Readers Forum–Susan Massad

Review of Terrible Virtue

1/1/17

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Dr. Susan Massad at a recent protest against efforts to privatize and undermine public housing in NYC.

Terrible Virtue is an extraordinarily apt title for this fictional account of the life of Margaret Sanger, rebel, feminist, founder of Planned Parenthood, and crusader for the right for all women to access effective birth control.  Thru diverse narrative voices, of Sanger’s children, her lovers, her sister and husband, the author, Ellen Feldman, gives us a way into the life of this very historically conflicted character.  Margaret Sanger was a  complicated and difficult woman. Called by some, even today, a eugenicist, racist, and quack.  And, for the many women whose cause she championed, Sanger was a hero.

I found myself alternately applauding her and judging her: Self sacrificing and self-centered; champion of the poor and seduced by the rich; passionate lover and manipulator of emotions; single issue cause and worldly vision; love of family and single-minded passion for the cause; rebel and conformist; blind to the individual and embracing the mass.   Many of these contradictions and conflicts that Feldman exposes in the life of this committed social/political activist are ones that I, as a long-time political activist, have experienced and could easily identify with.

In reading the book I realize how close we still are in 2016 to Sanger’s cause of providing effective measures for family planning for all woman. Planned parenthood is under attack, access to effective birth control information restricted, abortion rights greatly curtailed, and funding for research on more effective methods of contraception virtually halted.  America’s deeply religious and moral roots have been exposed as a woman’s right to choose becomes once again a question rather than a fact for millions of women all over the world.

In 1961 I was in my final year of medical school at the University of California in San Francisco when the “pill” was introduced into our world. As part of a routine lecture to our class of 100 students, ten of whom were woman, we were told that there was now a pill that woman could take that would prevent pregnancy.  This rather amazing scientific breakthrough was presented as yet another fact for us to put down in our notebooks–how the pill works, dosage schedules,  side-effects, cost, etc. The derisive comments and  sniggers scattered thru-out the room, and the handful of students who walked out of the lecture hall were not even worthy of comment. To most of us the pill was just one of the amazing contributions that medical science had made to our “can do” post-war society.  We were enamored by science. It was our great love.

At the time, so great was the distance between our science and our lives that I did not even make the connection between my own experiences and this extraordinary breakthrough in technology.  Both of my two sisters had experienced unplanned “out of wedlock” pregnancies.  In our middle class home the pregnancies were concealed from all but close family and friends, and the off-springs sent to a loving families for adoption. I was berated by our family doctor whose office I visited at the age of 21 to ask about being fitted for a diaphragm.  He wanted to know how I could even be thinking of having sex when my sisters had already shamed our family.  And then there were my many friends who had crossed the border to go through the ordeal of a Mexican abortion.  The “pill” like most other scientific breakthroughs, was not neutral. Terrible Virtue is a stark reminder of this fact.

Feldman’s Margaret flirts with spirituality, eugenics and the temptations of an upper class life at the same time she champions the cause of masses of poor woman who did not have access to contraception. The book is bookended with the question, “If you could do it again, would you do it the same?”  In these early years of the 21st Century where a woman’s  right to access effective contraception is again under attack it is not even clear that one could do it the same. Sanger was unique for her time and, to me, her commitment to providing, against all odds, effective means of pregnancy prevention to poor woman is a legacy worth applauding.

Dr. Susan Massad is a retired physician. Dr Massad is on the faculty of the East Side Institute and an activist with the New York City Independence Clubs.

 

Politics for the People Conference Call

With Ellen Feldman

Sunday, January 22nd at 7 pm EST

Call In Number: 641 715-3605

Access code 767775#

Terrible Virtue–a movie in the making

 

Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger Getting Biopic Treatment From Black Bicycle & Justine Ciarrocchi

Deadline Hollywood

by

December 14, 2016 8:30am

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EXCLUSIVE: As the organization’s centennial year draws to a close, the story of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sander will be heading to the big screen as Black Bicycle Entertainment and producer Justine Ciarrocchi have partnered to acquire rights to author Ellen Feldman’s novel Terrible Virtue. Black Bicycle’s Erika Olde will develop and produce the film adaptation alongside Ciarrocchi.

Ciarrocchi is the producing partner of Jennifer Lawrence and is developing Zelda, which tells the story of Zelda Fitzgerald. Ron Howard is attached to direct the film with Lawrence in the title role. The Oscar-winning actress is not attached to the Sanger project.

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Published by HarperCollins in March, Terrible Virtue focuses on Sanger as the daughter of a hard-drinking, smooth-tongued free thinker and mother worn down by 13 children, who vowed her life would be different. Following Sanger’s training as a nurse, her work alongside labor organizers, anarchists, socialists and other progressives and eventually her devotion to the cause of legalizing contraception, the film examines the risks she took and the impact she had that lasts to the present day.

One of the most groundbreaking and controversial figures in American history, Sanger emerged from the labor movement as the pre-eminent American voice for women’s sexual health and legalization of contraception. Credited with coining the term “birth control,” she established the first American birth control clinic in 1916, devoting her life to making contraception legal and along the way facing arrest and exile.

Sanger remains an icon and hero to progressives and feminists but a greatly reviled figure to the anti-abortion movement, which frequently has taken comments by Sanger about overpopulation out of context to imply racist intent. Work on bringing her story to the big screen begins just as abortion and birth control opponents look to make significant gains with the election of Donald Trump.

“Margaret’s story as an advocate who led the battle for birth control and eventually founding Planned Parenthood is so relevant given our recent election and today’s climate as we are once again forced to deal with basic human rights,” said Olde. “I share a mutual passion of the subject with Justine and look forward to bringing this topic and heroic individual to the forefront.”

Said Ciarrocchi: “The scope of Sanger’s complexity, both as a revolutionary and human being, is extraordinary. I blew through Feldman’s novel with such urgency, struck by the nuance, transparency and daring of her portrait. Her story explores the often brutal nature of activism and, most audaciously, the plight of the female soul. I’m thrilled to have found such passionate partners in Erika and BBE.”

Black Bicycle Entertainment is in production on Home Again, starring Reese Witherspoon and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer; Susanna White’s Woman Walks Ahead, starring Jessica Chastain, which just wrapped principal photography; and Whitney Cummings’ The Female Brain.

The acquisition of Terrible Virtue was negotiated by CAA, which represents Black Bicycle, Ciarrocchi and Feldman. Feldman is repped for publishing by the Emma Sweeney Agency.

