Reportback from Speak Out to Stay Put: an Oakland-Wide Anti-Displacement Forum
Dear fellow social justice foodies, coalition of housing and social justice organizations led by Causa Justa/Just Cause, turned out to be an unqualified success. Hundreds of Oakland tenants came together to build and strategize for the fight against displacement. As one attendee put it:
"The housing crisis is almost like climate change. It's probably too late for San Francisco - the temperature got too hot over there, and we can't bring it back down enough now for people to be able to live there. In Oakland, the temperature is definitely rising, it's getting uncomfortable and it's getting worse and worse, but it's not too late for Oakland if we act NOW."
Judging by the attendance and participation at Speak Out to Stay Put on Saturday, Oakland is ready to act!
Planting Justice board member Carroll Fife, a veteran Oakland organizer and co-chair of Oakland Alliance, led one of the workshops of the event entitled "Building an Electoral Strategy to Stop Displacement," which connected the participation of working-class people of color in local politics with the ability of those communities to resist gentrification and successfully promote development without displacement. The workshop called for a reversal of the political process so that candidates must demonstrate a concrete commitment to serving working class communities of color to earn votes, instead of putting community labor towards electing unproven candidates, who then have no structures of accountability that they are beholden to once in office.
James Vann of Oakland Alliance and the Oakland Tenant's Union took us through the history of housing policy in the city of Oakland, and pointed out the strong correlation between who votes and whose interests get represented by our elected officials. Oakland hills residents, who tend to be older, whiter, more affluent, and more likely to be property owners than the rest of the Oakland population, have a very high voter turnout for every local election, usually between 80-90%. On the other hand, only about 20% flatland residents, who tend to be lower income tenants and are predominantly people of color, regularly vote in local elections. In order to get a School Board, City Council, and Mayor's office that consistently prioritize the needs of low-income residents of color when implementing policy and allocating funds from the city budget, we need to organize and build electoral power in the flatlands. This would mean mass voter registration, popular education on how Oakland city government actually works, developing and supporting the political leadership of flatland residents, and coalition building across race, class, and political ideologies. No small task, to say the least.
The workshop raised more questions than it answered, which was likely intentional: Oakland Alliance is hosting a follow-up convening at First Congregational Church of Oakland on Saturday, November 7th from 1 - 4 pm in the hopes of developing a broad coalition with a united strategy for the 2016 Oakland elections.
Speak Out to Stay Put was just the beginning. We have work to do!
I believe that we will win,