Category Archives: housing


Black Lives Matter Minneapolis activist: Authorities ‘sent cops to our houses’

By Guest Contributor Karĩ Mugo

Civil disobedience is what America is created on. It’s the foundation of our country so the fact that someone is trying to persecute us for performing civil disobedience just shows that they don’t know their own history and they don’t know how history is going to remember them in the future.
— Mica Grimm

When I first saw Mica Grimm, she was an unrepentant head of curly hair with a bull ringed nose and an alluring husky voice that forced you to lean in. Her slight slouch lead you to believe that she was both at ease and staggered by the agenda before her, as she and the other Black Lives Matter (BLM) Minneapolis organizers took to the floor. Over 100 people were gathered on a dusty floor in South Minneapolis to prep for an anti-police brutality demonstration by the group at the Mall of America (MOA). Weeks after the 1,500+ strong protest, I sat down for an interview with Mica. By then, her and 10 other members of Black Lives Matter were facing criminal charges for their role in organizing the protest.

The protest, but more so the law enforcement response to it, resulted in a partial shutdown of the largest North American mall on one of the busiest shopping days; the Saturday before Christmas. Though largely peaceful and carried out in the public eye, the criminal case brought against the organizers revealed an uncomfortable degree of collaboration between the Mall’s corporate owners, the Bloomington City Attorney (where the mall is located), and law enforcement in the lead up to the protest and after.
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Quoted: Ta-Nehisi Coates on The History of Segregation in Chicago

Protest against discriminatory housing practices in Cicero, Illinois, 1966. Image via The Atlantic

In 1948, when the Supreme Court ruled that restrictive covenants, while permissible, were not enforceable by judicial action, Chicago had other weapons at the ready. The Illinois state legislature had already given Chicago’s city council the right to approve—and thus to veto—any public housing in the city’s wards. This came in handy in 1949, when a new federal housing act sent millions of tax dollars into Chicago and other cities around the country. Beginning in 1950, site selection for public housing proceeded entirely on the grounds of segregation. By the 1960s, the city had created with its vast housing projects what the historian Arnold R. Hirsch calls a “second ghetto,” one larger than the old Black Belt but just as impermeable. More than 98 percent of all the family public-housing units built in Chicago between 1950 and the mid‑1960s were built in all-black neighborhoods.

Governmental embrace of segregation was driven by the virulent racism of Chicago’s white citizens. White neighborhoods vulnerable to black encroachment formed block associations for the sole purpose of enforcing segregation. They lobbied fellow whites not to sell. They lobbied those blacks who did manage to buy to sell back. In 1949, a group of Englewood Catholics formed block associations intended to “keep up the neighborhood.” Translation: keep black people out. And when civic engagement was not enough, when government failed, when private banks could no longer hold the line, Chicago turned to an old tool in the American repertoire—racial violence. “The pattern of terrorism is easily discernible,” concluded a Chicago civic group in the 1940s. “It is at the seams of the black ghetto in all directions.” On July 1 and 2 of 1946, a mob of thousands assembled in Chicago’s Park Manor neighborhood, hoping to eject a black doctor who’d recently moved in. The mob pelted the house with rocks and set the garage on fire. The doctor moved away.

In 1947, after a few black veterans moved into the Fernwood section of Chicago, three nights of rioting broke out; gangs of whites yanked blacks off streetcars and beat them. Two years later, when a union meeting attended by blacks in Englewood triggered rumors that a home was being “sold to n*ggers,” blacks (and whites thought to be sympathetic to them) were beaten in the streets. In 1951, thousands of whites in Cicero, 20 minutes or so west of downtown Chicago, attacked an apartment building that housed a single black family, throwing bricks and firebombs through the windows and setting the apartment on fire. A Cook County grand jury declined to charge the rioters—and instead indicted the family’s NAACP attorney, the apartment’s white owner, and the owner’s attorney and rental agent, charging them with conspiring to lower property values. Two years after that, whites picketed and planted explosives in South Deering, about 30 minutes from downtown Chicago, to force blacks out.

