It was 5am. The sky was charcoal black with barely some moon creeping in. After I adjusted my eyes the sight was terrifying: At least 20 armed police officers were standing behind police tape glaring at a tent while a houseless man hurriedly tried to collect his things and another man in a florescent vest with huge electric drill pounded in a nine-to-10-foot chain-link fence into the tiny stretch of mama Earth known as People’s Park in Berkeley.
“They said they are soil testing,” said Michael Delacor, one of the handful of revolutionaries who showed up to copwatch and document this bizarre scene.
As I stood there on that freezing cold, dark morning my heart was heavy with the ongoing land, housing, and human theft, murder and desecration caused by huge universitites like UC Berkeley and UC Hastings, Stanford, Temple and many more. In Berkeley, long known for its misplaced progressive reputation because of the revolutionary histories of anti-war movement, free speech, and anti-apartheid struggles, is one of the leading academic institutions currently causing removal of houseless and working class people so it can feed its ongoing and hungry need of what I call the Dorm Industrial Complex.
“Once samples are collected the closed areas of the park will reopen. At no time will the entire park be closed.”
–Flyer distributed entitled Soil Analysis at People’s Park.
“They are always coming up with some new bullshit to take this park away from the people, we know this EIR (Environmental Impact Report) is just more of that,” concluded Delacor.
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Since I was a pre-teen and me and my mama were struggling with houselessness in Berkeley, Oakland and SF, I heard about the fight for People’s Park, led by radical lawyers, revolutionaries, yippies and hippies like Michael Delacor, Carol Denney, Osha Neuman and many more.
In 1992 a woman named Rosebud broke into the chancellor’s house to resist the land theft with a note that demanded the end of the construction. Police officers with dogs entered the house, where one shot and killed Rosebud.
Revolutionary lawyer David Nadel was shot outside a club he ran in Berkeley, while he was struggling for People’s Park liberation.
“The people built People’s Park, with an original land takeover of abandoned land decades ago, and UC Berkeley has been trying to take it back since the beginning,” said Neuman (who also broke this poverty skola out of jail for the crimes of being houseless when I was a teenager with my mama Dee). “That’s what my mural is about,” he said, talking about the beautiful mural of herstory that can be seen on the back end of the Amoeba Records wall that faces Haste street near Telegraph avenue.
After more than 50 years of struggle, including riots, where people were shot and resisted the fences put up by UC Berkeley, resisting the attempts to put volleyball courts and in general to try to turn Peoples Park into dorm housing, now UC is saying it will be putting up “transitional housing” on the site of People’s Park.
There are many young warriors, students and revolutionaries who held a rally on Friday after the insane fencing who, like their foremothers and fathers took that fence down and had it delivered to the UC Berkeley campus….
In addition to People’s Park, the ever-hungry jaws of UC Berkeley is stealing, desecrating existent homes. Tenants at 1921 Walnut St. were told that the school has decided to go ahead and tear down their 112-year-old rent-controlled building to use the land as part of a planned massive housing project for transfer students.
This all with ongoing housing shortages in Berkeley for low-income and disabled tenants.
We houseless, very poor, indigenous, Black and Brown San Francisco residents hereby demand that UC Hastings, an “elite” law school located in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, who sued the City and County of San Francisco about its “homeless problem” give-back one of the many buildings they “bought” to houseless people so we can build our own solutions to our homelessness.
–Excerpt from POOR Magazine’s LandBack Proposal to UC Hastings, which is pressing sweeps of houseless people in the Tenderloin new land that the school bought to build dorm housing.
Sadly, this is not relegated to Berkeley. From Temple University to USC, this land theft is common to academic institutions that, as one of my poems says, “Study About us Without US.”
In other words, get rid of us pesky humans in poverty but still build entire degree programs based on “geography, sociology, poverty, social work, law, and disability” to name a few — but don’t make space for the actual people who they are constantly studying, researching, lecturing and writing thesis projects about.
In San Francisco, POOR Magazine houseless, indigenous, disabled adults and elders who are teachers and visionaries of the theory called “Poverty Scholarship, Poor People-led Theory, Art, Words and Tears Across Mama Earth led one of our Stolen Land/Hoarded Resources Tours to the buildings of Hastings, which took over more than two blocks of a traditionally poor people of color neighborhood, with a #LandBack proposal.
We asked that if you don’t want to see us poor and houseless people, most of whom are disabled and Black, then give us back one of the buildings you just “bought” so we can build our own Homefulness project.
We also proposed this to the mayor of San Francisco, who was telling the thousands of Shelter in Place tenants in hotels that they had to leave their hotel rooms in the middle of a pandemic, (who, as of press time, continues to put us off) while hundreds of hotels remain vacant in a pandemic.
This poverty skola has written and lectured extensively on poor and indigenous people-led land reclamation and is one of the houseless mama visionaries of Homefulness and as well has taught folks with race and class privilege the lies of what i call the Away Nation — the lure of “college” thousands of miles away from your homes and elders so you can pay thousands of dollars to live in temporary housing that is now causing the displacement of the very people you came to college to help, save, and learn about.
One of the powerful lessons of PeopleSkool that we do twice a year and poverty scholarship is reverse this violence and begin a process of Land Back and ComeUnity Reparations, rather than continue flying to cities to study and save us — and in the process, gentriFUK, remove ,and lead to the death of us.
We are proposing that UC Berkeley/US Hastings administration grant our LandBAck proposals rooted in comeUnity Reparations us so that houseless, very low-income and disabled residents of Berkeley and the Tenderloin can be permanently housed with their own solutions. Stay tuned for the next Stolen Land /Hoarded Resources Tour thru Occupied Huchuin – UC Berkeley