Archive for the ‘Fight Back Center’ Category

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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 property at 3820 Alfred Street has always been the focal point of the St. Bernard community. As the headquarters of the New Day Black Community Development Organization, it provided economic assistance, advocacy against injustice, day care services, job banks, GED programs, a youth club and many other social, political, and recreational services. There is not much left of what used to be our community physically, but the spirit, culture, and love for St. Bernard still lives. The FIGHTBACK center is the perfect place for the yearly Mothers’ Day reunions that the Big 7 parade has become.

Below are some pictures from this year’s parade and an interesting commentary by Endesha…..

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Regaining our culture of cooperation and struggle!

by M. Endesha Juakali

New Orleans and the St. Bernard community has always been a place where people enjoyed each other and loved a good party. But there is another part of our culture that I remember that seems to have disappeared lately. The original purpose of social aid and pleasure clubs was to assist the community and those who needed help. They were also called benevolent clubs because they were used to feed the hungry, help with rent and assist those in the community who were in need. A very large part of their benevolent activity was to bury indigent members of the community. The concept was that poor people could pool their pennies, nickels , and dimes into a sort of safety net for everyone. Therefore when they would come out yearly to embrace the pleasure side of the equation, the entire community had a good reason to party with the membership.

It seems that the current generation of participants have forgotten the original intent of these SOCIAL AID AND PLEASURE CLUBS. The aid part came first and the pleasure is at the end. Since the hurricane and levee breaches, the black community and all neighborhoods have been under constant attack by the forces of white supremacy and injustice. They have thus far been successful in their plan to turn back the hands of time.

 This necessitates a return to our roots, not only with helping each other, but also the community spirit to struggle against injustice.

The same brothers and sisters that put together the second line clubs also challenged the national guard tanks in 1968 with rocks and bottles after the murder of Martin Luther King. They were the ones that put together the Black Youth for Progress (BYP), and represented us in the historic period that saw segregation fall and issued in the Black political progress that has been overturned since hurricane Katrina.

The culture of St. Bernard has been based on helping each other, fighting for our rights, and having a good time. We are still having a good time once a year, but life is not about just partying…even in New Orleans!

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On Saturday, February 12, 2011 there was another spirited and successful work day at the FIGHTBACK center. The amount of work that has been accomplished in the last year is amazing, and I am truly grateful to the group of volunteers who have become passionate and consistent workers at the center.

The building at 3820 Alfred Street is the last vestige of the history of the struggle that was waged for decades in the St. Bernard community. It was really wonderful interacting with the many former residents of the community who came over to discuss the history of the building with the Delta corps volunteers during an earlier workday on MLK Day. I had forgotten some of the contributions that this building has made to the community and how many people had special times and events associated with it that they were anxious to share with others.

Since 1989, when the building was purchased by the New Day Black Community Development Corporation until now, this building has had only one purpose, to serve the people. Based on what was shared on MLK day it did its job well. As the headquarters for the movement, a daycare center, open office space for community residents, drug prevention services, youth recreation and social services, sponsoring sports teams and Sunday functions, headquarters for armed struggle against drug dealers during the crack epidemic, church services and other functions that even I didn’t know about.

I am looking forward to continuing this history in the future. The entire movement to stand up for the rights of people to safe, decent and sanitary housing post-Katrina was launched from this building, and the upcoming struggle for the right of the community to determine the future of this area will be based at this building.  I am very thankful to those that have seen and accepted my vision for the future use of the center.

On March 20, as spring returns to the earth, I plan to plant a liberation flag in front of the center and fruit trees for Mama Glo and Troy Avery, two passionate and strong community warriors who we lost in the past year. I hope to see you there.


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Another work day was held on Saturday, Feb 12. We cleared the back yard of all debris, and it is now ready for planting of a community garden. The reusable wood from the demolished portion in the back of the building has been separated into neat piles, and we have a good start on removing the nails from it. Here are some pictures from the workday:

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Five years ago, on the Martin Luther King Birthday holiday in 2006, a group of public housing residents and New Orleans community activists announced that they were going to begin cleaning up public housing units and urging residents to return to their homes. In response, the federal government built six feet barbed wire fences around most of the public housing in the city and announced that residents would not be allowed to return to their homes and that most of the public housing in the city would be demolished.

