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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  March 22, 2014 2:00pm-3:16pm EDT

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starting in live because they came of age in a hostile economy, they are paying money into a system to support a level of ben fitses for today's retirees that they have no realistic chance of getting when they, themselves retire. there needs to be a rebalancing of the social come papght. it's a very important collage, a difficult challenge for this country politically because not only is social security and medicare laugh of the budget or about to be half of the budget, it's by far the biggest thing we do, but it is symbolically the statement in public policy. ..
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online discussion of the biography of stoically, michael. look for the booktv tab at booktv.org. >> one thing that is interesting about politics and movements in the 60s in a way that i think is different from our contemporary society is activism was something that in a large manor was considered it had an impact on popular culture. this is something we take for granted in the sense carmichael is not a rock star.
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not to diminish him but a context of what happens when somebody who has that look, this activist where the cameras are all over, who was on the cover of every magazine in essence, all these different magazines, time, life, all these covers, very enormously charismatic, was married to this beautiful woman. how do they proceed in the black community but internationally? an iconography of the e way. black panther party. not just a political party but a party that images are seductive and attractive. when we think about all of that it is wrapped up in there. not only a formidable artis an international celebrity but somebody who has a keen
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understanding of african politics and anti colonial struggle and anti-apartheid struggle so that is close to o stokely carmaichael. >> booktv spoke with scholars at the hoover institution, a public policy think tank at stanford university to find out what they are reading. michael mcfall recently stepped down as the u.s. ambassador to russia is currently reading the shot, he shared i am reading it because of my interest in how modernizing autocrats eventually lose power. you can watch the interview at the hoover institution on booktv.org. victor davis hanson, an expert on classics and military history just finished the bombers and bombed, a survey of the allied strategic bombing campaign against germany 1942-1945. team mentioned i am writing a new history of world war ii so i
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am reading traditional works and new or revisionist treatment. larry diamond who focuses on democracy in asia, africa and latin america is reading the righteous mind. he explained this book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand why politics in the u.s. is intensely polarized and how partisan polarization might be eased. in march of 2012 booktv covered the discussion of his book. watch it at booktv.org. the former director of middle east studies at johns hopkins university for over 30 years said an exquisite book that i have read recently and will we read in the future is the forever war by dexter filkinfil. @boards in afghanistan and iraq and brings to readers the ordeal of war for the soldiers who fought it and the civilians who were caught up in it. he discussed his book at the
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2008 miami book fair. you can find his talk on our web site. shelby steele specializes in the study of race relations, multiculturalism and affirmative-action, recently reread abandon their river. he says it shows more graphically than anything else how many third world countries coming out of colonialism descend into chaos, corruption and totalitarianism and to wrap up our who reinstitution scholars reading list senior fellow and economics john taylor is reading why it grows matters:how economic growth in india reduced poverty and lessons for other developing countries. his presentation from the council on foreign relations can be viewed on booktv.org anytime. if there is another institution whose reading list you would like to hear, e-mail us at booktv.org. >> booktv live coverage of the
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2014 virginia festival of the book continues, she talks about her book had -- laura gottesdiener talks about "a dream foreclosed," on african-american communities around the country. >> human beings are born free and equal dignity and human rights. they are in doubt and checked toward one another in the spirit of brotherhood. everyone has the right to own property as well as in association with others. no one shall be deprived of property. i would like to talk to dr. bill anderson who is well known in
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the community. the chair of piece of justice and he is the voice of peace in the first time. if you ever want to know anything about peace, i am very clear to do that. [applause] >> thank you. can everyone he me from here? i am so honored to be here and i want to thank especially ishan who has done so much to bring our speaker here. i welcome you here and on behalf of amnesty international and most of all the virginia foundation for the humanities, it is an exciting thing. so much fun and so interesting. i want to ask if you will please turn off your cellphones.
