Monday, May 31, 2010
Cincinnati, OH – Immigrants and the Poor UniteShareThis
Challenging Gentrification and the Nonprofit Industrial Complex
Cincinnati was our first stop in Ohio on the road to the U.S. Social Forum. Our visit kicked off with a march from the Kentucky border to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and through the downtown area. It ended with a welcoming party and speak-out at the Contact Center in the historic Over the Rhine neighborhood. Poor and low-income residents have been struggling for years to combat a massive plan to gentrify Over the Rhine. Corporate giants aim to push out the poor and homeless population and develop the real estate for the middle-class and affluent. Poor folks are gearing up for the USSF to keep building their movement to resist corporate control and keep their communities intact.
The Contact Center is an organization lead by the poor that works to end poverty by empowering poor folks to directly take action on issues that affect them. In the 90’s they used civil disobedience in attempt to prevent low-income people from being displaced. They also organized welfare recipients to pressure officials to pass policies that serve the poor. Today, the Contact Center is facing off against a highly organized creature of the corporate elite, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, or 3CDC, a nonprofit that serves to reshape the city according to the corporate agenda.
3CDC has purchased almost two hundred million dollars worth of vacant and dilapidated property in Over the Rhine and surrounding areas with the message of “revitalizing” the city. Revitalization is often a euphemism for gentrification, and certainly so in this case. 3CDC is building expensive residential properties and businesses in this low-income area. As a result rent prices have skyrocketed and forced many who could no longer afford to live there out of the neighborhood, even if that meant entering a homeless shelter. The public swimming pool at Washington Park has been closed down. Public housing projects have been demolished. A new K-12 school is opening up with highly competitive entrance criteria.
“They’re gentrifying the whole area,” Cassandra Barham, a longtime resident of Over the Rhine told us on a walking tour. She is an office manager and local organizer with the Contact Center. “They want to move out all the poor families so that higher income people can move in.”
These decisions to transform Over the Rhine, one of the poorest sections of the city, have been made without asking for any input from the poor and low-income residents who have lived there for generations. 3CDC states on its website that it works with and for local and state politicians and “Cincinnati’s corporate community.” Sitting on the organization’s Board of Directors are over 30 corporate executives that represent some of the most powerful corporations and banks in the world. Executives from Proctor and Gamble (the 5th most profitable corporation in the world), Macy’s, Kroger, American Financial Group, and numerous other banks and corporations make up the board of 3CDC. Using the tax benefits of a nonprofit these corporate giants form a powerful coalition to control city politics and economics for the sake of their private profits.
Each of the aforementioned corporations that sit on the board of 3CDC also have their global headquarters in Cincinnati. Meanwhile, the poverty that so many face in the city is alarming. Just a block down from 3CDC’s gentrified area of new businesses is blight. Homeless people crowd Washington park by the dozens, unable to get into the packed shelter across the street. These contradictions reveal the extreme inequality caused by corporate capitalism. The fact that so many people live in poverty in a city where some of the country’s wealthiest corporations are headquartered shatters the myth that the private sector satisfies people’s economic needs. Instead it seems clear here that the corporate system serves the wealthy while forcing many into poverty and then punishing them for being poor. Poor and working people are organizing to build grassroots power to fundamentally challenge that system.
Reform Immigration Now
Residents of Over the Rhine are organizing working class people, including undocumented and documented immigrants, to defend their community. Ohio is currently proposing an anti-immigrant law similar to the one recently passed in Arizona, which encourages racial profiling and criminalizes Latinos and Latinas. The recent wave of anti-immigrant attacks across the country seeks to scapegoat a major section of the working class for the economic crisis actually caused by capitalism. In reality, the same globalized corporate system that benefits from high unemployment rates and poverty in Cincinnati also does so in Mexico and throughout the world.
