Gentrification for Dummies...

root - Posted on 16 May 2007

Ten easy steps to transforming your multi-cultural, multi-generational neighborhood into a sea of shiny new condos

by By Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia and Vivien Hain/PoorNewsNetwork poverty scholars and welfareQUEENS

At 3:30 p.m., under a brisk and windy blue sky in West Oakland last
Thursday, just a couple of days after the elections, stood a crowd of
people, mostly West Oakland residents, along with members of the
Oakland-based tenant's rights organization 'Just Cause' to unveil a
billboard that read: "West Oakland For The People - Stop
Gentrification", adorned with large, warm colored graphics, including an image of a male silhouette with a dollar sign on his chest and a
close up of the face of a youth.

Many people, most who live in the
community, sang protest songs and chanted slogans that they will never
be stopped, despite of the need for greed from billionaire real estate
developers, which has been gradually pushing many low-income families
of color out of West Oakland as part of ex-Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown's
gentrification agenda.

As the people spoke, I gazed off into the distance a few blocks away near
the corner of 26th and peralta, where a slightly beat-up, cream-colored
apartment complex used to live. It was an apartment my mother and I had
lived in, barely affording the rent, before we were evicted to make way
for a large terra cotta condo development that stood there now, resting
its bright steel and shiny metal legs calmly on the graves of a
thousand apartments for poor folks.

Then I gazed a few blocks to the left to a "storefront" where my mama
and i squatted right after we were evicted because that eviction
destabilized our tenuous hold on homefulness to such an extent that we
couldn't really recover.

So how do you wipe out a whole community of color - by redlining,
re-zoning, ghetto-izing, turning it into a "cool" artists ghetto.and
then eventually displacing the community that was originally there.
Gentrification for Dummies; the template of capitalism; renew, redo,
displace and re-locate

But there is one more key way to accomplish this goal that must be
mentioned, through the "buy-in" of the community members themselves.

I scanned the Corporate media (a.k.a. The Chronicle-Lies) on Sunday
only to find a picture of several supposedly conscious residents of
West Oakland standing next to the lead developer, Rick Holliday, of the
multi-million dollar Train station project, they were all talking about
how important it was to bring "market-rate housing" to west Oakland as
that would be the way to "improve" West Oakland.

Who does market rate housing improve West Oakland for? And where do all
the poor folks go when we are displaced? Like Po� Poet Laureate of POOR Magazine A. Faye
hicks so beautifully articulated in her poem The Poor Nation, "we don't
move, cause we don't have the resources to move, we just start living
in the sidewalk hotel."

"We must not be moved", a very angry Gregory Hodge, Oakland Unified
School District Director called out to the crowd flanked by Hip Hop
artists ArtinAction

As people of color we must resist this gentrification,"said Yvonne Smith, long-time West Oakland resident of 63 years.

After several community elders spoke, scholarship was spit by several local Oakland youth hip hop artists who came out to represent and perform, speaking out about the social genocide that is currently taking place in their communities, which is forcing many long-time West Oakland residents to leave and be 'set out to pasture', with many being relocated to other cities as far away as Stockton, because affordable housing in West Oakland continues to rapidly shrink to near extinction.

As part of the anti-gentrification billboard campaign in West

Oakland, Just Cause has also been working for several years on an

'inclusionary housing campaign', with an Inclusionary Zoning (IZ)

proposal that would require all new housing developments to include units for low-income families.

Every single month, hundreds of condos are being fast-tracked through the City of Oakland's approvals process, and the vast majority of them are market-rate, luxury condos for San Francisco professionals. Meanwhile, the displacement and exodus of communities of color in West Oakland continues.

Inclusionary Zoning is a policy that requires all housing developments to include a percentage of "affordable units". Just Cause has been at the forefront of calling for this policy over the past few years and last year, several other organizations joined in the campaign, like Oaklanders for Affordable Housing, in an effort to build a coalition of organizations pushing for Inclusionary Zoning.

The effort is in high gear as Just Cause's (IZ) campaign pushes Oakland's City Council to implement a minimum requirement of 20% low-income housing in all developments immediately, so that the trend of housing displacement for many Oakland communities of low and no income people of color will stop.

As the press conference came to a close I gazed up the street again, my eyes searching for another corner, this one where me and my poor mama dee used to park our car when we didn't even have a place left to live in. I couldn't find that corner cause my gaze was obstructed by yet another condo, this one even bigger than the last.

If you would like to get involved in the campaign work that Just Cause is currently working on, contact them at 510.763.5877 Email:

Tiny is a welfareQUEEN and revolutionary journalist, co-founder of POOR
Magazine and author of the upcoming memoir; Criminal of Poverty;
Growing Up homeless in America, published by city Lights. Vivien Hain,
is a welfareQUEEN, media producer and co-author of My Life x 4 - a
story of her and her daughter's homelessness in Oakland published by
POOR Press.


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