 

Politics for the People Conference Call

With Ellen Feldman

Sunday, January 22nd at 7 pm EST

Call In Number: 641 715-3605

Access code 767775#

New Selection–Terrible Virtue

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Reader’s Forum–Charles Isildur writes on EVICTED

The piece below was sent to us by Charles Isildur from Staten Island.  Charles is an independent and an activist with the New York City Independence Clubs.  His post shares his experience nearly being evicted from NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) housing.  He began his piece before our conversation with Matthew Desmond, author of EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City and finished it this week. I am glad to be able to share it with you today.

charles-isildur

 

I looked forward to listening to this discussion of Author Matthew Desmond’s “Evicted.”  Even though—I have never been technically homeless; I had a few close calls in my life in which I was almost evicted from NYCHA for falling behind on my rent.  The most recent circumstance—was during the last three months of 2013, because of circumstances beyond my control.  I was laid off from my State job at the New York State Department of Correctional Services (renamed Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in 2012).

I had never read the author’s book of “Evicted”, and I can never fully relate to a person, who has experienced it firsthand.  However—I can tell you from my own personal experience that being on the verge of eviction, causes high degrees of stress and a range of emotions stemming from anger to depression.  I can relate more to the political side of the “homeless crisis”, because, I have wrestled with the bureaucracy of the State and the City firsthand, when it comes to accessing their funded services—the programs that are supposed to be designed to help a person to survive, and stay afloat.

Unknowingly to an individual, who becomes unemployed; there is a set of “barriers” to overcome—just to access the immediate funds of the “unemployment insurance.”  That federal program that our taxes support, and is supposed to be available from the time the claim for unemployment is filed, and approved.  This is the common belief of those, who lose their job.

However—it had taken four weeks before I saw my first check of $401.00 in 2013, from the time I was approved for the funds.  The first two weeks was spent waiting to receive notification that I was approved for the “unemployment funds” in the mail.  Then I had to call a toll-free number, and deal with the prompts of an automated system to find out when I am receive my first unemployment benefits by a specific date.  This was when the four-week grace period begins, after that confirmation by the calling of that number.  I am not sure if I had to enter a pin code.  Another thing that the unemployed individual does not know at the time is that this $401.00 is taxable like a regular income check, which means that the unemployed individual actually receives less money after the standard deductions. I do not remember what that amount was back then; but to get that full $401.00 dollars back in the following weekly checks, I had to fill out an exemption form for the withholding of my income tax in my future checks.  I had done this part online, once I registered on the New York State Department of Labor website.  Our newly elected governor, Democrat, Andrew Cuomo, had initiated sweeping changes during his first year in office.  He wanted everything automated as quickly as possible.

Another thing that a person, who is unemployed, has to use the following form called, the Work Search Record Form (WS5).  I had downloaded this form onto my computer, and I had to use this form to make a record of my job search for the first 20 week minimal requirement to collecting the weekly, unemployment check.  This was a mandatory requirement by the State.  This information can be requested at any given time by the Department of Labor as proof of the individual’s attempts to find employment.  I never received the minimal 20 weeks of unemployment, because of the Federal Government Shutdown from October 1 through 16, 2013.  The Unemployment Insurances benefits were temporarily disrupted, and this had taken effect during the last week of December of 2013, because Congress was late in replenishing the funds.  My last unemployment check was issued through direct deposit on that week.  I was heading into the New Year of 2014, owning a month, and-a-half of rent.  After January 1st, 2015, I had received an eviction notice later that month.  I was officially served.  I was angry, because of a situation that was no fault of mine.  This is part of the new realities that the unemployed individual is subjected to, when unemployed for the first time.

I see this now as part of the politics on a basic level—part of a greater complex system that was, and still is—levels beyond my understanding.  The rules of collecting unemployment have changed since the latter part of 2013, with more restrictions enacted through Congress, regardless of Party affiliation.  I had gradually learned that these congressional committees draft these policies in the name of dealing with the national debt, and our congressional leaders argue these agendas through their speeches from their constituents (mostly lobbyists) to justify why a program should be cut, or eliminated in the justification of its failure.  The biggest arguments are the claims of fraud, abuse, or it takes away an individual’s incentive to find work, when dealing with the nation’s unemployment issues.  Republicans would argue the new restrictions to free up money for other uses in the name of budget reduction.  The Democrats would argue for the program’s increase, or to not be touched.  The bill to fund the unemployment insurance has other attachments (bills) hooked onto it, because these attachments would not pass a majority vote as a stand-alone bill, or be considered on the floor for a vote.  So—therefore these “other bills” are attached to a major funding bill like the Unemployment Insurance.  This bill will be stalled in Congress, due to opposing partisan views, which can become extreme at times, during our highly dysfunctional “two-party” system.  Then there is political partisan maneuvering, and both Party’s will deploy the Mainstream Media to shame the other in the Public.  This kind of process continues for days, and weeks at a time.  There are lengthy speeches in return, while Congress is in session.  I would watch this kind of political bickering/maneuvering unfold, while watching this coverage on C-SPAN, on cable television.  I would watch as much I as could stand, before I change the channel.  However—the end result is some kind of bi-partisan agreement in the dysfunction that is Congress.  A last minute passage of an Unemployment Bill, during the last hour.  However—such a bill will not reach the president’s desk, until days later to be signed into Law.  The Mainstream Media will report that the bill was passed, but not the mechanics behind that bill, and the attachments that go with it.   They will not speak of what was in the Unemployment Bill, which is funding other agendas.  These agendas have nothing to do with the basic human need to survive, and provide for oneself, and their family.  This is an example of the politics behind what is a necessity for the average person.

A person depending on the unemployment insurance to survive, and get by, can no longer buy what food they can, or pay some kind of bill, like a much needed utility, or a rent payment to keep from being served an eviction notice, when this Federal Program is disrupted for any reason.

Most people in my experience do not understand, or care about the politics behind why that “check” was not there—when it was supposed to be.  The only answer they want to know is how do they get food, pay their rent, and keep a roof over their head.  When there are children involved—the anger and desperation is much greater.

The Poor are used as a political leverage to achieve greater agendas which involve millions of dollars that do not address the quality of life of the average person trying live, whether they are either part of the middle-class, or the “low income” brackets according to statistics.  Where did this “lower-middle class” terminology come from?  What is an “upper-middle class?”  When did this social class split occur in the middle-class definition, to avoid being labeled “poor?”  How did the definition of $50.000 become the standard of what is defined as “low income?” (Learned the $50.000 part from Lenora Fulani.)