U.S. policies like NAFTA have opened up borders to the free flow of capital but closed them to the flow of people. Multinational corporations exploit the land and labor of these countries while the profits go to Wall Street shareholders. Poor people, workers, and the unemployed in each country suffer as a result and compete against each other for low-paying jobs. Poor farmers in Mexico, Central America, and South America can’t compete against cheap U.S. food from giant agribusinesses so they must find other work. U.S. corporate control of the resources and markets of other countries has forced many to cross the border into the U.S. in search of jobs and opportunities that no longer exist where they are from. The globalized capitalist system that exploits and oppresses workers in the U.S., where record unemployment rates today go hand-in-hand with big profits and bonuses, also hurts workers abroad and forces them to emigrate to the U.S. looking for work. Working class community members in Cincinnati are shining light on this reality and building unity across diverse sections of the working class to resist corporate control.
Reform Immigration Now is a group we met at the Contact Center fighting to do exactly what their name says. While we were in town they were working with volunteers to phone bank Ohio’s senators to challenge the proposed racist law. Organizers have been coordinating their efforts across Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland. They have planned an upcoming 1,000-person march to oppose the proposed new anti-immigrant law and demand comprehensive immigration reform.
Building Unity in the Movement
The Contact Center has spearheaded efforts to unite the poor and working class in Cincinnati and throughout Ohio. In the mid-90’s they started the Ohio Empowerment Coalition, a statewide network now made up of over 30 groups advocating for the interests of low-income people. The U.S. Social Forum will be a tremendous opportunity for these organizers to unite with other working class groups from across the country to fight against corporate control of their communities and build the long-term movement for economic justice which is lead directly by the poor and working class.
Labels: USSF 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Louisville, KY – Less Public Housing, More ForeclosuresShareThis
The March to Fulfill the Dream traveled from the Highlander Center to Louisville to continue documenting the spread of poverty across the U.S. and amplify the voices of the poor. The housing crisis in Louisville mirrors the national problem highlighted by two growing trends: the demolition of public housing and the rise of foreclosures. We met with local PPEHRC campaign group, Women In Transition (WIT), to learn about the face of poverty in Louisville and to help them organize more poor folks to attend the USSF.
Over the last 10 years the city has demolished the largest public housing projects in Louisville and replaced them with more expensive residencies, gentrifying neighborhoods and breaking apart poor and low-income communities. The amount of affordable housing available to poor people has dropped significantly. Driving through West Louisville tall chain-linked fences now surround football-field sized empty lots where hundreds of families used to live before the projects were knocked down.
Hope VI is the massive program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that gives cities huge grants, sometimes up to $50,000,000, to partner with private companies to tear down public housing projects across the U.S. and replace them with mixed income units. The new units are constructed and managed by private development corporations that get lucrative contracts from the city and then have control over who can live there. The national average is that about 11% of original public housing residents move back into the new units. In Louisville, according to local research, it has only been about 3 – 6% of original residents who return, mostly because they can’t afford the higher costs or they don’t meet new eligibility criteria. The rest of the original residents are placed in scattered Section 8 (government subsidized) housing throughout the city. Deadlines, costs, and other eligibility requirements place the lives of poor families in the hands of the city and private developers and many end up homeless in the process.
For every 300 units of public housing torn down under Hope VI there are 100 new public housing units built, 100 mixed income units, and 100 scattered Section 8 housing units. That means a net loss of affordable housing for the poor. Every public housing project in the city is at risk of being destroyed.
“The government wants to get out of the business of housing people,” Khalilah Collins told us, director of WIT, a local PPEHRC campaign group committed to building the leadership of the poor to claim economic human rights. “Developers are getting rich from gentrifying neighborhoods and forcing poor folks to leave.”
This national trend reflects the larger pattern, which really exploded in the 80’s under Reagan, of taking services out of the public sector and putting them into private hands. The social safety net that so many workers and unemployed people fought for during the 20th century is quickly being dismantled by corporate power. The idea that the government should provide for people in need of housing, health care, education, or other human rights is under fierce attack by the private sector which controls political decisions and seeks to profit from all basic services.
