Political activists and community organizers, many of them facing home foreclosures themselves, took an active role in a series of meetings and rallies in the San Francisco Bay area the first week of February. In Bayview, San Francisco’s largest African-American community and in the mostly Latino/a working-class suburb of Antioch, they began building a fightback movement to demand an end to all foreclosures and evictions.
The featured speaker at all of the events was Jerry Goldberg, an organizer and people’s lawyer with the Detroit-based Moratorium Now! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs. Prior to the public meetings, organizing sessions were held in East Bay communities.
Bayview-Hunters Pointe up until recently has experienced a full 48 percent of San Francisco’s foreclosures. So it should have been no surprise that homeowners, tenants and community activists gathered at Bayview’s Grace Tabernacle Church to hear Goldberg on Feb. 3 and to participate in a community speakout. Dave Welsh, an organizer with the Bail Out the People Movement, chaired the meeting.
Willie Ratcliff, a local contractor and publisher of the San Francisco BayView National Black Newspaper, spoke about the struggle being waged to create jobs and win community control of new construction in Bayview. Ratcliff’s construction company was originally chosen to build the neighborhood library. Ratcliff recently found out that the job was transferred to a large, outside contractor.
The BayView newspaper had printed a quarter page flyer promoting this anti-foreclosure meeting.
Showing the impact of this issue, Rene Gonzalvez, also from the church and an organizer of a group that monitors labor standards for oppressed workers and of a campaign for local hires on city contracts; local activists Marie Harrison and Naim Harrison; and Global Women’s Strike Nell Myhand all joined the effort. Some of these organizers were challenging their own foreclosures.
Antioch, about 45 minutes from San Francisco, has been devastated by foreclosures. Workers who earn about $30,000 a year or who have now lost their jobs got lured into mortgages with principals of $300,000 or more whose interest rates keep going up, leading to massive home losses. People also came to the Feb. 4 meeting from surrounding Contra Costa County, which leads California in foreclosures.
The meeting, which was translated into Spanish, took place in the parking lot of the community center with loudspeakers and a large banner calling for a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. It was all put together by the community organizers.
Delia Aguilar, whose home was placed in foreclosure last year, and Guillermo Briceno of Nuestra Casa Community Services, were major forces behind the Antioch meeting. Aguilar also attended the San Francisco meeting and gave moving testimony about her fight to stay in her home. Led by local organizers, plans are underway to build a strong movement for a moratorium against foreclosures and evictions.
Goldberg’s talks included a history of “the war against poor and working people” in Detroit and around the country, first through job loss and now through foreclosures and evictions. The Detroit organizer noted that the first moratorium against foreclosures was won in the 1930s through direct action. Goldberg, who exposed the rotten role of the banks, urged people to get involved politically and demand that “Housing is a Right!”
Many community members came out to the rallies with their legal paperwork in hand and Goldberg, who is an attorney in Michigan, gave as much advice as he could. While he admitted winning a few legal cases in the courts, he gave example after example of how much more powerful the struggle became when people organized. “For every one case that I have won, I’ve lost 10,” Goldberg said. “But when we have taken direct action by mobilizing the community to stand up, we have been able to win some real victories,” he added.
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