A person trying to survive—does not care about the political complexities, and the decisions made that effect how they would receive that unemployment check on the local level, in their home States.  The confusion of the bureaucracy is mainly dismissed as nonsense (BS acronym), and that person will go back home to their friends, and family to relate their own tale of how the City or the State (sometimes both), screwed them over in how they (the agency office) took their money (canceled benefits), did not pay them their money (delayed funds from Congress), or say that they no longer qualify for that unemployment check (change in eligibility requirements from Congress).  Confusion and anger will first grip that individual.  Then the state of depression arrives later.  The state of desperation is the last step in the need to survive in which all moral inhibitions in Society disappear from that person’s mind, when desperation sets in.  Then they are willing to “do what they need to survive.”

Most people, who I have encountered, are politically ignorant of the politics behind the funding of these anti-poverty programs by the government, and the struggle to understand the complicated language when applying for these programs, and so on.  There are social workers, who lack the patience to explain the complicated manner of the forms, one must fill out.  Some of the questions are vague, and some are intrusive.  Even I have struggled with some of the wording of such documents.  The situation is complicated further when a person has to deal with the sometimes negative attitudes of these State workers, who are hired to run these agencies.  This is the bureaucracy at work, on the ground level.  The average person does not have that lawyer-like level of intelligence, or that apprehension.  Yet—when a mistake is made—it is made the fault of the person filling out the paperwork, because of that misunderstanding of what it was they was support to write in the space after the question on a given form.  Explaining the meaning of the languages of these forms to another individual in a manner that they can understand, can be stressful within its self.

When such anti-poverty programs are temporarily disrupted, or cut?  This situation triggers the first step towards being “evicted” on the State level.  The bills do not stop coming in, and the landlord is not trying to hear why a person cannot pay.  My last unemployment check was the last week of December of 2013, because the Republicans in the Congress did not fund the program, before it shutdown, due to their obstructionism against the Democratic president, Barack Obama.  The Management in NYCHA is not trying to hear all that, when I was severed a letter of eviction in January of 2014 for being a month behind on my rent.  The eviction notice has stated that I owed two months back rent, which I knew was lie.  This happened days after I had received a notification of my disability retirement approval from the State of New York.  I had to challenge my eviction of course, and get a date from the Richmond County Civil Court.  I disputed the amount in front of the county clerk, and I eagerly accepted my assigned court date, and I was dismissed without as much as a “have a good day” comment or something from the clerk, as an act of courteousness.

My court date was approximately two months from the time I was served my eviction notice.  This was ample time for me to pay the remainder of my back rent, before I had to appear in court since, I was now receiving disability retirement pension monthly.

On the day of my court appearance, I had felt an anxiety build up within me, because I was representing myself.  I had no attorney, because I cannot afford one.  Even though all my rent payments were current, I still had to appear in the courthouse.  I had to go to that courtroom where the judge would be presiding over my case.  I turned that anxiety to anger, because if I had to fall—I was going to go down fighting against people, who were knowledgeable of the Law, and I was not.  My case was not dismissed, and Housing can still seek a tenant’s eviction, because the terms were violated.  Did not matter that my circumstances were beyond my control; the bottom line was my failure to my rent in a timely fashion.  The contractual agreement was broken.

The day I had to appear in court, while I sat in the waiting area of the court room.  I had seen attorneys going around speaking to the tenants there to negotiate a settlement with them, before the court proceeding begun.  I did not really pay attention to the others in the room.  I was in attitude mode, and I was angry.  When I did pay attention?  I saw a few people silently crying, and very upset, because their problems had overwhelmed them.  Being served an “eviction” was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” according to the lives of those who wept?  There were others with grim faces.  I guess they were trying to mask how they were feeling.  The attorneys, who went to those who wept, were offering comfort.  Others called out names of persons, who did not show up. When one attorney got to me, he says that my case was dismissed.  He did not ask my name.  He just assumed it was me.  Now that I look back on this, I have to believe that I was the last person to be called from a list.  I was in a moment of disbelief in how I was addressed without formal introductions.  I got off the bench were I sat, and approached the man at the table, where he sat sifting through his papers, and I asked him to repeat what I thought I heard.  He stopped—looked at me and repeated what he said, and showed me the paper of dismissal of my case, and his updated information showing that I no longer owed the money the claimant NYCHA had made against me.  I left the courthouse in a pissed off mood, because I had a payment arrangement with the management office in how I was going to catch up.  Regardless of my honesty, I was still served an eviction notice regardless, because of a situation beyond my control. I realized that NYCHA does not really work with a person when they temporarily fall behind in their rent.  I had thanked the lawyer—the man—in the courtroom, and I quickly exited the courthouse.

It was not my first time, I have been in Court, and I am no stranger to that intimidating fear, and that welling up of anxiety, when the weight of the Law is upon me.  It is only their lawyers, and there is nothing for me, the tenant, or the defendant in these landlord tenant cases.  It was only their lawyers.

There is no legal counsel to represent the defendant, or the resident facing eviction.  The poor/low income person has to face that reality that they cannot afford a lawyer, and all that they have is their wits for their defense, should they go before the judge.  When their lawyers are negotiating a deal with the defendant, they are representing their client’s interests—not the tenant.  This is when the reality of “you are a broke-ass” sets in.  There is no more denying or pretending at this juncture.  The letter of the Law is tougher then the hard exterior facade, that a person has worn, until that defining, terrifying day. Than that shell is broken. A cruel form of humility visits that person, if they don’t know it already. The Court officers are always at the ready–to pounce a person during an outburst.  When their rage becomes uncorked—that last act before the judgement of the judge, who holds the fate of that person in his hands, because in his courtroom, they are like God.  Because in the courtroom—the judge’s decision is supreme in their judgement, and there is a finality in their words.  If—the judge does not take pity, upon a given situation involving the person being “evicted?”  The doom of “the evicted” is assured. That last sense of self-worth is destroyed, while Society’s label of “worthlessness” is stamped upon their forehead. What came before, which had defined that life will ceases to exist.

Society continues to move forward after that; except for those, who were cast out. It is always the Mainstream Society’s desire to make such people irrelevant in the end. Disappear!

I was nearly perfect in all of my rent payments, and until I was officially declared delinquent.  A person can be perfect in all of their rent payments.  When it comes to the bureaucracy of the “system”, that kind of history does not matter, and neither does how many years a person lives in a place.  This has no bearing when it comes to the rules and regulations involving Housing.  Get labeled as a delinquent…your name gets submitted for lease termination according to guidelines.  There is really no leeway.