Khalilah explained to us that the destruction of public housing is also the destruction of poor communities and families that have sometimes lived together for generations. In some of the old projects people had over the years collectively organized childcare systems and emergency funds for those in need. After the projects were torn down everyone was given Section 8 vouchers and scattered throughout the city apart from each other. These kinds of divide and conquer tactics have long been used to keep poor people from organizing and keep the powerful prosperous.
The other piece of the housing crisis in Louisville is the unprecedented rate of foreclosures. According to Khalilah, “Independent research confirmed that 1,200 foreclosures were filed in a six month period by Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo.”
PPEHRC and WIT teamed up with folks from the Kentucky Social Forum and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth to hold a demonstration in a public park downtown against the banks profiting most off foreclosures. The action was right next to a giant PNC Bank building. ABC News watched as the big banks were one by one auctioned off to the lowest bidder! We figured they already got enough of our money in bailouts and overdraft fees, so people bought them for a penny and nationalized them.
We canvassed poor neighborhoods, met with organizers and other locals, hosted an open mic event, and held an educational session about the impacts of globalization during our extended stay in Louisville. WIT has a couple vans of poor folks traveling to the USSF to join tens of thousands of others in building a movement to claim our economic human rights to housing, health care, jobs, and education. Other groups in the area have already committed to sending two additional buses to Detroit!
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Dayton, OH Schedule 5/23 - 5/25ShareThis
Sunday May 23, 2010
“March to End Poverty” at 2 p.m.
Community Pot-Luck Picnic at 3:30 p.m.
Edgemont Neighborhood Coalition & Solar Garden
919 Miami Chapel Rd.
Meet the Walkers, relax and see “The Last Truck”.
College Hill Community Church Presbyterian
1547 Philadelphia Dr. at 7:00 p.m.
“The Last Truck” a movie about the shutdown of the General Motors plant in Dayton, Ohio received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Short Film.
Social Peace and Justice Committee
Monday May 24, 2010
March for Jobs & Human Rights
Meet at the Job Center at 10 a.m. 1111 S. Edwin C. Moses Blvd.
Miami Valley Full Employment Council
Miami Valley Jobs with Justice Coalition
National Jobs for All Coalition
Ohio Empowerment Coalition
Advocacy/Education Committee /
Poverty Rally for Truth 11am to 2pm
Community Action Partnership
719 S. Main St. in Dayton.
"Marching to Fulfill the Dream”
Wesley United Methodist Community Center
3730 Delphos Ave.
“March to End Poverty”
Monday May 24, 2010 at 5 p.m.
Dinner at 6”30 p.m.
Tuesday May 25, 2010
Visit to AFL-CIO Food Pantry
6550 Poe Ave.
Unity Way of Greater Dayton
Speak Up for Human Rights
Sinclair Community College
Tuesday May 25 at 2 pm
Building 8 Stage Area (basement)
Sinclair African American Studies Program
African American Culture Club
Sinclair Peace Club
Wright State University. 11 am to 3:30 pm
Tabling events will be on the Quad (Millett if rained out) and the lobby of the Student Union. Students, faculty and staff to learn more about the marchers and the cause of poverty,
Picket BP [British Petroleum]!
451 S. Main St. & Washington Ave. in Dayton at 5 p.m.
The environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is a wake up call.
Community Pot-Luck Picnic at 6:30 p.m.
Jackson Burns Park between Morton and Wayne Ave. at the end of Burns and behind the Academy school on Hickory in South Park Neighborhood.
Labels: USSF 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
MN PPEHRC Brings Foreclosures to the SenateShareThis
Read this Star Tribune article from May 17th about MN PPEHRC members Leslie and Tacora Parks and their struggle against foreclosure.
Minneapolis woman's battle to keep home spills into Senate
Her story has inspired efforts by Klobuchar, Franken to shape financial overhaul.
A retired hospital worker, Parks says she was duped into refinancing her home in 2005 near the height of the housing bubble, with an adjustable-rate mortgage that put her deeper in debt.
Now Parks is one of more than 1.5 million borrowers nationwide trying to get help under the Obama administration's housing rescue plan. Nearly 20,000 of them are in Minnesota.