— From “The Case For Reparations,” in The Atlantic


The Anarchy of Gentrification & Art Resistance

By Guest Contributor Rama Musa, cross-posted from Global Griot

The city of Houston is buzzing with conversations about the social role of art in neighborhood revitalization.

On Dec. 3, 2013, the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts (TFAA) co-organized “Think Thank: Arts, Identity and Urban Revitalization” at the Rothko Chapel. On Jan. 24 – 25, Project Row Houses  organized “Social Practice, Social Justice,” a two-day symposium on art as an agent of social justice.

These discussions prompted John Guess Jr., CEO of the Houston Museum of African American Culture  (HMAAC), to ask, “[In the onslaught of gentrification], how do community-based arts organizations transform the behavioral change of the people, provide a space for transcendence, and offer scholarship for the spirit?” Houston’s Project Row Houses  and Rebuild Foundation  in Chicago are two nonprofits whose radical social art projects have benefited from, and served as the last frontier against, rapid gentrification in African American neighborhoods.
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Announcements: A Mural Goes Up In Harlem And A Goddess Walk

Photo courtesy of Picture the Homeless.

Photo courtesy of Picture the Homeless.

Just got this last-minute invite to a really great event going on in Harlem, if you’re in town later today.

Picture The Homeless (PTH), a grassroots social-justice organization founded and led by homeless people advocating around the issues of housing, police violence, and the shelter system, reveals their new mural based on those themes today at 4pm at 138t Street and Adam Clayton Powell. The mural is on the side of Epiphany Bar. (More details here.

According to Shaun Lin, one of PTH’s community organizers, the mural was a 6-month collaborative effort of people of all ages living in the community.

“This mural itself is actually the conclusion of a 6-month collaborative process between Picture The Homeless, Peoples Justice, and artist Sophia Dawson. We started with a few study sessions–of “Broken Windows” theory, “quality-of-life” policing, and resistance/organizing around these policing practices–which guided a collective visioning process in which particular images drawn directly from study and conversation. And finally concluded in the painting of the mural, which included 2 community painting days and over 80 volunteers [sic]. The mural itself is beautiful in itself, but the process of creating and painting the mural has been one of the most engaging, collaborative, and community-oriented projects I’ve personally worked on.”

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Meanwhile, On TumblR: English As A Language of Conquest And Two Stories of Employment And Race

By Andrea Plaid



Racializens, my Feminist Wire cohort Monica Torres wants to extend her deepest appreciation for all of you loving the hell out of her excerpted post about the meaning of being an Latina who’s an English major:

I’m an English major. It is a language of conquest.

What does it say that I’m mastering the same language that was used to make my mother feel inferior? Growing up, I had a white friend who used to laugh whenever my mother spoke English, amused by the way she rolled her r’s. My sister and I tease Mami about her accent too, but it’s different when we do it, or is it? The echoes of colonization linger in my voice. The weapons of the death squads that pushed my mother out of El Salvador were U.S.-funded. When Nixon promised, “We’re going to smash him!” it was said in his native tongue, and when the Chilean president he smashed used his last words to promise, “Long live Chile!” it was said in his. And when my family told me the story of my grandfather’s arrest by the dictatorship that followed, my grandfather stayed silent, and meeting his eyes, I cried, understanding that there were no words big enough for loss.

English is a language of conquest. I benefit from its richness, but I’m not exempt from its limitations. I am ‘that girl’ in your English classes, the one who is tired of talking about dead white dudes. But I’m still complicit with the system, reading nineteenth-century British literature to graduate.

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No Myths Here: Food Stamps, Food Deserts, and Food Scarcity

By Erika Nicole Kendall, cross-posted from A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss

When I was about 5 or so, I used to go to my grandmother’s house during the day while my Mother went to work. I remember catching the bus and sleeping across my Mom’s lap until we got there, and then her hugging me and heading off to do whatever it was she did all day. (I was five. Clearly, I had no idea.)

Grandma was cool, but there was always a bajillion people at her house. She lived in the projects*, and spent a big portion of her day being “Mama”to everyone even though she was well into her 50s.

