Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 Reflection by Wanda Sabir

Bay Area Landless People's Alliance at press conference
As 2018 concludes, Oakland remains in a state of crisis around housing for its residents. There are too many people unhoused and underhoused in the Bay Area despite the promising skyline dotted with luxury apartments or condominiums and houses. Long time residents are being pushed out by city officials who are intent on clearing public spaces of people. The forced removal of citizens occupying vacant lots doesn't make sense when said land is not slated for development. When Councilmember Desley Brooks mentioned to her constituents over three years ago next month to allow sanctioned encampments on city owned land, she was not supported. The sanctioned encampment experiment on Peralta and 35th Street was a success; 50 or so people were moved into transitional housing, perhaps permanent now, but the increasing development in that area and the growing population of underhoused persons is bigger now than before.

Bay Area Landless People's Alliance Organizers,
Dayton Andrews and Larry Coke
The housing crisis, which is larger than the bay area and the state remains unaddressed in any real sustainable way, especially when local, state and federal agencies are not acting as a team with those affected at the same dinner table.

Oakland has a Tuff Shed solution -- sounds like "tough love," as well as more beds in its Winter Shelters, but what about people with pets. I meet many people who own pets who are working animals-- dogs provide a level of protection for women alone and for men too. The pet also serves as a companion. The solution is not sheds or tents, it is permanent housing.

Steven DeCaprio, Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute

I met one man at the press conference who lost his job at AAA when it moved to Oklahoma ten years ago. He did not want to relocate. I didn't know that the California Automobile Association has been out of state for a decade. He applied for jobs and then after nothing came through, he lost his housing and has been on the street since.

The last time the Auset Movement was at the Wood Street Encampment was on Father's Day. That day not that many people joined us for a meal. We like to stay in closer touch. This particular strip of land near 26th Street has been in the news recently. Purchased by a family to open a brewery, quite a while back, it is just a matter of time before the folks living here will be forcibly removed as folks have been told to leave. First 48-72 hour signs go up and then the police come.

The Bay Area Landless People's Alliance's third goal includes an "end to evictions of informal settlements of poor people."

Other goals are:
1. All criminalization of homelessness must end.
2. To live in dignity landless people in "safe havens" will be allowed to self-govern.
4. All confiscation of landless people's property will not end, all property musct be returned and the people need to be compensated.
5. Resolve that all landless people have the human right to assert self-defen=se against prosecution for activities necessary for survival.
6. All new housing shall prioritize housing for homeless and poor people.

Organizers Dayton Andrews and Yesica Prado
Gaza is also in Oakland. Border walls and policing checkpoints. Instead of bulldozers there are police who confiscate people's belongings, smash their homes and scatter their lives into the street. Crushed underfoot. If people do not accept shelter referrals, they cannot return. This happened recently to a clean and sober village in East Oakland, home to women and children.Housing and Dignity Village was a service hub at S. Elmhurst Avenue and Edes Avenue. "Over 20 Oakland Police officers led residents away in handcuffs, as Public Works employees worked overtime to destroy everything on site."

West Oakland site on Wood Street

The Auset Movement wanted to pop through Wood Street before Martin King Day next year to greet our friends and let them know that we have not forgotten them.

There are lots of luxury homes going up within view of the encampment, plus the old 16th Street Train Station is used for programs, along with a playing field. The city has paved the street and it will not be long before development marches up to the doors of folks living in cars, trucks, campers and tents.

Bay Area Landless People's Alliance & Allies

I went to a press conference last week at the Alameda County Administrative Building, Oakland and 12th, for a Bay Area-wide coalition: Bay Area Landless People's Alliance. Just a week earlier Free Brown's "Hope Task Force" hosted a Multi-service Day, Dec. 15, for our under-housed and houseless community members at the West Oakland Youth Center.

Saturday, Dec. 22, Phyllis Magee, founder & CEO, Luxe Laundromat, hosted "A Wash Houze Christmas." It was a fun day filled with with music and door prizes at Poppy's Bubble Wash in East Oakland, 7851 MacArthur Blvd. To support visit:

A week before that, Candice Elder's East Oakland Collective hosted, Feed Da Hood where hundreds of volunteers passed out 1000s of lunches and socks and toiletry bags cross multiple counties, Alameda and Contra Costa.

There are folks like those already mentioned along with The Auset Movement putting band-aides on this larger-than-any-one-municipality can-address issue-- housing, employment, mental health services, trauma informed care, education, family reunification, addiction, violence(in its many iterations).

Broadcast Interviews with Supporters

Listen to these two radio shows with allies who are standing with the under and unhoused people who are demanding their human right to shelter, food, employment, education, safety.