"It's raining outside, but it will dry up someday," Parks said hopefully.
In Washington, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, both Minnesota Democrats, are pushing measures in a financial overhaul bill that serve as bookends to the vicious cycle that trapped unwitting borrowers such as Parks, who admits she understood little of what she signed.
Both measures attempt to get at the heart of the financial crisis -- the over-abundance of shaky mortgage-backed securities -- that brought Wall Street and Parks' bank to its knees nearly two years ago.
Klobuchar's proposal, which the Senate adopted as an amendment on Wednesday, would protect consumers from the predatory lending practices that jeopardize Parks' house. It is based on a 2007 Minnesota law that ensures lenders obtain essential financial information and provide responsible advice to borrowers.
Franken, who has cited Parks' case on the Senate floor, wants to block banks and other financial institutions from shopping around for the highest credit ratings they can find for their securities, particularly ones based on suspect loans such as Parks', which have been blamed for nearly toppling the world economy in the fall of 2008.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
National Poor People’s Planning Retreat at Highlander Center: May 11 - 12, 2010ShareThis
About 20 representatives of the poor from across the country gathered in mid-May for an inspiring and productive two-day planning retreat at the Highlander Center outside Knoxville, Tennessee. The goal: Find ways to end poverty, and stop the push to punish the poor – once again – for the unrelenting power grab of the corporate elite. The strategy retreat was called by the Poverty Working Group of the U.S. Social Forum to ensure the active participation of large numbers of poor people at the USSF.
Among the participants were caravaners from the March to Fulfill the Dream, which started in New Orleans April 4th and will end in Detroit June 20th for the USSF. The March is spotlighting poverty in the U.S. as a human rights violation. We are gathering stories and testimony from poor people suffering in silence, and are urging the poor to not accept their plight in silence.
Meetings began early and went late into the night. With six weeks left until the U.S. Social Forum it was important for us to discuss all the work happening and how it fits into our long-term strategy. The March to Fulfill the Dream and the U.S. Social Forum are key to PPEHRC’s strategy of building the leadership of the poor to lead the movement to end poverty.
We noted the explosive times in which the USSF is being held; increased attacks on the poor, expanding jobless recovery, and stepped-up hateful anti-immigrant attacks. In response we are witnessing courageous leadership of the undocumented in resisting attempts to make them second-class citizens. Workers and the poor are increasingly taking leadership in their own defense.
Highlander’s history helped root us in a long and powerful tradition of social justice. Since 1932 Highlander has been instrumental in supporting movements for social and economic justice. The Center was founded as a leadership development, educational, and cultural space to build the labor movement. It later was instrumental to developing the leadership of the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa Parks was trained there before sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, Georgia Rep. John Lewis and many more freedom fighters met and planned at Highlander.
Artists and musicians have been inspired at Highlander too. Ziphia Horton, the music director and wife of founder Miles Horton, wrote the song, “We Shall Overcome,” there.
We left Highlander reenergized and dedicated to working towards a broader unity in pursuit of the justice we need. Join us as we press forward to Detroit and the USSF to reclaim our country for the workers who built it!
We need resources to cover travel costs, housing and food for poor and low income people to participate in the USSF. Please DONATE NOW to support this movement!
From left: Monica Beemer, Two Bears, Ethel Long-Scott, Tara Colon
Rose Brewer, Marian Kramer, Jen Cox, Rev. Bruce Wright, Sheila Hill, Jason Bosch
View from outside the workshop space. Highlander has been at this location in New Market, Tennessee since 1971.
Martin Luther King, Pete Seeger, Charis Horton, Rosa Parks, & Ralph Abernathy in front of the Highlander Library, Monteagle, TN.
