By: Jason Lydon/TRT Columnist-
Mike Konczal, a fellow with the Roosevelt Institute who focuses on financial reform, structural unemployment, consumer access to financial services, and inequality recently wrote, “As people think a bit more critically about what it means to ‘occupy’ contested spaces that blur the public and the private and the boundaries between the 99 percent and the 1 percent, and as they also think through what Occupy Wall Street might do next, I would humbly suggest they check out the activism model of ‘Project: no one leaves.’”
The No One Leaves Project is an anti-foreclosure movement in Western Massachusetts. The protesters root their work from a model developed by City Live/Vida Urbana, a similar grassroots organization in Boston known as the Sword and the Shield. Using this model, the No One Leaves organizers encourage residents to both stay in their post-foreclosure homes, using community-based blockades and vigils to keep people in their homes. The movement also keeps tenants informed about all of their legal rights to fight to protect their access to their homes.
The Occupy movement currently underway is exciting, complicated, and essential. There are Occupy gatherings in over 1,500 cities worldwide, including at least seven in Massachusetts and dozens more throughout New England. And the movement is growing stronger.
Police forces throughout the United States have arrested nearly 2,000 peaceful protesters who are part of these encampments and marches. It’s clear that something is happening and people who weren’t paying attention before are beginning to pay attention now.
Those of us on the ground at Occupy Boston are beginning to think about what we should do next. Some are preparing to bring in exorbitant amounts of hay to keep everything warm while others are considering beginning to occupy foreclosed homes, precisely what Konczal is suggesting. Not only will occupying foreclosed homes be warmer, it is a direct challenge to the idea that the bank has any right to take them in the first place.
Occupy Boston began the same weekend organizations from around the country came to the city for the Right to the City Coalition. This incredible congregation of poor people’s organizations and organizations based in communities of color brought a shared analysis of economic, racial and gender inequality to Boston’s attention.
Through their shared power they targeted Hyatt, Verizon, and most especially, Bank of America.
The foreclosure rates remain high in this country, with one happening every 13 seconds, or 6,500 per day. The Bank of America who sponsors pride marches all around the country is the same bank that evicts low-income people, primarily people of color, out of their homes after knowingly serving them high-interest mortgages. If our LGBTQ organizations calling loudly for human rights do not include fighting for people to be able to keep their homes, then what are human rights for us at all?
Konczal suggests that the Occupy folks start preparing to move into homes that have been foreclosed on. He explicitly articulates that these spaces are “contested” and “blur boundaries.” This could not be a better moment for those of us who are queer to get involved. We know lots about blurring boundaries and contesting spaces of ownership. If we work, in authentic relationships, with organizations like City Live/Vida Urbana and Springfield’s No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude, the Occupy movement could become even stronger.
We as LGBTQ folks need to recognize that this is part of our liberation, and putting our bodies in the blurry boundaries and contested spaces is exactly what we can and should be doing. This is yet another moment for us to step up and share the responsibility for holding oppressive systems accountable for their treatment of our communities.