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News + PoliticsLegendary Oakland martial arts club—and its founder—face eviction

Legendary Oakland martial arts club—and its founder—face eviction

Casco's Martial Arts may be forced to close, and Sensei Owens and his wife forced into homelessness.

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“It just shows how close all of us….. are to…. homelessness,” Mr. Owens, Sensei Owens, Master Owens, 50-year resident of BlackArthur and founder of Cascos Martial Arts in Deep East Oakland, lowered his voice as he finished the last word of this last sentence at the Street Newzroom at Homefulness on BlackArthur.

From their Gofundme page:

For more than 50 years, Sifu Bill Owens has owned and operated Casco’s Martial Art Academy in Oakland, California. Over the years, Bill Owens, with his wife Mary Owens, has taught self defense, cultural awareness, educational values and self confidence to students of all ages. The school has been recognized as being an integral part of the colorful history of Oakland, as it is one of the longest running martial arts schools in California.

In addition to traditional martial arts training, they also teach OFA, which is short for Ofanics. Ofanics is a unique, evolutionary martial art form created over many years. The techniques taught and used within the exercises and drills fuse the beautiful art of Chinese Kung Fu with African-American culture, whereby each self-defense or fighting stroke becomes a rhythmic musical delivery. Ofanics is taught nowhere else in the world, as it was created and developed at Casco’s Martial Art Academy.

Mr. Owens is the embodiment of all that martial arts teaches to any of us that seek out that medicine. He is one of the most humble, careful and disciplined men I have met. He is a Black Elder, a caregiver, a pourer of knowledge and love into the Deep East Oakland (Huchuin).

Sensei Owens if facing eviction after 50 years of leadership in East Oakland.

And he is being evicted.

“My wife and I got ensnared in a predatory loan while we were trying to survive the pandemic’s impact on our studio,” Mr. Owens explained. “We were keeping up with the payments then they somehow jumped up by 200 percent. We could barely pay them already, but that made it impossible.”

Mr. Owens explained in more detail the insane situation he was dealing with just trying to stay open and stay housed under the weight of impending foreclosure. 

As he spoke, carefully explaining the impossible paper theft his family was experiencing, my blood boiled. This is the way they steal homes and lives from poor people, Black and Brown communities and specifically elders everyday in this violent capitalist system. This is nothing new, and the very reason when Homefulness first visioned a homeless peoples solution to homelessness, built by us poor and houseless people in struggle with eviction, housing insecurity, mold poisoning, scamlords, criminalization and endless police harassment, we also visioned our work as degentrification.

We could not even dream of this vision of building without making sure everyone already here was able to stay here. What’s the use of a solution to build and house houseless people if you couldn’t also make sure elders and children were also safe to remain in the homes they were already in?

To this day, we are constantly being hit up by texts and emails of loan agents trying to speculate, steal, and sell this small part of Mama Earth. And finally the very reason we say to end homelessness we all must degentrify our hoods and towns and spiritually and legally unsell Mama Earth, following spiritual guidance and leadership from First Nations relatives who have been taking care of Mama Earth since before the colonizers got to Turtle Island and stole it with papers and pens and treaties and blood-stained dollars. 

“It went from $40,000 that we owed them to $80,000 and we don’t even know how,”  Mr. Owens concluded to Po Peoples Radio podcast 

To save his studio and keep this Deep East Oakland lifeline open, Mr. Owens and his wife had already moved into the studio and so now not only does he face his 50-year -old studio’s closure, he faces his and his wife’s homelessness. At 80 years old.

This can’t happen. And like Frohms Martial Arts, why isn’t there reparations for these urgently needed Black establishments? Why is Mr. Owens and his wife even facing homelessness ? 

Mr. Owens has a Go Fund Me. PLEASE make sure another Black Elder isn’t evicted, erased and houseless on this stolen land.   

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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