Labels: USSF 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
Peoplesfest in KentuckyShareThis
PPEHRC Comes to Cincinnati!!ShareThis
May 12, 2010
1227 Vine St.
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Contact Persons: Lynn Williams or Cassandra Barham, 381-4242, Will Wallace 252-1980
Contact Center, in collaboration with Hip Hop Congress, Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, St. Johns Unitarian Church, New Prospect Baptist Church, Over-the-Rhine Islamic Center, and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, will welcome the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign Marchers/Caravan to Ohio when they arrive at the Purple People’s Bridge on Thursday, May 20 at noon. The Purple People's Bridge is at Pete Rose/Butler.
The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) is marching from New Orleans to Detroit from April 4 to June 22 to call public attention to America’s urgent need to end poverty and solve our nation’s problems of homelessness and lack of jobs, among other issues.
After crossing the bridge, the marchers will proceed to the Underground Railroad Freedom Center (at Rosa Parks/Vine St.) to call for justice and an end to economic slavery in America today. From there the marchers will proceed north on Vine St. through Downtown Business District to Contact Center at 1227 Vine St.
At 2:00 PM a Truth Commission Rally and Cookout will be held at 1225 Vine Street (outside the Recovery Hotel/Contact Center building). The Marchers will be involved in community events for the three days they are in Cincinnati. During the three days opportunities will be available for interviews with the Marchers.
The Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign March began in New Orleans and is ending at the outset of U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. The march is highlighting the neglected issues of poverty in the U.S. We are demanding our universal economic human rights including the rights to housing, health care, food, education, communication and living wage jobs.
Sponsored by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. www.economichumanrights.org
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Nashville, TN - Rebuilding after the FloodShareThis
Nashville, TN – Nashville is devastated by last week’s flooding, which killed 23 people in Tennessee. $1.5 billion in damages have been reported as of a couple days ago, and that, “does NOT include public buildings, or any building contents,” according to a news release put out by the city. About two thousand homes have been identified as damaged. National news media have failed to cover the scope of devastation.
As soon as we arrived in Nashville we sat down with the Nashville Homeless Power Project (NHPP) and residents of Tent City to plan how we could best lend our support to those affected by the flood. NHPP is a group that organizes and does leadership development work with homeless people. They work closely with community members of Tent City, a huge homeless encampment downtown. About 150 people were living there before it was completely wiped out by the flood.
“I’ve been living here for 5 years,” said Papa as we toured the site. “I lost everything. The only thing left standing is the grill.”
Residents of Tent City explained to us how special the community was. Tent City was around for over 10 years according to the locals. The city had tried multiple times to shut them down over the years but the popular pressure from residents kept it going. People had different jobs there. One person wrote down the names of everyone staying there. There was a security team in place to ensure the safety of everyone in the community. A newer arrival taught meditation and holistic healing. People cooked, built, and retrieved new items for the camp. It was one of the most elaborate homeless tent cities in the country.
Diesel fuel and sewage cover the land since the flood, leaving a foul smell and environmental hazard that makes the area uninhabitable. Residents say they won’t return. The damage is too bad and the city now has a strong argument to attack people who attempt to move back. Community members of Tent City have built deep bonds with each other and are clear that this is a transition period for them, it’s not the end. If that area remains uninhabitable they will find a new location and rebuild.
“We’re gonna stick together,” said Teetee. “The city split us up into different emergency shelters but we’ll get back together.”
Across town we visited neighborhoods where every house was destroyed. Only the shells remained, with visible water lines sometimes up to 6 feet high on the walls. Alongside the street in front of the homes were all the belongings that formerly decorated the lives of families now struggling to move on. Piles of soaked possessions dripped with brown water and shared the stench of mold and mildew with anyone around. Stuffed animals, computers, furniture, clothes, everything had to go. Dry wall was torn out and thrown to the street, a moldy mess. Everything sat in big piles. In front of every house was their story of incredible loss. The piles waited patiently for a truck to come by to consolidate them and carry them away.
“We lost 95% of everything we had,” said one man behind his house. His backyard borders the stream that flooded the neighborhood. Him and his sister sat outside watching the news and throwing the interior of the house into a big dumpster. “We’ll carry on you know. It’s hard right now but I know that we’ll make it. We’re strong people.”