Wanda's Picks Radio Show, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018

Candice Elder, East Oakland Collective, Free Brown & Chef Shelby (Experience FUEL Oak) discuss the Homeless Black Women: Multi-Service Day Dec 15th at the West Oakland Youth Center. Visit  

Wanda's Picks Radio Show, Wednesday, Dec. 19

Phyllis Magee, founder & CEO, Luxe Laundromat: A Wash Houze Christmas. Dec. 22. 10 AM to 2 PM @ Poppy's Bubble Wash, 7851 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, 94605

To learn more about The Bay Area Landless People's Alliance contact. There are regular weekly meetings allies can attend:

Anita De Asis, Housing and Dignity Village Organizer, & 510-355-7010
and Dayton Andrews, United Front Against Displacement Organizer, & 626.826.9426; Yesica Prado, Berkeley Friends on Wheels Organizer & UC Berkeley alum, & 773.751.9522

We plan to have members of BALPA on Wanda's Picks early January. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


 On October 13, 2017, San Francisco Bayview posted my essay “Hipsters de-Blacken Oakland, Cause the Encampments They Abhor.”  In the essay, I argued that Oakland leaders helped displace mainly native African American Oaklanders in order to make room for the hipsters and gentrifiers.  The gentrifiers/hipster benefited directly from this displacement.  Thus, the hipsters and gentrifiers have a duty to help solve the homeless crisis.  However, several commenters to my essay showed they used ignorance or denial to defend their “innocence.” 

One commenter sarcastically wrote “I really miss all the murders that would happen around my block before the hipsters came.” He stereotyped all displaced people as murderers.  By dehumanizing and vilifying the displaced human beings—even if it’s a lie—he justified hurting them.  Oakland must not be a part of this.

Another commenter wrote: “Since when do people have the right to set up tent cities on public sidewalks?” In my essay, I explained how the people in the homeless were victims of Oakland’s gentrification.  Yet, this commenter made the homeless into brazen lawbreakers.  Thus, he justified their removal.

Another commenter laughably wrote:  “Oh your gonna blame “white” hipsters now. * Get a grip asshole.  We are all being squeezed.  Just more divide and conquer rhetoric.”  This commenter obviously did not want to hear facts that went against his beliefs.  He used name-calling to try to shut me down.  From his position of privilege, he trivialized and dismissed the situation of the people the encampment by writing “We’re all being squeezed.”

All this commenter had to do was open his eyes and he would plainly see that the fashionably dressed hipster buying expensive food and drinks at a trendy bar is not suffering like a homeless person in an encampment. 

Did he really believe that they were ever united when he didn’t even want to hear them?

Seeing so many African Americans living in encampments and white hipsters at expensive bars and restaurants, how could one not think of race?   Yet, one commenter wrote that it was lazy people, not African Americans, who had been displaced. He wrote:

It seems that all you see is race.  You know what I see?  I see people who want to live in a demanding market, with a drive to be successful in it.  And no, you don’t have to be a “white hipster” to accomplish this.  It’s supply and demand.  The job market all throughout the Bay Area (not just Oakland) demands for more jobs, so people are here to supply it, and you can be any race.”

As he read in my essay, Oakland displaced African Americans in order to create that “new” Oakland that this commenter sees now. The commenter didn’t question why so many African Americans were displaced or living in encampments.  He simply dismissed any discussion of race in order to be innocent.

This commenter may soon see how reality determines one’s fate.  East Bay Times just published a “Bay Area Hammered by Loss of 4,700 jobs” (October 20, 2017).  This was in addition to the 2,400 jobs losses reported by the EDD for August 2017. Thousands of people are losing jobs—whether or not they work hard and have the drive for success.

If Oakland is to address its homeless issue honestly, it must not allow such commenters to remain ignorant of their roles in creating those encampments. Ignorance is bliss.  It allowed these commenters to have guilt-free fun even as they passed the encampments.  But Oakland must stop coddling these commenters and privileging them to be ignorant. Oakland must not make decisions that privilege such ignorance. These commenters should not just be “listened to”; they need to be “lectured to.” Hopefully, with more reality, they will eagerly support those less privileged than they are.

* I assume the commenter meant to write “Oh, you’re going to blame ‘white’ hipsters now.”


A July 31, 2017 article titled, “Oakland Residents Say Tent Encampments Threatening Neighborhoods” highlighted Ms. Hillary Nevis’s fight against the homeless. Ms. Nevis moved into her West Oakland home only about a year ago. She had seen the homeless encampment near her new home grow and she claimed the citizens had gotten bolder and threatening.  She complained to the city and about the city.  Homeless people live in fear of violence and dangerous conditions.  Yet, the article never followed how Ms. Nevis’s actions added to the hurt of any individual already at the lowest point in his life.  Thus, the article privileged Ms. Nevis to appear blameless for the conditions of people living in the encampments. The article insulated her.