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i turned my off. and, you know, i want to talk about supporting the festival. the festival is free of charge but not free of cost. i want you to remember to go online and give back or pickup and giving envelope from the information desk, this is a wonderful thing and it needs our support and i want to remind you about the evaluations. they need feedback and this is going to help so please don't forget to fill out one of these evaluation forms and i want to let you know the book we are talking about today is on the back table. it is for sale. and let me tell you it is so
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good. introducing laura gottesdiener, i want to let you know she is a journalist, social justice activist and the author of this book ayman al-zarqawi 10:black mayor and the fight for a place to call home. this is her first book but boy is it good. the title of the book "a dream foreclosed," you probably know, you think about langston hughes's poems about the dream and martin luther king's dream speech because this book is sort of about that. langston hughes when he wrote an earlier poem, dream variations, to fling my arms wide in the face of the sun, to dance and to whirl until light day is done, then resting cool evenings beneath a tall tree in while night comes on gently, dark like
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me. that is my dream. to from my arms wide at the face of the sun, to dance until the quick day is done. rest at pale evening, a tall slim free, night coming tenderly, black like me. langston hughes wrote another poem about the dream called what about a dream deferred? laura gottesdiener's book "a dream foreclosed" really picks up on that poem. what happens to a dream deferred? does it dry up like a raisin in the sun or fester like us for and then run? does it stink like rotten meat? or crust over, suite, immediate
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just sags like that have the load or does explode? in her book you will hear about today laura talks about the explosion and the dream. and she talks about fighting back. when i first started reading this book it was like this is kind of hard. it was hard to read because she was talking about such -- so depressing, makes you so a angry, you hear about all of these cricket loan companies and banks, how rich people get richer and the poor get poorer and especially african-americans, how they take away their dreams and away their homes. laura gottesdiener has been a real trumpet. a real good announcer of this
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event. when i first saw the book i wanted to look away. that remembered what the buddhists say about suffering. they said life is suffering but we must not turn away from the suffering of others. that gave me the courage to pick up this book and start reading and as i started reading, this is the season of lent for many of us in the christian tradition. i am eating cookies when i shouldn't be eating cookies and things like that. when you think about a fast you have to think about isaiah. he said is not this the fast that i choose? to lose the bonds of which goodness, to undo the straps of the yolk, the press go free and brake every yolks? is it not to share your bread
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with the hungry and bring the homeless pour into your house? when you see them naked you cover him and not hide yourself from your own flesh? then shall your light break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up speedily, your righteousness shall go before you. laura comes out of that tradition. she is reformed jew going up in boston and going to yale. and her name goddess diner, we were on st. patrick's day sitting at the cafe, what is that name? i found out that means servant
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of god. her first name, laura refers to the laurels they use to put on the heads of the victors in the olympics. you know, as i read that book it was so exciting i went wow, she really is serving god and writing this book and i think you will find that out too. another thing that came through my head comes from another tradition. was a song by woody guthrie, pretty boy floyd. it is all about pretty boy floyd and how he gets into trouble, the deputy sheriff and all these people coming after him and he is on the run and goes to canada, and starving farmers open their doors to him, and he
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said they say i am an outlaw and agencies but here is a christmas dinner for a family on relief, and he says in woody guthrie's songs, as through this land i ramble, and through this land i rome, but did you ever see an outlaw drive a family from his home? two lines really get to me. he says as through this world i travel and through this world i see many crooked men, some will rob you with a six gun, others with a fountain pen. the story is about those robbers who rob you with a fountain pen and how they seem to get away
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with impunity but i want to tell you she has woven a beautiful story about the suffering of african-americans. cheated and swindled at the hands of unethical banks and loan organizations but does stock at where they get cheated and swindled, she talks about their struggle to maintain their dignity and their way of fighting back i am so happy to introduce to you laura gottesdiener. [applause] >> i have never done this before but can i ask for a round of applause for that singing and that in production? you did not -- i hope i do okay, you did not mention you had that singing voice. you made me laugh because
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sometimes, not that often, maybe once a month i get any mail from someone that says i read your most recent article or i read your book and i liked it, but with the name like that you have a long way to go. and i am like thanks, anonymous e-mail therefore reminding me that. thank you again. it is ok with everyone, i would like to start by telling the story that opens this book. it is short. i don't like when people get up and just read their book. i would like to start with it because i hope that it will remind us what we are talking about here. it is important to say this is a true story, it is the story told to me when i was in chicago two summers ago, a young girl at the time, she was 11 and it was in the middle of a massive heat
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wave. it was at least 100 degrees, people had died in the city for lack of having air-conditioning. no air-conditioning in their home so all the lights were off, trying to keep the home cool. she is standing in the middle of her living room in the dark sweating, and i asked her could you tell me about your family's egyptian two years ago? she closes her eyes. this is the story she told me and it is important to say when children tell stories it is important for journalists to fact check them and verify some stuff because children's memories are not necessarily always the most factual and every single one of her details checked out. it was probably the most powerful telling that i heard throughout reporting this entire book.
