchers. (See: http://newsone.com/nation/jothomas/section-8-stampede-dallas/) Estimates ranged from hundreds to thousands of people running desperately once the local housing office was open simply for the chance to fill out an application.  Prominent were images of this mass of running people and interviews with those who had been injured.  “Rental assistance at what price?” asks Ron Corning of Dallas, Texas’ (http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/Hundreds-line-up-for-Dallas-County-Rental-Vouchers-125555383.html)

What story is the mainstream media telling?  With words like “riot” and “stampede,” one might think they were talking about a violent, crazed and criminal group.  The reality involved poor and hard working family desperate to keep or put a roof of their heads.  Criminalizing people simply because they are poor is not new, however, in media or in policy.  Families that receive rental assistance live under the constant threat of “one-strike” rules and are required to do monthly community service, whereas wealthier families that receive “rental assistance” through the mortgage interest tax deduction (“MID”) do not).

This is the first time in 5 years that the City of Dallas has opened its Section 8 rental assistance vouchers wait list.  15,000 families were expected to apply for roughly 3,500 newly available vouchers.  Yes, families.  40-50% of recipients of rental assistance are families with children; 15% are seniors; 19% disabled.  While budgets are slashed on the backs of working and middle-class people, and banks get bailed out in the trillions, people who are in need of rental assistance are set against one another in the struggle to survive with only enough assistance to house 1 in 4 of them, and that’s IF they are eligible based on an ever-narrowing set of criteria.

Put another way, we have one of the most severe human rights crisis in many decades, particularly around the human right to housing, and our government stands by mutely while families are forced to participate in a foot race for ever shrinking resources.  Yet, this is not an issue of resources; it is an issue of values and whether we are committed to being an equitable society.  Low-income housing programs receive less than $4 billion, while subsidies for wealthier homeowners, such as the MID, cost the government over $150 billion.  Simply through equitable reforms of federal housing finance policy, rental assistance for those who need it most could be available as an entitlement and we would be one large step closer to protecting housing as a human right.  Rather than forcing families to race in desperation, we should be racing to create human rights based solutions that are equitable and ensure the dignity of all our communities.

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Survivors Village joins with other groups nationwide this Valentines Day to stand against the proposed cuts to housing.  Click on the link below to read more and HAVE A HEART!

Fact Sheet on Pending Housing Cuts

Also see this press release from the National Low Income Housing Coalition

Update 2/22:   For more info on the House budget proposal:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/16/2012-budget-housing-aid-house-gop_n_824189.html

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This coming Monday, Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, a group of 40 volunteers from the Delta corps will work to clear up all the violations the city have cited for the FIGHTBACK center. This is a great and much needed action.

It is very appropriate that it happens on MLK birthday for it was on this day in 2006 and at this building that the long struggle to preserve public housing and the right to safe, decent, and sanitary housing for poor people in New Orleans was started.

It is very important that we preserve this building as the base for our continued efforts to represent the interest of the poor, black, and unwanted survivors of the war against the poor in the city, state, and nation. Last year at this time the building was unoccupied and was a major eyesore, which made it a target for the city. We occupied the building and have made major progress with the help of a small but dedicated group of volunteers–the FIGHTBACK CENTER (FBC) ACTION group. We have made the building both viewable and usable. We have water, electricity, and plumbing. The yard is in decent shape and we are prepared to start gardening soon.

With your help we can remove the dangers of demolition and/or liens being placed on the building this Monday. We will have many workers.  All we need is the materials to do the work. A small donation or a Home Depot or Lowes gift card from you could help solve this problem. If you are in New Orleans and can donate or loan materials, see the list of needed supplies below.

If you can help please let us know. Donations can be mailed to the FIGHTBACK CENTER at 3820 Alfred St. , New Orleans, LA 70120.

The struggle continues…with your help! Thanks ! Endesha

Supplies we Need:

Dumpster

New hack saw blades

Gloves ( 30 pairs)

Masks

Eye Shields

Nails and Screws

1x4s, 2x4s, plywood

Brushes and rollers

Sand Paper

Sander

Caulk

Wood Siding

Scaffolding

Paper plates, forks etc.

Water

Port-a-potty ($60 – $70/ month)

Tissue paper

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Sharon Jasper keeps her voucher!!

A major victory for residents and the movement!

The recent failure of the housing authority to take away Sister Sharon Jasper’s voucher is a major defeat for (King) David Gilmore and the regressive forces that are currently managing HUD/HANO. Make no mistake, King David needed his other subjects to understand that not groveling at his feet could have serious and dreadful consequences. When he summoned Ms. Jasper to his throne, and told her that if she would apologize, he would stop the termination process and she showed up with her lawyers, refusing to give up her dignity and self respect, and accepted the threat of homelessness, she set a bad precedent for his other subjects.

The cat is out of the bag now: the king is not invincible. He can be beat. Residents can fight back and win. The Jasper case shows that.

NOW ON TO IBERVILLE!!

This victory also shows that there is still a very strong, diverse group of social justice activists in the city of New Orleans, and the struggle appears to be getting its second wind after the devastation of December 20, 2007 and the great sadness that enveloped all of us after we lost the battle to preserve the public housing communities after Hurricane Katrina.

The local movement has been joined by strong support group of national and international progressive social justice activists. This is a very important development because New Orleans will be the epicenter of the attempt to implement all of the private property related initiatives that the right envision for the next decade. Subsequently, we need progressive forces to continue to support the front line forces and soldiers as we fight to stop the flood of injustice and greed that has infected our city since we were weakened by Hurricane Katrina.

We must stay on the battle field with our swords and shields held high!!

 

FUTURE BATTLEGROUNDS :

  • the “one strike rule” is cruel and unjust on its face and has caused many poor black women to lose their homes. It must go!!
  • Iberville must be preserved for current residents and preserved in a manner in keeping with their right to self-determination!!
  • PETRA must be opposed!!

 

Many thanks to all who have fought these battles with us thus far!!

THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES…

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Sharon Jasper found guilty of battery in Municipal court.

The attempt by the government to punish our sister Sharon Jasper for standing up for her constitutional rights continued today as a judge found her guilty of battery and sentenced her to time served.

It is clear that the persons behind the campaign of racial and ethnic cleansing in the city of New Orleans see Ms. Jasper as a dangerous symbol of strength and resistance, and are persecuting her in an attempt to strike fear into other residents and discourage future dissent, even as they remove poor people from the valuable land that they occupied prior to the storm and place it in the hands of the white and/or middle class citizens.

Ms Jasper left the court with her

head held high and vowed not to be

intimidated and to continue the fight

for safe, decent, and sanitary

housing for all citizens.

The trial today was a part of an all out attack on Ms. Jasper.  Yesterday, she and her supporters spent all day at the housing authority in a hearing to determine whether she can maintain her voucher and continue to have affordable housing.

We must all say  HANDS OFF MS. JASPER’S VOUCHER

and support her appeal of this unjust conviction!!

Watch for an announcement early next week about the next step in this struggle and ways you can support Ms. Jasper.

HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT!!

the struggle continues…

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