NYCHA does not automatically readjust a person’s rent, when there is a reduction of income.  The unemployed tenant has to show proof of receiving an unemployment check for first four weeks, after receiving the payments.  After this bureaucratic condition it satisfied, only then will Management will submit a request for a rent readjustment in which there is a grace period of two rent cycles, before the change is reflected in a person’s future rent, which is 30% of yearly income.  The tenant is still responsible for the old rent amount, under the previous salary, despite the fact that income no longer exists.  The bureaucracy of the Housing system is designed against the tenant.

I wished that Ramon had said what was the legal loophole that his former landlord had exercised to get him evicted after 20 something years, when his short story was posting on your blog, Cathy.

My understanding is that the landlord does not have to renew your lease anymore, especially if the tenant does not, or cannot afford to pay the higher rent of the new lease.  The issue of this continues to crop up on the NY-1 nightly program of the Road to City Hall, when there are discussion about the Mayor Bill De Blazio’s current housing policies, and that of past mayors, when it comes to the “tale of two cities” concept.  The explosion of the homeless began when all the rent control laws were abolished during former mayors Rudolph Giuliani, and Michael Bloomberg’s previous administrations, while no new units of affordable housing were being built.

Each victim of eviction will relate a similar story of the numbers of years that they have lived in an area—a given neighborhood, before they were ousted.  They speak of it as if this should have had weight and substance in the decision making of that former landlord; but this belief is as empty as the void.  The real-estate industry is all about development of land, and profit.  Then—through the legislative process, enact economic policies like “imminent domain”, and “land seizures” in the poorer neighborhoods in the name of “economic development”, or “economic improvements” to bring that “greater prosperity.”  A prosperity which applies to those with the wealth to spend it, and not those, who lack the incomes, or are just too poor to adapt to the changes that come in the name of what is “profitable.”

The worth of human dignity is measured by where you live, and what you have.  The wealthier a person is—more respect is given by this type of social judgement; also where a person lives also has a bearing on their Public image.  Could this be why I tend to notice how others expend so much mental energy to conceal the fact that they live in a state of economic depravity; that state of being “poor”, according to Society’s standards, so they will be rejected in Public.

The greatest cruelty is when others make the main assumption that a person is homeless, because they were on drugs, and that their suffering is all their own doing—self-inflicted, and never consider the “external forces” beyond the average individual’s control, that created this state of impoverishment—that economic deprivation.

The only time that the existence of the Poor in this nation matter, is when they are used as a political leverage between our elected officials, when it is convenient for them to do so.  This is the unfortunate reality within our “two-party” system, to achieve that greater agenda both on the Federal, State, City, and County levels.  The only champions of the Poor are those, who fight “the system”, and the “status quo,” and Party affiliation is not needed for that.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Isildur

Finished date: December 12, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highlights from P4P Conversation with Matthew Desmond

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On Sunday, October 23rd, the Politics for the People book club spent an hour talking with Matthew Desmond about his book, EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City.  I am sharing a few highlights below and you can listen to the entire conversation at the end of this post.

(Note: if the audio links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come to the blog.)

Our first audio clip includes my introduction of Matthew and an exploration of his process, his examination of poverty as a relationship between rich and poor, and how that framework brought him to look at and study the eviction crisis. I also talked with Matthew about the destabilization of New York City’s public housing taking place under the NextGeneration plan. This section ends with some of Matthews most surprising discoveries meeting people living in poverty across the country and the ways in which they refused to be defined by their hardships.  Have a listen:

goo.gl/gMbuFS

Ramon Pena shared his personal experience being evicted in New York City after “20 years of having never missed a rent payment.” He goes on to share his journey through homelessness, the shelter system and finally to a home out of state. Ramon and Matthew explore what our elected officials should be held accountable for. Hear their interaction below.

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Sarah Bayer found out she is a Cambridge, Massachusetts neighbor of Matthew’s as she delved into a fascinating exchange on her 25 years of work within the family shelter system, what she describes as our nations’ own “internal refugees”, and the unique financial constraints placed on a city like Boston. How does Matthew see the role that the shelter system plays in the eviction crisis?

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Tiani Coleman, president of New Hampshire Independent Voters talked about her days of working in the court system in Salt Lake City,

“I did pro-bono work for my church community and was able to see first hand the impact of lack of representation for families that were facing eviction. I had to handle some evictions, and even had opposing council get rather annoyed with me and tell me I was unnecessarily complicating things… What do you think is the biggest impediment to getting the eviction crisis and the representation issue in housing court addressed?”

Matthew began his answer by acknowledging the important kind of community investment Tiani spoke of, “Thank you so much for your work, you were slugging it out in housing court… When folks have a lawyer by their side their chances of keeping their home go up dramatically irrespective of the case.” Hear their interaction below:

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Attorney and Independent activist Harry Kresky shared his observations since moving to New York city to attend Columbia in 1962. Throughout his time here and through his work on the NYCHA housing crisis he’s seen that increasingly “so much of the face of New York is now for the wealthy people…. A lot of the focus is on so called ‘affordable housing’ which deals with middle class people and union members and people that have political clout,” but troubling to Harry was the absence of a coming together of “the affordable housing people,” and “the people living in intractable poverty and fighting to save public housing.” Matthew And Harry explore why that might be:

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 As we looked forward, Arizona P4P member Al Bell asked Matthew whether he had heard of any members of congress who truly understand this issue of eviction and could potentially become an advocate. Matthew shared some encouraging updates with news of happenings on ‘The Hill’ since the publication of Evicted.  Give a listen:

goo.gl/5Yc7FS

Michelle McCleary helped take our perspective from the macro to the micro-level. “If I knew someone was hungry, I’d buy them a sandwich. If they were cold, I’d give them a coat” she shares, “What is our personal responsibility to our fellow man?!’ “I personally think this is where the conversation has got to go if we are going to make any lasting change…” Matthew replied. “By 2025 about 1.6 billion people will live in substandard housing or unaffordable housing… climate change and housing are the biggest issues facing humanity.”

You can hear Matthew and Michelle’s conversation below.

goo.gl/r3D9M5

You can listen to the full conversation with Matthew Desmond below, ENJOY.

goo.gl/xME8VI

***

NEWS FLASH

Next Politics for the People Selection:

Terrible Virtue

book-image

by Ellen Feldman

Our conference call with the author

will be on January 22nd, 2017 at 7 pm EST

 

 

 

 

Readers’ Forum–Al Bell and Catana Barnes. P4P Call Tonight

Our final commentaries on EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City are by Al Bell from Arizona and Catana Barnes from Nevada.