Ms. Nevis and other gentrifiers, the City and developers all share responsibility for gentrification—the process and system that created that encampment.  For years, Oakland leaders wanted to make Oakland a hipster playground.  They invested in making Oakland attractive to outsiders/gentrifiers. City planners courted businesses and high-end condos that catered to them.

Making Oakland into a hipster playground meant whitening, or at least “de-blackening,” Oakland.  This would be necessary to attract more white hipsters. They would even market the “new” Oakland.

In order to create the “new” Oakland, many native Oaklanders would have to be displaced.  Oakland natives knew this and often said about certain parts of Oakland that “They’re going to get those Black folks out of there because the while folks want it.”  When asked what her biggest challenge for marketing a “new” Oakland, then-mayor Jean Quan told the National Journal:

. . . my challenge is to let people know what the new Oakland looks like. Somebody just sent me an email saying, ‘Oh, you should have more black police since more than 50 percent of your residents are black.’ And I’m like, ‘Actually, no, 28 percent of my residents are black, but we’re pretty evenly divided between blacks, whites, Latinos, and Asians these days.’ But that’s their image of Oakland–and this is somebody who lives in the Bay Area.

In order to encourage a visible white hipster presence in this “new” Oakland and attract more gentrifiers, the City allowed them to break safety laws. A white artist told the City Council that when he came to Oakland in 2005, he felt welcomed. He had fun ignoring Oakland’s laws against unlicensed parties and living in illegal warehouses. In 2015, a party organizer even defied a policeman when caught breaking the law. However, the City treated those illegal parties as low-priority infractions.  (see East Bay Times,  September 18, 2017,“Officer’s 2015 Report on Illegal Rave at Ghost Ship Was “Low Priority”). Eventually 36 people were killed in one of those parties.

City leaders, developers, the media and politicians bragged about Oakland’s “new diversity” and “changing demographics.”  But they didn’t ask where the poor and displaced Black Oaklanders had gone.  In fact, many Black Oaklanders would not find new housing easily. Landlords found ways to evict current Black tenants and get white tenants.  Landlords with apartment vacancies openly discriminated against African American applicants. Thus, many displaced African American Oakland natives became homeless and some moved into the encampments.

While informed its readers of the struggles of Ms. Nevis, the article didn’t address how many of those people living in the encampments were displaced to make room for people like her.  The article didn’t even mention that most of the people living in the encampments were displaced native African American Oaklanders. Thus, the article avoided burdening its readers with an example of institutional racism.  It allowed the displacers to feel innocent.

Today, in the “new” Oakland, we see “cool” new nightclubs across the street from encampments.  The hip new people stand in line to get inside the club.  They hang out in front of the club. The “hip” people seem not to care about the homeless people facing them—and whom they helped displace.  Yet, the fact that the “hip” people are mainly white and the people in the encampment reminds us that not everyone benefited equally from the “new” Oakland’s “new diversity.”

Now, investors are buying up SROs in downtown Oakland. They’re evicting the poor African-Americans. They will renovate the buildings for privileged newcomers.  When the renovation is completed, the investors will most likely not tell the newcomers that poor African Americans were displaced for their benefit. They will be privileged to enjoy the building with no blame or guilt.

According to “those with and without homes feel like the city hasn’t done nearly enough to solve the crisis.” It’s not just the City’s responsibility to help find homes for the homeless.  Developers and landlords also helped create the encampment problem for the benefit of people like Ms. Nevis; they should help solve the problem too.  By helping the homeless, Ms. Nevis helps herself and her new community.  Simply complaining to the city is not enough. Demanding that the City evict the homeless won’t work; the homeless have nowhere to go.   

Ms. Nevis believes that “we’re not in this together.” That is not true.  We, including Ms. Nevis, are in this system/institution together. Ms. Nevis moved into a community with encampments, now she has to live with the reality—just like people in the encampment have to deal with their reality. 

The media also has a role.  They must remind the public that the homeless are full citizens; they are not vermin to be removed. The homeless are just as entitled to City protection as Ms. Nevis. The City must also defend its homeless citizens against being harassed, vilified and treated like vermin—just as the City would protect Ms. Nevis.  Perhaps Ms. Nevis feels unsafe living near an encampment, but it is even less safe for the people living in the encampment.

More important, if we are to solve the problem, we must not be distracted from the real problem. The first step to solving a problem is to identify it.  The problem with homeless is not Ms. Nevis’s discomfort. The problem is that people are homeless due to a system beyond their control and others benefited from it.  And we must remember that the encampments are the results of bad city planning.