On the Martin Luther King birthday holiday in 2007, hundreds of residents and community activists from around the city tore down the fences in the St. Bernard development and allowed residents to reclaim their space, recover their personal items and briefly occupy the places they called home prior to hurricane Katrina and the government caused flooding of the city.

The long struggle for the recognition of the right to housing in New Orleans and the rest of the nation continued this Martin Luther King birthday holiday, January 17, 2011, when a large and energetic group of volunteers from the Delta Corps joined a spirited group of community members in investing their time and effort into rehabilitating a building that is called the FIGHTBACK center. This building is a former community center, day care center, youth development center and headquarters for the New Day organization, a long time advocacy group in the St. Bernard community. It also was the base and beginning point for the post Katrina housing struggle in the city of New Orleans.

Those who continue to struggle for safe, decent, and sanitary housing as a human right plan to use this building to rebuild the spirit and continue the struggle. As we move to help the residents of Iberville fight for their survival, organize a renters rights movement, fight against the selling off of public housing

to private banks, link our local struggle with the national movements, and fight for public policies that are fair and just to those who lack the resources to represent themselves, the FIGHTBACK center will be a vital base from which to launch our struggle.

As I emphasized to our volunteers on Monday, we do not have time to worship the accomplishments of others: “ Each generation has an historical mission to either accomplish or betray”.

Martin Luther King Jr accomplished his mission, its our turn now !!

Before and After:

the back of the Fight Back Center before the workday

the back of the Fight Back Center after all the good work...

and some more pictures of all the good work!  

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photos by Kwame Juakali & David Ferris

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The Survivor’s Village headquarters is located in an old community center on Alfred St. in St. Bernard. On Jan 17, Delta Corps members removed the shutters and began stripping the aluminum siding of paint to prep it for new paint. We scraped window trim and soffit. We deconstructed the back shed area, salvaged and removed nails from the lumber to be reused. We cleaned the back area as much as we could – we filled an entire dumpster until it was spilling over the top. We removed stumps along the south wall, to make way for raised beds of herbs and vegetables. Some things did not go as planned, yet we still got a lot of work done.

Neighbors and supporters told us about the history of this building and this block, as a place where babies were cared for while parents were at work, kids were offered tutoring and mentorship, teenagers would come and dance and socialize, and neighbors could congregate to make groceries and conversation together. SV cooked us lunch – grilled chicken (donated by Magnola Meat Market), salad (donated from Our School at Blair Grocery and Hollygrove Market and Farm), and Stephanie’s white beans and rice (made vegetarian specially for us). Endesha reminded us that Survivor’s Village started 5 years ago on Martin Luther King Day at this center to promote the right to housing, the right to dignity, and the right to self-determination of poor communities in New Orleans. We were led on foot through the new Columbia Parc development, and around the blighted and largely vacant neighborhood adjacent. “St. Bernard and other displaced residents have fought and fought against losing their homes, against losing their community,” Endesha told me. “I want this building to be the center of positive development in the neighborhood, something people can fight for and believe in.”

I am proud that our network took some leadership from Survivor’s Village and leveraged some of our resources to further their mission. I am proud of our ongoing effort to learn from SV and from the residents of New Orleans, to listen and respect the experiences of ordinary people. I am also proud of our effort to engage in an honest dialogue with SV about housing and about their struggle, despite some reservations, confusion, or discomfort we may have experienced.

Reading the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., I recognize that he always chose love. In the face of white hatred, bigotry, and withdrawal, and African American fury, frustration, and disenchantment, King implored us to love, as a choice and an action, which means to challenge one another, to be humble, caring, responsible, nonviolent, honest, respectful, and committed. This is my favorite quote:


“All I’m saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

There are many people, neighborhoods and organizations in New Orleans and across the world working to change their circumstances for the better, to free themselves from domination and injustice, to create loving community. Our fate is bound up with theirs, “pressed down, shaken together, and running over,” in a larger struggle to realize Dr. King’s dream, to make a world where we can all realize our potential. We all bring valuable knowledge and resources to this mission. Let us be aware, let us learn and teach, let us love, and let us have faith in our potential.

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