By Ken A. Epstein
Local organizations took a big step forward last weekend in their efforts to coalesce the growing movement to impact the market-driven wave of displacement that is pushing out local residents and small businesses, fueling criminalization of young people and adults and suppressing Oaklanders’ cultural expression in the parks and churches.
About 500 people squeezed into the West Oakland Youth Center last Saturday for an event called “Speak Out to Stay Put! An Oakland-wide Anti-Displacement Forum,” hosted by over a dozen organizations and endorsed by over 20 groups.
Groups that helped put on the event included: Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Causa Justa: Just Cause (CJJC), California Nurses Association (CNA), Community Planning Leaders (CPL), East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), East Bay Organizing Committee (EBOC), Oakland Alliance, Oakland Tenants Union (OTU), SEIU 1021 and Women’s Economic Agenda Project (WEAP).
The purpose of the forum was enhance connections between the groups that are working against displacement and to deepen the understanding of the complex connections between various aspects of displacement and the variety solutions that organizations that groups are supporting.
“We wanted to come together to unite a lot of the forces who are in motion against gentrification, people who are involved in their neighborhoods or working on a variety of development plans and policies,” said Robbie Clark, regional housing rights campaign lead organizer at Causa Justa, in an interview with the Post.
“We want to broaden how people look at displacement, look at the factors that play into gentrification, plug people into additional ways to fight displacement and expand the strategies they can use,” said Clark
The day’s workshop topics indicate the breath of the concerns: climate change and displacement, community land trusts for public control of city-owned land, the poor people’s movement to fight homelessness, police brutality and gentrification, the fight for jobs and decent wages for Oaklanders, promoting tenant rights and how to elect public officials who are accountable to residents.
Clark pointed out an aspect of gentrification that so far have not received much attention are the explosive commercial rental increases that are pushing out small businesses and nonprofits that provide services to residents.
“These small businesses and nonprofits are all part of the neighborhood fabric that holds communities together – businesses and services that people utilize are being threatened,” said Clark.
One of the speakers at the workshop on elections and voting was Carroll Fife, a co-founder the Oakland Alliance, a citywide organization that formed about a year ago.
Fife said her experience working in Dan Siegel’s mayoral campaign last year showed her, “There is a lot of energy that is untapped in this city – (but) we have to put egos aside. There are lots of organizations that are doing work in silos,” unconnected to each other.
She said the Oakland Alliance is trying to find ways groups can work together, not in interests of one organization, but “for what is good for everyone in the city.”
Dan Siegel, an Oakland civil rights attorney, said that voting is a component of building peoples’ power.
“An electoral strategy by itself will not make change,” but the movement needs to select and elect leaders who will be accountable to the community and the promises they make when they running for office, said Siegel.
“(At present), we see people who say they are going to do this or they are going to do that, but (once elected) they don’t do it,” said Siegel. “Oakland has a city council that has completely checked out on housing.”
Courtesy of the Oakland Post, Oct. 22, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)