A car pulled into the driveway and offered me food. Some local volunteers, a woman and her two daughters, had hot food in the trunk of their car – corn, collard greens, chicken, biscuits - and they were going from house to house offering people lunch.
“We just figured people must be hungry. They probably don’t want to bother with cooking anything given everything they’re going through so we’re bringing them some food.”
In another part of town a thick black liquid covered the walls and the ground outside. Numerous people told us that a container of oil from one of several nearby refineries spilled into the area. We went to the place where the spill supposedly happened and found a dark film covering the area.
This may be the worst disaster to happen on U.S. soil since Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. So far the national news media have not given this story nearly the attention it deserves. This flood will test our government’s will to serve people in need. There are many lessons to be learned from Katrina about how institutions respond to catastrophes. Primarily, the private sector uses disasters like this to privatize public services and increase their profits at the expense of poor and working people. Lots of money also gets poured into nonprofit agencies and never reaches the people who need it most. Everyone will have to be vigilant in the coming weeks and months to make sure that people in Nashville are organized. Those directly affected by the flood should have a seat at the table and participate in decisions that affect them in order to ensure their interests come first and not those of people who seek to flood their own pockets with money.
The Nashville Homeless Power Project and residents of Tent City continue to struggle for economic justice in Nashville. We look forward to seeing them at the U.S. Social Forum to continue planning how to support the people of Nashville.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Nashville, TN - Tent City homeless camp is destroyed by floodingShareThis
They left their few possessions behind. Most escaped with little more than the clothes on their backs. Reginald "Vegas" Watson, 45, a member of the residents council that helped organize Tent City, said the camp is uninhabitable.
The property is covered with diesel fuel from a nearby ruptured storage tank and waste from overturned portable toilets.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Chattanooga, TN - Homeless Unite with Students to Protest Foreclosures and HomelessnessShareThis
Toledo, OH - 6 Arrested in Defense of Foreclosed HomeShareThis
Labels: May 2010 Month of Action
Thursday, May 6, 2010
May Day Takeovers Anniversary - 21 Years and Counting!ShareThis
Since then hundreds of takeovers have been coordinated by the Kensington Welfare Rights Union (founded in 1991) and the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign (founded in 1998). Abandoned houses, buildings, churches, land for tent cities, and even a old flour mill have been reclaimed providing shelter for people.
Kensington Welfare Rights Union Takes Over Vacant House in PhiladelphiaShareThis
Labels: May 2010 Month of Action
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Chattanooga, TN Events - May 5,6,7, 2010ShareThis
Join us for a 3‐Day FREE event to END POVERTY NOW located in Chattanooga, TN sponsored by CHANGER ‐ Chattanoogans and North Georgians for Economic Rights
May 5th Wednesday: 5:30pm: Truth Commission & Dinner @ St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
- Real Life Testimonies from our Community
- Dinner provided by UTC Social Work Major Students
May 6th Thursday: March to Fulfill the Dream: Rally & March Begin @ 5:00
- March with us through our community for Economic Human Rights
(Meet at the College Hill Park, Grove St. and Boynton Dr., off Riverside Dr.)
- End @ Tatum Park for Cookout at 7:30pm 1600 Union Ave (Btw. Holly & Highland)
May 7th Friday: 6:00pm: Music & Cultural Event Riverview Park 1000 Barton Ave
- Musical Guests: Duble Dragon, Jack Gray and Arthur Godfrey
Special Guest Speakers! ~ The acoustic sounds of Reggae, Rock & Americana ~
- Food provided by Food Not Bombs
Another world IS possible
Another US is necessary
Join us in the fight for housing, rights, and freedom! The US Social Forum is a movement building process. It is a space to come up with solutions to the economic, social, and ecological crisis. The USSF is the next important step in our struggle to build a movement that transforms this country, changing history.
Kids Activities At All Events
(305 West Seventh Street at Pine)
MAY ACTIVITIES, REFUGE UPDATE, and UPDATE ON THE POOR PEOPLE'S ECONOMIC HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN MARCH To: email@example.comShareThis
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