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the police were at the door running footsteps on the stairs and martha biggs, this is big as. then gemayel biggs remembered the founding of this followed by the deliberate side of a battering ram. she and her 7-year-old sister justice had just finished eating cereal and playing barbie in the living room on the west side of chicago. it was the weekend. she and her two sisters planned to pick up from salazar elementary school. outside the door the pounding grew louder. there were half a dozen police cars parked below and all their lights were flashing. the girl's mother, martha biggs, rushed to the door. she opened it. only to see seven police officers, a blinding flash light
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and her dreams exploding once again. the year was 2010. the year that for the first time in united states history bank seized 1 million homes evicting 3,000 families. and flew into the bathroom, and shoving them into the family's minivan. the girl emerged from the bathroom, a female police officer and meltdown to remind them to put on shoes and clothes. it was the winter. martha roused her only son, 3 mack baby and coaxed him into the car. altogether the family felt like it was tight. marissa in the front seat, justice, crowded in between clothes and quote in the back. as martha drove away from the house that had been their home and 5ed to salazar elementary
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school where the archives were good as they hoped, she knew this eviction was not only part of the 2008 housing crisis. she knew it was part of a much longer story, one that stretched back to martha's child attend further, all the way to the founding of the united states. she knew was the story of housing, race and freedom, that we'd to the station's history like the crisscross stitches on the fabric of the quilts. finally she opened her eyes and said to me when i was homeless in wasn't like i was dirty because my mom made sure i wasn't. then i was going to school with everything on my mind of what had happened the other night. last night i had gotten a house, what about tonight? i had to sleep in the car tonight. i might get a good deal tonight.
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what will happen? how will i get home today? i want to thank everybody, a few people to thank. i want to thank the festival of the book. i want to thank amnesty international, a lot to help me get here. i want to thank bill for the introduction, and my one man publishing super power team. and an incredible other book, the black history of the white house. max and so many other activists across the country, take back the land and other housing disorganization as i definitely the reason i am here because they educated me to everything.
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i want to thank the family that are struggling, actually fighting back against one of the worst crises, financial, social, physical that this country had gone through. without their willingness to talk to me. none of this would be here. so i am going to speak about my first book "a dream foreclosed," black america and the fight for a place to call home. is traces the story of four families during the lead up to and aftermath of the world's worst financial crisis since the great depression. families in detroit, michigan, michael hutchins in chattanooga, tenn.. in stanford, north carolina and marissa biggs in chicago, with
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the mother of onea and jimeyea. sometimes there is confusion, i am not a financial reporter. more than the foreclosure crisis, they choose to organize this society and the way it can be different. we will travel from burned out buildings in chicago to liberated blocks in between, living rooms and families across the country. let's begin. you want me to chill? hold on. we are chilling. great, okay. can you also hear me? cool. thank you. i want to start with a very simple question. what is home? it is such a simple word but
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almost impossible to define. the power of this word is nearly unrivaled. think back, think back to when you were in schools like this a you will remember home was the prize of epic heroes. and the homecoming of odysseus, after decades journeying across the entire mediterranean, and finally reach the shore. finally reacheds the house and is not quite home yet for those who remember the ending. doesn't really become home until penelope, whose wife was besieged by suitors in his absence tests him, she says why don't you just bring out that bed from that room. i don't want a stranger sleeping in my bedroom and he says no, you can't do that because he was the only ones that new said that
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bed was built into that room, into a live oak tree and when she -- when he had that recognition, was really passed the test, that was when he was home and be long in the house, not when -- who can remember mom's yearning for a decent home in raisin in the sun, the iconic play, perhaps one of the best place of a 20th century. the family was cooped up in this subdivision in chicago. and in the 1950s, the massive red lining, the african american families were cooped into tiny sections of the city and as a result of the incredibly predatory practice of white landlords there were four five
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or six families, and one of the daughters chasing down the hallway, in the bathroom is unoccupied. and i will work 20 hours a day in all of the kitchens in chicago, strap my baby on my back and scrub all the floors in america and all the sheets in america if i have to. we have got to get out of here. they move to a white neighborhood and challenged incredible violence. the united states, home is nearly synonymous with the idea of equality, upward mobility and freedom, and although everyone knows it, there is probably no
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more contested a word in the entire boeing which language as law professor anita hill right about the housing crisis, she writes at the heart of the crisis, an ideological disconnect between home as a basic element of the american dream and halfway to eat quality and home as a market product. what is going to happen to our homes and what is happening since 2007 when the housing crisis century since late 2007, and plunged the country and the world's into disaster. a lot about the numbers of the crisis. we let a lot about the amount that evaporated overnight, but a lot about the number of people lost their jobs and the gdp
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decline. and the amount of money the banks needed to be stabilized. we didn't hear about a lot, almost at all about the number of actual people, not loans, not houses, since 2007 as a result of foreclosure and being pursued. it seemed like a pretty simple conversation about the housing crisis i learned there was not a single government agency at any level whose job was to how many people were trashed out of their homes? there was not even a private company charged with tracking this company. and sea-tac access that information which should be funny. through interviews, economists