I remember, as a kid, how the big thing was for us to run across the street to the convenient store and get a Big Red pop and a bag of chips. All for $0.50. I mean, it was how we spent every afternoon. Because Grandma’s house was full of people, it was never hard for me to get a hold of two quarters – ahhh, two shiny, glorious quarters – so that I could be like the rest of the kids and sit in the middle of the grass and eat my funyuns or my munchos and my Big Red pop.

(I’m from the Midwest. We say pop, thank you very much.)

It wasn’t that I was Grandma’s favorite, but…. well, I was Grandma’s favorite. She invested a lot of time and effort into me. She taught me to read – she’d hand me the newspaper and make me read every page out loud – and she taught me how to be a little lady. She taught me how to love, as a young girl, because outside of that typical adoration that a young girl has for her mother, you learn that that thing that binds you to Grandma emotionally and you understand it even more so once she’s gone. That made her valuable.

However, I must admit. If there’s one thing I don’t remember, it’s going to a grocery store with Grandma. We just.. we never went together. At least, we didn’t go to a grocery store as I know a grocery store to be today. The only store I ever saw her go to was the convenient store across the street.

And now that I think about it, there’s a lot of things I don’t remember about that time with Grandma.

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Who Do Americans Prefer Not to Have as Neighbors?

By Guest Contributor Lisa Wade, originally published at

recent study by Chelsea Schafer and Greg Shaw found that, as of 2006, over a quarter of Americans would still rather not live near homosexuals.  This percentage has been decreasing, however; in 1990 and 1995, 38% and 30% of people, respectively, wanted to keep their distance:

But tolerance for Muslims and immigrants has not increased alongside tolerance for gays and lesbians.  The data show that rather high levels of tolerance in the ’90s (with about 90% of people being happy to have these groups as neighbors) disappeared and, by 2006, 22% of people did not want to live near Muslims and 19% did not want to live near immigrants.

The data on tolerance for Muslims is likely due to the way the attacks on September 11th, 2001, have been spun to stoke hatred against Muslims.  What do you think about the increased intolerance for immigrants?  Have “foreigners” been collateral damage in the smear campaign against Muslims and Arabs?  If it were simply growing conservatism, wouldn’t we see the same pattern for homosexuals?  Other explanations?

Borrowed from Contexts Discoveries.

“We Get Shit Done to Us:” Economic and State Sponsored Violence in Treme

by Latoya Peterson

*Spoilers Ahead*

Stiffer stipulations attached to each sentence
Budget cutbacks but increased police presence
And even if you get out of prison still livin
join the other five million under state supervision
This is business, no faces just lines and statistics
from your phone, your zip code, to S-S-I digits
The system break man child and women into figures
Two columns for who is, and who ain’t niggaz
Numbers is hardly real and they never have feelings
but you push too hard, even numbers got limits
Why did one straw break the camel’s back? Here’s the secret:
the million other straws underneath it – it’s all mathematics

—“Mathematics,” Mos Def, Black on Both Sides


Near the beginning of the episode, Davis is in lock up after being harassed by the National Guard. Still, he yelled “Go the fuck back to Fallujah!” and got put in lock up as Toni tries to calm him down. Her grim reminder that the police and the guard are on edge serves as foreshadowing for later events – it is worthwhile to note that Davis is still more or less in one piece after the altercation.

Later on, Antoine is not so fortunate. After singing on the street with Annie and Sonny after his gig at the strip club, he drunkenly stumbles into a police car. The police react swiftly and brutally, kicking Antoine’s horn and punching him in the face. Horrified, Annie and Sonny look on, but cannot protest much for fear of retribution. The SMO squad is especially effective in this portrayal: at this point in the series, a police car in the background of a shot provides a sense of fear and foreboding. None of the characters as of yet have had a positive interaction with the police, which mimics the dynamics in a lot of communities of color – instead of a welcome sight, police presence means something horrible is about to happen -not crime prevention.

The concept of state violence extends further throughout the episode – Ladonna’s struggle to locate her brother within the criminal justice system, and being stymied at every turn also demonstrates the pernicious nature of state control over incarcerated citizens. Law enforcement appears to be unconcerned with who they have in custody and why – only that a prisoner is accounted for.

It’s understood that the police are under pressure – but what about the other citizens? Continue reading