Dial in this evening at 7 pm EST for our conversation with the author of EVICTED, Matthew Desmond.  The call in number is 641 715-3605 and the access code is 767775#.

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Al Bell (R) with Arizona democracy activists, Tim Castro (L), Patrick McWhortor, Amanda Melcher and Adriana Espinoza

 

Evicted is a story we need to know. It can only be known by living within it, not talking about it. Matthew Desmond knows and we are privileged to be exposed to that knowledge.

Your respondents have made the clear case that most of us have never had to face the life Matthew Desmond shared with us in Evicted. Many thing can be said of this powerful story. One of them is that, if one has ever lived in circumstances like those Mathew describes, his ability to convey what that feels like is exceptional, indeed. While our family was never evicted in the way Matthew depicts, I do remember living as a kid in a trailer camp where the four year old girl next door burned to death because she tipped a can of kerosene on a hot plate on the floor of the sixteen foot trailer her family lived in (same size as ours). When the trains roared by, a couple hundred feet away, everything shook and rattled. We were in our own world and the “other” world where real people lived was something of a mystery. The vast difference between that experience and those Matthew describes, however, is that we had a way out and it eventually worked.

Yes, housing does matter and we escaped owing to unique circumstances. The people Matthew writes about will never enjoy those circumstances as long as our current housing culture prevails—and probably not even if it changes for the better. Lag times and generational gaps are immense. Having spent 47 years in the community planning business, I could go on all day about the multiple dimensions of how the dice are loaded for people like those in Matthew’s book. You’re lucky: I won’t do that!

What is truly incredible about Matthew’s story is how he lived it himself—an act of commitment most of us would never contemplate, let alone carry out. This story reveals so much because it is told through the eyes of real experience, not vicarious tales. I was waiting through most of the book to find out if this is real, or some feat of imagination. Then came the last chapter and an avalanche of insight and revelation.

In contrast to most investigative reports, I spent a significant amount of time with his chapter notes. They could be a book all in themselves.

I know you will express our book club members’ gratitude for Matthew’s commitment to revealing reality by living it himself. That is true dedication. I have no idea how he did that and managed to live his own life at the same time. We are truly in his debt. His wife must be some kind of saint! You can certainly add my name to the list of appreciative and highly impressed readers.

And thank you, Cathy, for exposing us to this amazing work.

 Al Bell is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona.

Catana Barnes

catana barnes speaking

Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is one of the best books I have had the pleasure to read. The accounts of real life struggles brought me to tears more than once as I watched someone I know going through the very issues being faced in the book as well as the very real struggles I face myself. I was also struck by the number of societal pitfalls that ensnare those who are not fortunate enough to buy their way out of their plight.

I grew up poor, by all American standards, and have become even more impoverished throughout adulthood. As I was reading Evicted, I came to the realization that the lives of my children, many of my friends and I have been significantly influenced by the societal pitfalls Matthew Desmond alludes to in his book. Unfortunately, it appears that the societal pitfalls are becoming more expansive at the same time there is greater monetary reward for landlords.

One of the most striking chapters I have read so far is Chapter 2: Making Rent. I learned a great deal about the impact of corporations moving their companies out of the country in search of cheap labor as well as the impact of President Clinton’s welfare reform that took place in the early 1990s. I also learned that there are people who have had to and are paying up to ninety percent of their income on rent alone and the fact that laws and policies protect landlords and punish tenants.

Matthew Desmond does a superb job at reaching the conscience and heart of the reader. He also does a superb job at educating the reader about a highly destructive societal pitfall. As I stated previously, I consider “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” to be one of the best books I have ever read and highly recommend it to everyone.

Catana Barnes is the founder and President of Independent Voters of Nevada.

***

Politics for the People Conference Call

With Matthew Desmond

Sunday, October 23rd at 7 pm EST

TONIGHT

Call In Number: 641 715-3605

Access code 767775#

Readers’ Forum–Tiani Coleman and Dr. Jessie Fields

Tiani Coleman

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Dr. Lenora Fulan with Tiani Coleman, recipient of a 2015 Anti-Corruption Award by the New York City Independence Clubs

How I Relate to Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

As I read Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, the portrayal of the friction-filled lives and terrible living conditions experienced by eight tenant families in Milwaukee as telling “an American story” that can be found in average cities across the country, and isn’t reserved to places like Detroit, Los Angeles, or Chicago, I thought about two opposing experiences I’ve had living in two different cities:  New York City and Salt Lake City.

In 1998, when I first graduated from law school, having accepted a job offer in NYC, I took a day off from studying for the NY Bar Exam to go on a housing hunt.  Not being from the City, safety was a concern.  I scanned the newspaper for good places to rent.  The cheapest place I could find that still met our basic requirements was on the West Side.  As I got closer and closer to the address, I noticed that the surroundings were getting dumpier and dumpier.  I pushed the buzzer on the walk-up, and a man buzzed me in, but when I opened the door and saw the dark, dirty, banged-up, ever-so-steep flight of stairs, I got the heebie-jeebies, turned around, and walked away.  I soon found out that that had been in Hell’s Kitchen.

So I have a confession to make (a big, bad one):  I gave up on trying to find the perfect, relatively cheap place full of character, and was lured into signing a promotional contract with a new development  — yes, Donald Trump was my “landlord” — I was the very first tenant to move into the first Trump Place on the upper West side by the Lincoln Center, along the Hudson.  Apart from riding the subway, I didn’t see too much of the stereotypical inner-city life, spent long hours at the office, and went to church with lots of other DINKS.  But within a year, I had a baby, and my husband and I moved to downtown Salt Lake City.

When we first went to church in downtown SLC, we quickly discovered that it looked nothing like the congregation in NYC.  For one thing, the pews were relatively empty (ironically surprising).  For another, the people were not well educated, and with the exception of a wealthier retired community and a few others, the congregants were primarily residents of a retired and/or disabled public-housing high-rise, or part of a permanent low-income class, living in ghetto-like neighborhoods, including three homeless shelters.

Shortly after getting sworn in to the Utah Bar (still nursing my baby), I discovered that I would be called upon regularly (along with a couple of others) to be the pro bono legal services for my congregation.  My first case was an eviction case.