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and journalists, and this is the conservative estimates. 10 million people forced from their homes since 2007. how big is 10 million people, 227 in the virginia. of the population of new york city, it is roughly equivalent to the entire population of the state of michigan which is the tenth most populous state in the entire country. in other words in the last six years he had evicted every single man and every single woman and every child and all their pets from the entire state. how is it possible that the entire population of michigan was forced from their homes and we never really heard about it? i started thinking maybe it is not a reflection of government oversight but more a reflection of how we values this crisis in
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and of itself, that we valued it and quantified it more in stock prices than in mixed school days, we counted it in property values rather than in family dinners, that more than anything we talked about it in terms of shareholder profits rather dan shaffer driscoll's in cities across the country. it got me thinking we haven't only suffered from an economic crisis maybe we are in a crisis of values and meaning and the definition of our own lives. i was glad you mentioned martin luther king because it is probably impossible in jefferson school which used to be an all black school during segregation, probably impossible to talk about this topic without referencing earlier this year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the historic march on washington, martin luther king's iconic i have a dream speech and
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as we were going over the speech this summer and it was all over the newspapers i went back and actually read it and noticed a portion that hasn't gained as much attention, i want to read a small segment of it tonight, today. in a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check, when the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the constitution and the declaration of independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every american was to fall air. this was the promise that all men, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. it is obvious today, he said, that americans have defaulted on this promissory notes in so far as citizens of color are concerned. instead of honoring the sacred of the asian america has given
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the negro people bad check which has been marked insufficient funds. in reading this now i can't help but think if people caught this, i can't help but think of hundreds of thousands of workers checks sent out by the banks as compensation after the massive robotsigning settlement. this massive legal settlement after the banks, all of them had been caught forging and signing all of these foreclosure documents in order to accelerate because they didn't even have enough people to sign up on these documents, nevertheless check what the documents are in order and they had multiple employees making minimum wage, signing the same name, linda green because it was shorter than their real name. after the banks were caught in this massive forgery and fraud scandal they were required to
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send out compensation checks to the families that had been foreclosed on as a result of this fraud. so they send out all these checks across the country and most of them were released mall, $5,000, obviously inadequate compensation for losing your home but the family went to the bank and they were going to catch those checks and the checks of bank of america, wells fargo, they bounced and nothing to me signaled not just the insolvency of the u.s. financial system, but the irony of the way we treated people during this crisis. but to also return to martin luther king's words perhaps the entire racially slanted foreclosure crisis is the best evidence, maybe today, of the united states's continued default on its constitutional
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promise to african-americans. i am not just talking about the fact that african-americans were twice as likely to be foreclosed on although they were, or that african-americans with high credit scores, with good credit where three times more likely to be sold sub prime predatory loan than a white family. i'm not just talking about the fact that a wells fargo loan officer testified in court that wells fargo, quote, put bounties on the heads of minority buyers or that every major bank was in violation of the fair housing act although none have actually been penalized for it. though there's a lawsuit morgan stanley is currently undergoing in detroit over violations of the fair housing act. not even necessarily talking about the fact although i think it is incredibly important and very little understood that this entire foreclosure crisis is an outgrowth of the nation's period
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of redlining and institutionalized racism in housing and the very fact that these major banks could go into communities of color and peddle the worst of the worst mortgages, natural outgrowth of the fact that through the majority of the 20th century the federal government had a policy of red lineing. if you don't know what that is it means the federal government, a huge amounts of the united states, put them on walls and drew red lines around any of the communities in which people of color lived and what those lines signified was there was no federal lending, no federal guarantees for private lending in those communities and as a result these laws were not revealed until the late 60s and 70s. as a result the communities were starved of capital and when these laws finally were taken off of the books the private
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banks have said here is an opportunity to make a lot of money really quickly by capitalizing on this nation's history of institutionalized racism. i also think it is important to talk about the unique impact due to african-americans have experience throughout the course of this crisis because as margherita armstrong writes african-americans have had a historical relationship with property that differs from that of other americans. the introduction to this history was as a form of property and contemporary relationships between african-americans and properties are still impaired. what she is saying is the only thing were not simply houses because holding private property and achieving full rights of personshood and citizenship have been directly tied since this country's founding. what is really at stake in this quest for home is freedom.
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in other words home and landowners it gave one access to the original american dream of democracy. it is fitting to speak a little bit about democracy because this project began when i was on a plane to a place that just lost their local democracy and that is deflate, michigan. it was the summer of 2011 and i was going to see things i had heard only whispered about. i had heard about masses of people stopping be evictions and squatting on banks that houses, whole blocks taken over by artists collectives. i was hearing about people setting up communities outside the control of capitalism. communities they were calling liberated zones. when i was there, i had, remember a very obviously radical whispering of what i might find.
