As Survivors Village and May Day New Orleans begins its campaign to oppose the destruction of the last traditional public housing development in the city of New Orleans, a deep sense of dread and fear courses into my mind. Its been only a few years since the last major battle to preserve the four other developments was fought and ended in the brutalizing of activists from across the country and a total violation of the rights of all involved. Since December 20, 2007, many have come to believe that organizing public housing is a lost cause. Others have moved on to other areas of injustice that need to be addressed as much as public housing. Those of us who have organized in public housing for decades and feel that the attack upon Iberville cannot go unanswered must try to find a new approach and apply the hard-learned lessons of the anti-demolition struggle to the conditions that currently exist in Iberville.
- We cannot fight for the people, we must fight with them. As hard as this job will be, we must build a core group of Iberville residents to lead and fight for themselves. Of course, everyone agrees with this, but doing it is hard work. It is much easier to get a few residents to stand in front of the camera while activists do all the real work and decide on what is to be done. The major weakness of the anti-demolition struggle was that although in the beginning there was a strong core group of residents, as residents got scared off, bought off, or just discouraged, and quit, we decided that we had an obligation to move forward without them. That was a failed strategy. In Iberville the hard work to build a core group of residents must be our first step, and every step taken from that point must be decided by that group.
- We need to diversify our strategy & provide numerous ways for residents and others to be involved: The anti-demolition movement was fueled by a group of extremely sincere and courageous people. It was clear that nothing would happen if we did not disrupt the normal operations of the city – so that’s what we did. Direct Action became the strategy instead of a strategy. All of our efforts were put towards this one form of struggle. We must have a much more diversified approach in Iberville –and one that is chosen by the residents themselves–if we are to make a significant impact. Many people are not in a position to go to jail, get brutalized, or lose their homes, but that does not mean that they don’t want to participate. We must find a way to get them involved.
- We must have a plan that comes from the people: During the anti-demolition struggle, everyone knew that we were against the demolition of public housing. But it was never clear what we were for. Going into Iberville, once the group of residents are identified and organized, the next step will be those residents making decisions about what they want their community to become. We will then organize around what the people want, and not just be perpetual anti-everything gadflies in the eyes of those we are trying to organize.
These are some of the things that I have identified that we can do better in Iberville.
Many of you that will read this on the blog fought in the anti-demolition struggle, or have been involved in other housing struggles: what are your thoughts on these issues? Going into Iberville we need all the fresh Ideas we can get, please share yours.
by M. Endesha Juakali, JD
See the flyer being used in our work organizing Iberville here