A family with young children was being asked to vacate immediately or incur triple damages and attorneys fees, with back rent owed regardless.  After helping my clients put up bond, and counterclaiming with, among other things: partial payment, with prior notice of a broken furnace and sewage problems; and stolen tools (the landlord had taken my handy-man client’s specialty tools, affecting his ability to work), I got chewed out by opposing counsel.  He said, “What are you doing?  You must be new around here; this isn’t the way it’s done.  You’re unnecessarily complicating things.”  When I went to court, I saw that the docket was set up for these cases to be rubber stamped quickly; the judge and opposing counsel were chummy from having seen so much of each other, with nobody there with representation to defend themselves against their slumlord.  The case dragged on (for discovery) while the living conditions got worse and my clients looked for other options.  The landlord, nervous about some of the allegations against him, did return the tools, and we got the case dismissed, without damages or attorneys fees; but ultimately, my clients moved back with the in-laws out of state, and the landlord was never really held accountable as a bad actor.

I spent four years living in SLC’s inner city before moving to the suburbs.  I saw situations similar to  Desmond’s documented vignettes of how the poor are exploited, and how people’s housing situation affects every other aspect of their lives:  from the devastating effects of high interest pay-day loans to try to keep afloat, to the heart-wrenching stories of DCFS being so quick to take children away from poverty-stricken families and putting them into juvenile homes or foster care, to people living in constant fear, if not of gang violence or deportation, then of eviction.

Desmond eloquently explains that when we discuss the housing issue, “[t]here are two freedoms at odds with each other:  the freedom to profit from rents and the freedom to live in a safe and affordable home.”  While he paints a picture that makes it clear that we can’t blame tenants for their plight (they have no options to get ahead), he doesn’t cast all of the blame at the feet of landlords, either:  “[i]f given the same opportunity, would any of us price an apartment at half of what it could fetch or simply forgive and forget losing thousands of dollars when the rent checks didn’t arrive?”  But we’re deceiving ourselves if we say the housing market should just be left as is to regulate itself; after all, the government is actively supporting the exploitation, with a system that “legitimizes and defends landlords’ right to charge as much as they want; that subsidizes the construction of high-end apartments, bidding up rents and leaving the poor with even fewer options; that pays landlords when a family cannot, through onetime or ongoing housing assistance; that forcibly removes a family at landlords’ request by dispatching armed law enforcement officers,” and on and on.

I completely agree with Desmond that we need to “uncover the ironies and inefficiencies that arise when policymakers try to help poor families without addressing the root causes of poverty.”  After all, simply increasing wages, without any other action, just leads to higher rents, and the poor still have the same impossible burdens to meet.   Desmond believes there’s a way to re-balance the two competing freedoms: by significantly expanding our housing voucher program (and ensuring regulation).  I’m not sure this will solve what’s a very difficult problem, but we certainly need to have a real, serious conversation about it.

It starts with awareness.  Just as I failed to witness the day-to-day struggles of many living in NYC, many residents of SLC are oblivious to the dire situations of people just blocks southwest of their high-end downtown living.  Now when I drive along the West Side Highway in NYC, I feel sick as I see that the entire West Side has been turned into a long string of character-lacking, high-end housing, bearing the name of Trump.  I contributed to there being fewer and fewer places for low-income people to live within the City because I couldn’t see the big picture.  Why haven’t we been having these conversations during this election season?  In the last several months, we’ve scarcely heard about the ever-increasing income gap or what the two major-party candidates plan to do about the multi-faceted problem of poverty in our country.  Both parties seem to benefit from not finding answers.  We need to create a less polarized, less special-interest driven electoral system that allows us to see each other, talk to each other, understand each other’s concerns, needs and interests, and start making real progress for the good of our country.  For me, the inner city is a crazy memory, but for millions of Americans, it’s a devastating daily reality.

Tiani Xochitl Coleman is a mother of five, a graduate of Cornell Law School, and president of NH Independent Voters.

Dr. Jessie Fields

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Dr. Jessie Fields and Kerry Malloy (r) at the 2105 Anti-Corruption Awards

The book, EVICTED Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond teaches us so much about how eviction impacts the lives of poor people in America and about how profitable poverty is in our cities.

I find the book to be a powerful combination of personal tragedies, grit in the face of exploitation and hardship, and important revelations about causes of poverty. It is a stirring, compelling must read. We come to live with the families as the author did and many moments in the book provoke deep sadness and tears at their suffering.

When Vanetta and Crystal, two young black women who had been evicted and were staying in a shelter were denied housing because of their race, the author explains that housing segregation was not an accident of urban industrialization.

The ghetto had always been a main feature of landed capital, a prime moneymaker for those who saw ripe opportunity in land scarcity, housing dilapidation, and racial segregation.”

Property in poor communities plagued by long standing housing segregation cost landlords less, they are still able to charge relatively high rents without the expense of having to maintain the property.

One of the many stories in the book is the disproportionate impact of eviction on Black women, their children and families.

The everyday stories of our cities: too bleak to wrap in stanzas

Such fury jumps the meter, misery will burst the rhyme

Like a forced move down below

With no heat in winter

Clogged sinks and empty shelves

To worse on the streets.

Arleen, Jori, Jafaris

Vanetta and her little boy

Crystal spinning out of control.

Lamar and the boys

The Hinkstons: Doreen, Patrice, Natasha

Lorraine, Pam and Ned

However poor whites

And blacks kept divided.

Matthew Desmond, a Harvard professor moved into Tobin’s trailer park in May 2008 and lived there for several months, followed by living in a rooming house in the black community on the North Side of Milwaukee until June 2009. Desmond immersed himself in the lives of poor families black and white and he worked to understand the landlords as well. In the last chapter of the book, “About This Project” he writes about the personal impact the work had on him.

The honest answer is that the work was heartbreaking and left me depressed for years.”

“You do learn how to cope from those who are coping.”

There is also in the book many examples of the decency and humanity that poor and working people steadfastly uphold even in the midst of it all.

Dr. Jessie Fields is a physician practising in Harlem, a leader in the New York City Independence Clubs, and a board member of the All Stars Project and Open Primaries.

 

***

Politics for the People Conference Call

With Matthew Desmond

Sunday, October 23rd at 7 pm EST

Call In Number: 641 715-3605

Access code 767775#

Readers’ Forum–Harriet Hoffman and Natesha Oliver

Harriet Hoffman

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Harriet Hoffman (r) with Edith Bargoma (c) and June Hirsh at the Anti-Corruption Awards this month.