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i met a woman named bertha on a sunday afternoon in her living room. she had just gotten back from church. i need to explain what she looks like because i grew up in suburban massachusetts outside boston. i wasn't accustomed to meeting women who dressed like that. she wore a white suit with trim ruffles, this embroidered shawl, cream colored sock and impossibly wide white southern half. she told me she might be living in post industrial detroit but her home was a refuge and she was from the south and she had full control. for a number of hours she made local headlines and nobody
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slowly understood, to do what she did. litt years she and her husband had fallen into foreclosure. the result of a second predatory mortgage. she started with a mortgage of $40,000. it balloons to $190,000 although every single month she was making her mortgage payment. she tries to fight for closure in court and hired a lawyer, called him a very sweet man and at the end of the day she couldn't do anything for her. her husband was cycling in and out of the hospital and her sons and daughters all relied on this home as the family's home base, and before the scheduled the eviction she called up her oldest daughter and she said i am not going anywhere and later she told me that it wasn't that she didn't understand they owned a piece of paper, it was that
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the banks didn't bandstand that's i owned my home. this was a deeply religious woman, appealing to a moral law, a higher law, a law that in her mind completely invalidated his contract the bank was holding. that called for her and her family to leave. she called the papers and her neighbors and the church and the morning the city of detroit had scheduled to send a contractor to park a dumpster in front of her house and they had contractors haul out every single item that she and her family had amassed over the last 22 years of her life all of those items, all the out of her house and throw them in the dumpster, that morning the contractor couldn't deliver that dumpster because there were hundreds of people in the street and on her front lawn, in front of the place he wanted to park and he said get out of the way and the man in the middle of the street said you get out of the
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way. and so the man with the dumpster tried to park it in front of the neighbors's house and the neighbors said don't parked in front of my house. i know what you are here to do. again, remember this is a contractor. he was probably making slightly more than minimum wage and he said i am not going to benefit. i am taking this family of the house. turnaround and went back and later that afternoon bertha went to downtown deflate to a huge office building, essentials the the wall street outpost in the toys and marched up to the floor of new york bank of mellon which told her mortgage was located and she said can i come in and have an appointment and talk about my mortgage because hundreds of people just blocked the dumpster and i don't think you will be able to foreclose on me so why don't we work something out to the secretary said you can't come in because you don't have an appointment so bursa took a deep breath and her
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pressed perfect suit, she laid down in front of the board of the office and when the secretary leaned out and said what are you doing, she said if i can't come in none of you people can come out. and she stayed there for a very long time and the next day the bank lawyers called her lawyer and said could you please call off the dogs cutie -- when i met with her on sunday she had just signed the papers to own her home out right for the first time in her entire life. on that trip i saw with my own eyes what i have only heard whispers of. those were in fact liberated blocks on the east side of the forest and i received a 2 or from a homeless artist who had become more or less a
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residential real dividend i capitalist crowd in detroit. we want a bloc that would become the epicenter of this movement called the golden great restoration community project. where i went that was two years ago, seven occupied homes, and explained the plan to me and it sounded utterly beautiful and also with the economic context completely and utterly insane. here is how it works. the group of residents picked one house by living in it and call the local homeless shelter and ask them to send over a family and the family would live in the house and the group of artists and residents moved to the next house and picked up the next one and was interesting was each time they moved more and more people were joining the effort especially from the families who had gotten houses as a result. when i was there this was only seven houses at a time but i heard this, they have dozens, they had wood burning stoves and water collection and dry wall and new plumbing, artists'
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studios and libraries and gardens and plans for making a boxing ring. one of the houses had sharpie scribble diagrams for solar panel briefing on the wall. haven't had the opportunity to find out if they made it but i would be surprised if they were able to. j b and his team explained to me they were fighting to preserve a neighborhood the banks had seized for cash, stripped of life and left to die. they told me we don't any of those houses but if we stay in them, keep working on them we can save them. obviously after that trip i was totally hot. i wanted to find more liberated spaces and learn what inspired neighborhoods and not to suffer violently in these houses. and organize and fight back. communities and resistance
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across the country, people in suburban, n.c. chattanooga, tenn. minneapolis, minn. rural parts of western pennsylvania, and everywhere i went i heard a story i didn't think was possible. i heard about a man in toledo who national action against foreclosure decided with a few friends would steal himself inside his home which was in foreclosure using bricks and cement. he and his friends literally built an entire house within the house filled with bricks and cement and it took the police base, this was a day before his scheduled eviction, the police came the day of the schedule the eviction and they opened the door to find a brick wall. they spent literally days chiseling him out of this house and the story made national headlines. an incredible amount of taxpayer
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money. as a result the local police forces are required to carry out the bank's dirty work. they met a woman named melanie quite, single mother, incredible woman, and she had been fighting her eviction for more than a year, she protested in the local community group. and the legal process, she spoke out at the shareholder meeting, they're quite clear that she was not going to be able to keep her home so pretty much a week before her scheduled eviction she went to home depot and ordered a dumpster truck worth of soy oil and home depot sent it to her house, delivered and it said where do you want to? the backyard. i am making a garden. they jumped all the soil and she went to the local store, bought
