By Christine Hernandez, Radical Real Estate Law School Apprentice
I am a wife, mother of four, grandmother, and gardener. I live in a 7 unit house very recently purchased by Bay Area Community Land Trust. We were successfully able to purchase our home after 5 years of squatting and a whole lot of community and tenant organizing. For this reality, my heart is full of gratitude. I’m dedicated to efforts that promote housing as a basic Human Right and make the law accessible to everyone. I advance these objectives as a legal apprentice and co-director of the Radical Real Estate Law School.
In many families, mine included, Thanksgiving is a time to take inventory of our blessings; a time to gather with those we love. While these are beautiful traditions, Thanksgiving is buttressed by false narratives and deeply rooted in the rape and pillage of this land and the wholesale slaughter of those native to it. Before squatting, Thanksgiving was a time to hold on to my wits while older family members talked about their views on politics, current events, and my personal choices. Post squatting, I no longer need to worry about such conversations. In my family, there is no generational wealth and those who have established a little something for themselves believe they did so by pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. Unfortunately, the way in which I have met my immediate family’s most basic need for shelter is not aligned with the values held by my family elders. It is received as a direct threat to property rights and thus a direct attack on the “American Dream”. I guess the taking of land is only celebrated when it is framed as our nation’s “manifest destiny”.
All this to say, I am no longer invited to Thanksgiving dinner with my family. After processing feelings of grief and loss, I arrive at gratitude, as I will no longer need to undertake the emotional labor of deprogramming my children after visits! I remain open to these relationships, but if living my truth and encouraging others to do the same is beyond what is deemed acceptable, I prefer the company of my comrades and chosen family.
Unpacking false narratives that are held sacred and enshrined in our nation’s “history” and traditions is essential to creating a more just society. No learning (or unlearning) happens overnight. Like many things that are essential to growth, it is a considerable amount of work and is likely to include emotional labor.
In a desire to support you on your journey, we at the Sustainable Economies Law Center are offering a 3 part series on land liberation called Teachgiving. We hope you will join us as we consider, discuss, and examine settler-colonial structures of land ownership and control, key linchpins to systems of white supremacy, exclusion, and oppression.
This series will be presented by radical movement builders, rooted in community, who reject whitewashed romanticized narratives, while challenging the laws and systems that protect and perpetuate them. We hope these voices of power, strength, and resilience inspire you on your journey and challenge you to be creative in your work. We challenge you to live your values and pass them to the next generation…. and maybe even some of your elders. (Though I hope it doesn't get you uninvited to Thanksgiving dinner!)
Teachgiving 2020 Event Schedule
3:00PM to 4:30PM Pacific on November 18, 2020
Steven DeCaprio will join us to discuss the practical application of DIRECT ACTION tactics with an assessment of how actions intersect with the law, political power, people power, and social and cultural norms and expectations. Steven will provide an overview of how the concept of property ownership was developed and will then discuss how dissonance between these laws and systems of colonization and oppression provide opportunities for peoples' movements to seize power and property through DIRECT ACTION. A frank discussion will follow about specific tactics and strategies, that may be used by those in attendance, with an evaluation of risks and opportunities.
Liberating Land Use: How Zoning Promotes Cultural Genocide and White Supremacy, and How We Can Fight Back
Noon to 1:30 on November 19, 2020
Because of growing white supremacy, concentrated land ownership, and the pandemic, it’s becoming increasingly clear that land use and zoning laws have been used as weapons of cultural genocide and violence against communities of color. Humans interact with land in so many ways: for home, livelihood, gathering, food, ceremony. In residential neighborhoods of Oakland, for example, people have always had home-based community gatherings, enterprises, and other activities that are not allowed by zoning laws. The pandemic has made this even more common. Community-gathering and economic activities of BIPOC and low-income communities are particularly forced to the margins due to lack of access to affordable land. The policing of land uses – and targeting of particular communities – has resulted in acts of violent enforcement.
In this lunch discussion, we’ll hear from former Oakland Councilperson, Wilson Riles, land use attorney, Christopher Chou, and Law Center staff Dorian Payan and Janelle Orsi about problems and possibilities related to land use. Then we’ll invite discussion on questions like: What would it look like to liberate land use? How might we restore and support more natural relationships between people and land? What are the risks of changing zoning laws? What are other problems we must consider? How do we address predatory enforcement practices? What are promising models that we’ve seen?
11:00AM to noon on November 20, 2020
Lisa (Tiny) Gray-Garcia & Leroy Moore of The Homefulness Project and POOR Magazine join us to share the victories and challenges of poor and indigenous people-led solutions to houselessness. The Homefulness Project is a sweat equity, permanent co-housing, education, arts, micro-business and social change project for landless/houseless and formerly houseless families and individuals.
POOR Magazine is a poor people led/indigenous people led, grassroots non-profit,arts organization dedicated to providing revolutionary media access, art, education and advocacy to silenced youth, adults and elders in poverty across the globe.
All of POOR's programs are focused on providing non-colonizing, community-based and community-led media, art and education with the goals of creating access for silenced voices, preserving and degentrifying rooted communities of color and re-framing the debate on poverty, landlessness, indigenous resistance, disability and race locally and globally.