As I began reading Evicted my first thought was – Wow, I didn’t realize that evictions are part of a growing industry, that there is money to be made from evicting people from their homes.  I appreciated that the Matthew Desmond didn’t assign blame either to the families or the individual landlords or those who are paid to dump the belongings onto the sidewalks (who are in some cases evictees themselves), or those who operate the storage units (where there are exorbitant fees to be paid when someone wants to reclaim their belongings).  I was shocked to read that in Milwaukee the difference between the rent for a poorly maintained apartment in a low income neighborhood and the rent paid for a “nice” apartment in a middle class neighborhood, is only a couple of hundred dollars a month.  Except that the poor don’t have access to those nicer apartments.  And, I am in awe of the fortitude of the families depicted so compassionately in this book, who ask for so little, starting over again and again, moving from hope to hopelessness, from housing court to eviction, homeless shelter to apartment, and back around again.

I live in New York City where 64,464 people are now living in shelters, including 23,929 homeless children, and thousands more on the streets.  I live just steps away from a public housing complex where nearly 5,000 people live in 2,000 apartments in 17 buildings.  It is one of dozens of public housing sites in this city in which over half a million people have had a chance, for many years, to have stable homes.  But the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has begun selling its buildings, parking lots and playground spaces to private developers who will put up new buildings that the poor cannot afford to live in.  Evictions have already begun, and surely NYCHA’s callous “Next Generation” plan, if carried out, will eventually destroy public housing and will leave many more thousands of men, women and children stranded.

I am really angry about this.  I am a member of the Committee for Independent Political Action, which, under the leadership of Dr. Lenora Fulani, is organizing tenants and others to fight back.  The City doesn’t have to take this route, but, as in Milwaukee and elsewhere, there is little political will among the politicians to support decent housing for the poor.  As Matthew Desmond asserts in this wonderful book, it would be less expensive to provide a housing voucher for every low income family in America than it is to maintain homeless shelters and the apparatus that evicts people from their homes.

I know that most ordinary New Yorkers strongly oppose NYCHA’s plan.  And this is a stark example of what happens when we the people have no opportunity to impact public policy.  That’s why I have also worked for many years with the NYC Independence Clubs and IndependentVoting.org, which are fighting to restore a democratic decision-making process to our country.  At our popular Talkin’ Independence events, which I coordinate, people from every walk of life are talking about why it is so important for the people, not the political parties, to have the power to decide about housing and other critical issues.

Harriet Hoffman is a consultant specializing in grant writing and helping people maximize their Medicare and social security benefits.  She is the coordinator of the popular monthly independent volunteer gathering, Talkin’ Independence, a program of IndependentVoting.org and the New York City Independence Clubs

***

Natesha Oliver

Natesha Oliver (r) with Cathy Stewart and Politics for the People member, Cheryl White (l)

Natesha Oliver (l) with Cathy Stewart and Politics for the People member, Cheryl White (r) National Conference of Independents, NYC, March 2015

 

It is a challenge for Me to put in words My thoughts on Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted. I have a lot of things going through My mind, The attitudes of the Landlords and how they lived lavished lives while making money off the desperation of others. They may not have contributed to the onset of their tenants conditions yet they sure as hell didn’t do anything to alleviate their tenants’ condition even when it came to maintaining their property. And how they would knowingly watch the property deteriorate and still allow people to live in their squalor, and this is where I am most conflicted because could the Landlords have prevented the deterioration, I don’t know, this truly bothers Me the most.

What the children have to endure when living like that is nothing short of disturbing and when they act out evictions were cold and swift, another confliction because who wants to pay for damage caused by someone else’s child.

Knowing that these properties were purchased with the intent to house impoverished people for profit is truly disturbing.

For the sake of time and sanity I will end with this quote by Matthew Desmond:

“This degree of inequality, this withdrawal of opportunity, this cold denial of basic needs, this endorsement of pointless suffering—by no American value is this situation justified. No moral code or ethical principle, no piece of scripture or holy teaching, can be summoned to defend what we have allowed our country to become”.

Natesha Oliver is the founder of MIST, Missouri Independents Stand Together. She lives in Kansas City.

***

Politics for the People Conference Call

With Matthew Desmond

Sunday, October 23rd at 7 pm EST

Call In Number: 641 715-3605

Access code 767775#

 

Readers’ Forum: Jeff Aron and Michelle McCleary

Jeff Aron

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Jeff Aron, the Director of External Affairs at Fountain House with Dr. Shekhar Saxena and Dr. Tarun Dua, the heads of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organization in Geneva.

Evicted is an important book that moved me deeply. I have known and worked with people like those about whom Matthew Desmond writes for much of my life. He has shared (as they have shared with him) struggles, hard work, failures, pain and so much more. Through a variety of research efforts, both ethnographic and with the very detailed MARS, he powerfully demonstrates the economic and political forces that are arrayed against them and the rot and responsibility that we all share.

This book is both part of and brilliantly carries on a tradition of writers and activists including Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Jacob Riis, Jane Addams, Lewis Hine, Michael Harrington and Upton Sinclair who exposed injustice and illuminated the lives of poor and homeless people. As I read Evicted, I found myself thinking about: 1) scenes from Les Miserables (in which Jean Valjean was arrested for stealing a loaf of bread); and, 2) the conditions that led to the making of the French revolution (and others).

I also thought about my early adulthood, when I was an anthropologist searching for alternatives to the racism and poverty which I witnessed in America – and my decision to leave academia to become a community organizer and activist.  I remembered how inspired I was when I discovered a movement that brought together people from different class, race and educational backgrounds in a shared commitment to engage poverty and to build new and independent organizations that were unconstrained by traditional and, to my mind, failed efforts.  We came from communities that didn’t ordinarily talk or work together,  and whose respective communities not only wondered what we were doing but opposed us being in each other’s neigborhoods and lives.

This was seen as illegitimate and we came to be seen as illegitimate. For example, we organized a union of welfare recipients, which was led by welfare recipients and organized with support from middle class women.  Leadership included a woman who did not know how to read, a mother of 14 children, and a former public school teacher. People of color and whites worked together to organize demonstrations, picket welfare centers, and mobilize welfare recipients in alliance with people from diverse communities and histories.  We organized for power rather than merely for benefits; we organized new political alliances independent of the established parties. Although we explored tenant and other forms of constituency organizing, we also had intense conversations about what kinds of organizations needed to be built. For nearly 40 years we have continued having these conversations and experimenting with new forms of organizing.

