Where Can We Pee?- Emergency Press Conference and Porta Pottie Installation

Tiny - Posted on 27 October 2014

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 1:30pm - 2:00pm

Press Contact:
Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia PoorNewsNetwork (510) 435-7500 /Auntie Francis 510-395-5988

Where Can We Pee?

Houseless, Disabled Black and Brown Elders and Community Lose their Porta Pottie to NIMBYism and Gentrification

What: Emergency Press Conference and Porta Pottie Installation

When:1:30pm Thursday, Oct 30th

Where:Oakland City Hall - Oscar Grant Plaza 14th & Broadway Oakland

"We were just trying to provide a dignified, safe and clean place for homeless people to use the restroom," said Frances Moore, lifelong resident of North Oakland and founder of Auntie Frances' Self-help Hunger Program.

On Tuesday, October 21, 2014, after months of harassment by newer residents in the North Oakland community near "Driver Plaza" where the Self-Help Hunger Program feeds poor and houseless elders and families of color every Tuesday, Oakland officials succumbed to pressure by newer residents and instructed the Porta Pottie company to remove the toilet from Driver Plaza for the second time.

Several months ago, many residents not historically from Oakland that have moved into the area near Driver Plaza began harassing Aunti Frances and others there for feeding and supporting poor and homeless people in the park. Some newer residents began to launch more attacks on the people at Driver, claiming that they urinated and defecated in public. Determined to address their own basic needs, Aunti Frances and the Self-Help Hunger Program, Driver Park residents, POOR Magazine and Phat Beets Produce raised funds to rent a Porta Pottie.

When Driver Plaza had no toilet, people hanging out in the park were criminalized for relieving themselves in public. Yet after raising the money to maintain a toilet and go to the bathroom in a dignified, private manner, residents were told the toilet was blight and that it increased criminal activity in the park. Twice park residents raised funds for a toilet, twice it was removed. When seeking to obtain a permit for a Porta Pottie, Aunti Frances received word from the City of Oakland that there was no official process, making public restroom facilities impossible for local residents to obtain.

Auntie Frances' Self-Help Hunger Program was launched 5 years ago by Frances Moore, a life-long resident of Berkeley and Oakland who herself dealt with homelessness, hunger and poverty. The first Porta Pottie that was removed was rented by the Self-Help Hunger Program in March 2014 for a Black History Month celebration to provide the houseless North Oakland community with a dignified place to use the bathroom.

"When my mother and I were houseless, no business or home would ever let us use the bathroom," said Lisa Tiny Gray-Garcia, author of Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America and co-founder of POOR Magazine, who has been working alongside community members and groups like Phat Beets Produce to fight City-backed gentrification of Driver Plaza and all of Oakland.

Oakland City Council Member Dan Kalb of District 1 in North Oakland, as well as Oakland Public Works Agency, refuse to support the African-American community of this neighborhood, taking no action at all to ensure that residents have a dignified place to use the restroom, the same way people utilizing other city parks do. Marginalized and excluded in their own neighborhood by new residents and their different vision for Driver Plaza, people have begun speaking out, specifically the youth.

"All they wanted was a dignified place to use the bathroom, said Kimo Umu, 11 years old, student at Deecolonize Academy, an Oakland-based school that has been supporting the Self-Help Hunger Program as part of their report on Bay Area gentrification for their Revolutionary Journalism class. Students and teachers of the Academy will be building a Porta Pottie to install in the Oakland Mayor's Office on Thursday. ***

POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE is a very grassroots, poor people of color-led arts organization providing media, education and art to very low and no-income youth, adults and elders of color locally and globally.

Co-sponsors/endorsers for this emergency press conference are the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper, Manilatown I-Hotel Center, Deecolonize Academy and Healthy Hoodz.


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