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a ton of seeds, she was out there all day gardening and when her neighbors who all knew she was in foreclosure went over and said you ok? what are you doing? >> that i am planting a garden because i am not leaving this house. a week later she defaulted and she still lives there and the garden is still there and they use it as a community garden and every story was more inspiring than the rest so i remember the words of one retired firefighter who explained the scene of her eviction blockade in chicago that saved her house. surname is patricia hill and she said my daughter called and said the sheriff was here so i called j.r. one of the local housing activist and before you know what all the people were on the porch chanting fight and more people coming up on bicycles and everyone saying we are the people and the neighbors out on their porches were yelling we
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have a story. the construction worker down the street is coming of randal porche is filled with people chanting to tell the whole wide world this is people territory. and the eviction blockade was out in full force. it was a beautiful thing. i felt like i was floating outside myself and i was watching all these people on my front porch defending my home. j. r. with his campaign, with martha, the occupy homes, national network is in minneapolis, take back the land is an african american network spearheaded definitely the most, in my mind, inspiring housing organizing the last five or six
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years. chattanooga organizing for action that worked with michael in chattanooga and the more i traveled, the more i met with hundreds of activists and families. i realize african-americans's unique relationship to homes, the story of struggle and dreams wasn't just the story of being victimized. made these communities significantly better equipped to handle the crisis and significantly more visionary coming in stories and proposals and the real implementable strategies they were proposing to come out of this crisis. one of the co-founders of take back the land said to me we are in a trance formative moment because of this crisis is rooted firmly in the housing crisis. we are going to have significant changes in the way people think not just about housing but land
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itself. it wasn't until my second trip to chicago that i realized this organizing no matter how inspiring wasn't just taken up by people with political beliefs. i've learned activists often didn't choose to be activists. many had done so out of basic survival. i started by telling the story of martha and her children. i picked this cover for the book which was taken by a young photographer named brent lewis and it is a black woman and marissa's children, jessica. martha names justice when the family was homeless and she named her justice because she said it would be justice if they were never homeless again. it would be justice if they no longer had to sleep in the back of the family minivan. the story of martha is in my mind the most inspiring story in the book.
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she and her family had been evicted from one of the largest public housing projects not just in chicago but the entire country and over the course of a decade the city of chicago spearheaded by the mayor had a plan for transformation. the official title. the plan was essentially to teardown a whole lot of public housing projects and after he tore the inbound the plan was to build new housing. the problem was they never built that housing. the economic crisis hit, the city got strapped for funds of the planned transformation the way i can see it is a tour bunch of housing down and did nothing to help the families who had been living in the housing and did nothing to help the city have a more affordable housing program. so martha and her children spent time in a homeless shelter in abandoned buildings, doubling up with families living in their
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car, finally she said i can't live like this anymore. she was speaking with press she had heard from before and explained the situation and said i will do anything. i need to put a roof over my kids's head and have said my daughter is in foreclosure, she has given up on the situation but if you want to fight it here are the keys. martha parked the mini van in front of the house and got to work and rehabed the entire house and rally local kids to put up the drywall and mage the house perfect and in the summer of 2011, she called all of the local media, all of the national media and everyone came out including the new york times, everyone standing with all the cameras and notepads and she stands in front of this entire
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crowd of people that the essentially the entire national media world which means all of us and she said i was effected, i was homeless, my kids were homeless, we don't want to be homeless anymore. can't hold a job if i am moving around, can't have a job if i don't have an address, can have a job taking care of my kids my kids deserved a place to live, they deserve a place to sleep. they deserve a place to get ready for school. i don't own this house. deutsche bank owns this house. but i am going to live here because i am declaring this house liberated. you should have seen the camera man's faces. going to a court battle now but deutsche bank is not taking that home. they have been there two years now, three years now. living in bank owned buildings
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and fighting deutsche bank and bank of america and cd and wells fargo and jpmorgan is not a long-term solution. i asked what is the long term solution? and they explained to me that what is going on now is a process of destabilizing land relationship and getting to a place where we can have different structures of land relationships in this country and one of those, one of those that is implementable right now, more than 250 across the country is a structure called community land trust. what a community of land trust offers is the ability for communities, not companies, communities to control the land and make decisions of what happens on that land and they do that through a system of separating the ownership of land from the ownership of the homes on top. what happens is a fiber to live in a community land trust or anybody here you might get a mortgage and buy a home like anybody else but you don't own
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the land underneath your home. who owns the land underneath your home is a collection of all the presidents surrounding residents and local leaders, politicians or church leaders or people in the neighborhood who are always helping. what that means is that the land is guaranteed for affordable housing and it takes is the collective nature, speculation out of being connected to this land. not only does it keeps the homes on top of the land significantly more affordable but it allows communities to make decisions about what happens in their borders. imagine a situation in which communities had the ability to make these real decisions about that -- what happens inside them. imagine the effect that would have not just in terms of housing but in terms of local
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policeing, environmental rights, hospitals, whether to build a prison or to build a clinic. what about the local food supply? recently it makes the ability for communities to tip the balance that always exists in this country between capitals and communities. we have the -- we don't have a very unfair fight but constructors like plan trust and others that allow you to tip the balance while still living in this country away it is constituted. it is important to say and i want to talk about this, as we come out of this crisis, proposing solutions like community land trust, programs for affordable housing, programs that actually make capital more about good capital, more available to low-income communities, communities of color, that is exactly the opposite route than we have taken coming out of the crisis.