In particular, it continues with Lenora Fulani and the residents in NYCHA Housing; in the Development School for Youth, All Stars Talent Show Network and UX where young people and adults talk openly about being poor, the humiliation they feel and becoming powerful.

I strongly support Desmond’s prescription for a universal housing voucher and am very interested in his thoughts about the political and cultural transformations we might need in this country to have it become national policy. For example:

  • The relationship between what we need to do at the grass roots to create the conditions for legislation or executive action from the top down?
  • What kind of national conversation would we need to have in this country?
  • What changes in our political processes, e.g. can he envision the Democratic and Republican Parties coming to an agreement to implement this?

It seems unlikely to me that the voucher policy, as well as other progressive responses to poverty and homelessness, can be achieved without an opening of the electoral process to all those who, for a variety of reasons, have rejected the two party control of political decision making.

One of the reasons that I appreciate the Politics for the People Book Club so much is that it is both a part of and an exemplar of the kind of political and cultural activity that we need to engage in.

I deeply appreciate and respect the work that Matthew Desmond is doing as a writer, researcher, a leader in academia and as an activist who is in the struggle to reshape policy.

Jeff Aron has been active in independent political efforts in New York City and nationally since the late ’70’s. He is a passionate supporter of IndependentVoting.org.

***

Michelle McCleary

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I recently traveled to New Orleans, LA to attend a conference.  As the airport shuttle traveled through the streets, it was clear that New Orleans had yet to fully recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  The Sheraton, Marriot and other beautiful hotels stood proudly in the midst of grimy, run down streets and impoverished people. I was saddened, but unfortunately not surprised by what I saw.  I wondered to myself for the ten thousandth time, WHY, gotdammit!  Why do we as a country allow this deep poverty and abandonment to continue?  When will we take our country back and demand fairness and equality for all?  I, of course, already know the answer:  People are afraid.  History has shown us that when we take a stand, more often than not we lose everything: our livelihood, our family and sometimes even our lives.    The shame that poor people are made to feel is even more powerful than the aforementioned fear.  Of course, it’s your fault that you don’t have enough to eat.  Of course it’s your fault that you don’t have a stable place to live. Why else would you not have what you need?   America is a meritocracy.  We reward hard work! No free rides here! Blah, blah, blah.

I really appreciated Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in The American City.  The author provides an emotional and riveting look into the chaotic lives of people whose unstable and often non-existent housing leaves them living on the edge.  As I read ‘Evicted’, I couldn’t help but think of how much human capital is wasted in America.  The amount of talent that is never developed or even seen because segments of our population are considered disposable is staggering.  In 2007, I began teaching at a not-for profit in Harlem.  My job was to help ‘vulnerable youth’ (court involved, foster care and young adults living in homeless shelters) improve their reading, writing and math.  Ninety-five percent of the participants had never met their parents. Ever.  These young adults – ages 16-23 – felt the pain of their abandonment deeply.   Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I could help these young people because quite frankly, they could be mean and vicious.  One young man told me “bitch, I’ll get you fired”!! I knew that if I was going to be successful at his job I would have to bring out my ‘take no crap persona.’  I was also going to have to be as giving as possible because I simply refused to be yet another person who failed these young adults.  After a series of near show downs in the classroom (LOL!) I began to earn the program participants’ respect.  I began to introduce them to the power of performance i.e. pretend to be who you are not. I urged these young adults to read like they were me – a nerd who preferred a good book over a new pair of shoes! During early morning skits that we wrote together I watched as some of the young men (some of them I KNOW were in gangs) pretend to be ballerinas.  What a hoot!! As we went through this process together, they began to change and to let me and the other teachers see more of who they were:  talented writers and singers; great at math and science; and deeply caring toward some of their mentally challenged classmates.  I saw the reading scores of some of the program participants soar: 4th grade reading levels to 12th grade in SIX months!!!

I worked with this population – vulnerable youth – for seven years.  It was one of the hardest jobs I have ever held.  The most heart breaking aspect of this experience was that no matter how talented these young adults were, the chaos of their lives – shuttled from shelter to shelter or foster care parent – pretty much guaranteed that they would never get a chance to be fully seen or heard in our society.

I look forward to the day when we as Americans decide that our desire for justice and decency far outweighs our fears or our judgements.

Michelle McCleary is a long-time independent and the President of the Metro NY Chapter of the National Black MBA Association.

***

Politics for the People Conference Call

With Matthew Desmond

Sunday, October 23rd at 7 pm EST

Call In Number: 641 715-3605

Access code 767775#

Rakeen Dow-A Tale of Two Cities

Rakeen Dow is an activist with the All Stars Project’s Committee for Independent Community Action. He is also a co-founder of Live Poet’s Society NYC performance ensemble.  

A Tale of Two Cities is a poem that Rakeen wrote in response to the regressive Next Gen plan for New York City’s public housing.

 

088

 

A Tale of Two Cities

This is the tale of two cites,

One where you know,

The rich get richer,

And richer,

The poor get poorer and poorer

And consistently screwed!

De Blasio’s political platform,

When running for the Mayor ship

Was that he didn’t want

New York City,

To turn into

A tale of two cites

All the while

Gentrification was the master plan

To be implemented

Sort of like it was

When the true Native Americans

Where run off the land!

So here comes NYCHA

With their Next Generation/Infill plan,

A plan built to deceive

And is as stealth as a Trojan horse!

They’re gonna build

These luxury condo buildings

On the public housing’s under-utilized land?

They say don’t worry

Thirty percent of the apartments

Are earmarked for affordable housing usage

For those with a minimum income

Of forty thousand dollars.

Meanwhile the median income

Of the families who live

In NYCHA housing complexes is

Twenty-five thousand dollars.

So I ask,

Affordable for whom?

Not my sister Deborah,

Not my uncle Buddy and

Not my best friend Boo

Who I grew up with

They all still reside there

What are they gonna do?

It’s a damn shame!

People being forced out their homes!

Meanwhile where is our political leadership?

Last I heard

In some backroom

Cutting deals with

The Developers!

What has this world come to?

Again

It’s a damn shame!

When basic human needs,

Such as housing and shelter

Have become obsolete

Due to the love of money

Politicians’ and developers

Greed!

So remember, the next time

You pass by A Next Generation/Infill site,

Behind it is,

A Tale of Two Cites!

 

***

Politics for the People Conference Call

With Matthew Desmond

Sunday, October 23rd at 7 pm EST

Call In Number: 641 715-3605

Access code 767775#

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