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what is important is we look back at what is happening from 2007 to 2011 when the foreclosure crisis was really at its peak. at its peak in the way i mean comparable to the foreclosure crisis during the great depression when you scale for population growth. today there are tens of thousands of foreclosures across the country but the biggest challenge in terms of house and justice is what is happening with these houses that have already been seized by the banks. what we are seeing is rather than be returned to the market in a way that families can buy them particularly low income or middle-income families what we are seeing is massive private equity firms and hedge funds which are essentially like the cousins of big banks, they are not big banks, they work with big banks, they manage money and make investments. what we have seen for the first time in u.s. history massive private equity funds and hedge funds are missing rental
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empires, single-family rental empires and this is something that because after suburbanization we have always in this country had a rental industry of single-family, this very mom and pop. i might own a home and rent out three other homes. i lived down the block. when we are looking at these rental empires that are being a master at approximately 200,000 single-family homes purchased in the last two years these are owned by private equity firms and hedge funds like blackstone group, american homes for rent and others and what they have done is buy up all these homes really cheap because home prices crashed incredibly spectacularly, and unfortunately because the district is credit and because of the fact communities lost so much of their wealth there -- very few families there are families who are buying, first-time home buyers but a lot of that buying
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is happening on the part of these hedge funds and private equity firm so they have gone into communities, buy up these homes very cheap, blackstone bought 1,400 homes in atlanta in one day and start renting them back out to families. ..
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>> that's when the system collapsed, and now we have the rental back security, more or less exactly the same as a mortgage backed security, but rather than securitizing the underlying mortgage on the home, they are essentially using the rental streams paid by renting families. that pays back the bond. there's a lot of debate right now happening about this process, so what i wanted to get into, and i'll stick to the promise this is not a financial talk, but i want to just seal it down to is we are boom ranging out of the crisis. we are still seeing homes as market commodities. we are furthering financial speculation and final
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securitization in the housing market, and last, and certainly not least, we are seeing that these types of wall street driven market-based solutions are supposedly the only way we're going to get out of this mess, and if you have a question, like i did recently to a hedge funder, i said, well, but weren't you guys the ones that got us into this mess in the first place? he paused, and he said, well, yeah, but trust me. [laughter] so today in 2014, what's our responsibility? what's our role? what's our role of active members of the community, as residents, as journalist, social justice activist, and i come back to what my mom told me years ago with the book project, and he said, people who feel powerless gravitate to powerful stories because their own story is so disempowering.
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right now, she said, we all feel powerless. i think our challenge for everyone in the room so to make a story more powerful than the current narrative, more sensible than houses are first and mother most market commodities and only secondly the places that we live. i think our job, in other words, is to open up a mental state in which you can start envisioning and articulating how we create the society anew. book we're talking about words and definitions, like what always happens at book festivals, there's two definitions of home. a home is a market product and a pathway to equality. i want to propose this, and make it clear this is not my definition. this is a definition that i heard from hundreds of residents
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of homeowners, of tenants, people who are homeless. this is the definition i heard from activist groups across the country, from journalists, from writers, this is a definition essentially reverberating from almost everybody i spoke to. what they were saying is why don't we define a home as a form of necessity for survival, and as such, buying a home is a basic human right. we don't talk about home as human rights in the country. we talk about them abroad, but i appreciate you started this conversation with the declaration of human rights because in that document, homes are a human right. housing is a human right. everybody has a right to shelter. my demands here today is that housing be recognized as a human right in this country. i got to tell you, what i say that on the radio or television, and i say it a lot, i'm often
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told this is an unreasonable demand. make reasonable demands. right? what i think is unreasonable is that in the richest nation in the world, with a government that has figured out how to collect and arian vive all of my e-mails, phone logs, and all my communications, that learned to wage war with remote control sticks, that learned how to build the largest prison system in the history of human civilization, well, it seems unreasonable to me we can't structure a society in which everyone has a place to live, especially in a country in which we already have multiple times the number of empty, vacant homes than the number of times of homeless people. it's like housing has to be a human right, and what's clear to me is that the powers these won't or can't figure out a way to ensure this right, then we
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all have the right to liberate homes and land ourselves. it's this type of collective liberation that families are already doing across the country, the family that i profiled in the book and hundreds more that i was not able to put in, so i think now, probably our turn to join them. thank you. [applause] >> thank you so much. wasn't that beautiful? her book is so beautiful. just want to open up the discussion so that you can make comments or ask questions of laura about what she just talked about, about her book.
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i think, michael, you had a question. yeah, go to the microphone so people can hear you. michael's got a good question for you. >> hi, i'm michael, a graduate student, and one of the things that i am looking into is infant mortality in charlottesville, virginia, and in the white population in charlottesville is 4.9, about five babies before a thousand die before they're first birthday. in the african-american population here in charlottesville, virginia, it's 20.2. when i was looking into the causes and conditions it goes beyond a waive of housing that you talk about. it seems to go back to the cause of the conditions that led to
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the caprini green. what we have here in charlottes vim in 1960, prior to 1960, we had the vinegar hill neighborhood, which were standing on the former vinegar hill neighborhood, and the city needed i-644 and highway 250, and the african-american neighborhood kind of stood in the way, so the city somehow had the vine gar hill neighborhood designated as blighted so it could be torn down, and we found that in the 1960s, once that -- once the neighborhood was torn down, the only businesses that would hire african-american # were other african-american businesses, so once the neighborhood was torn down, a
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whole generation of leaders were lost, and african-americans couldn't get housing loans to build new businesses and when they could, they were charged 25% interest. it would seem like we're even further behind. we're still back in that first wave. any ideas suggestions for us here in charlottesville? >> sure, i mean, policy is an incrediblely controversial thing. i hesitate to make any prescriptions. the story you told doesn't surprise me. doesn't it seem communities to me that african-american communities stand in the way of something the city was looking
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to build in the time of urban renewal. that's not something just charlottesville experienced, but every sing the major american city experienced that during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, cities wanted to build something, and they always happened to have to build it on ton of african-american neighborhoods, particularly african-american middle class neighborhoods where there was a lot of stores and businesses and home, so, you know, i think that it's clear that what we're talking about, you know, and this is something that we really emphasize to everywhere i went is there's no way to see this crisis we're going through right now as independent of the crisis that we've gone through before. in particular, if you look at housing justice questions and displacement questions in african-american communities. you know, that was the thing that struck me the most. i talk to families in white communities, they'd be, like, this is a cataclysmic event, you know, in the foreclosure crisis.
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how could this happen to me? when i talk to african-american families, they were, like, yep, this happened in urban renewal, before that in the 30s, before that in the 1890. this has happened to us since we got to this country, when we were brought to the country, we didn't ask to be here. i think it's clear we need to understand that questions of housing justice and questions of displacement, questions of the health you start withings the crisis is rarely framed through a health lens, but it really should be because, you know, health impacts -- the health impacks communities where foreclosure rates are high a very noticeable. emergency room vis, diabetes, high blood pressure, attempted suicide, deaths all increases in communities for displacement and foreclosure is high. i think what we need to do is start to really be willing to look at the crisis we're going through now in this larger trajectory of crisis around land
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ownership and who gets to make decisions about a city and people. there's a classic example of a policy push through by government probably likely incentivized -- actually definitely invent vised by private development in which the community living there had no say in what happened. that's the way of thinking about our cities and thinking about our housing and communities that has to stop, not just because it's unfair and unjustings but because it's incredibly, physically dangerous, and it's also, you know, and i think that, you know, i talking about this at the end of the book, we can't look at housing as something that's divorced from other crisis we're going through right now. to me, it's quite clear that the housing crisis is -- that the mentality that led to the housing crisis is the same mentality that is leading to the
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climate crisis right now and the ecological crisis we're going through, and right now, we're space facing a massive cry us in which whole countries and many u.s. sphis are going to be underwater in the next few hundred years. a lot of people are going to have to move unless wells -- some move regardless, but we have to take action right now. i think we need to think about the ways in which we allow profit to be the deciding factor of what happens in our communities, and that's, obviously, detrimental when, for example, a developer or city builds a conduit through your building or neighborhood. it's detrimental when you would like to continue, like myself, living in new york city and parts of new york city will be underwater if we burn fuels at the rate we are burning them right now. i'd say i don't have any -- i don't have any -- i don't have any advice for charlottesville.
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what i suggest is asking people in charlottesville together what people, you know, in that community, but across the town want to do. there's an incredible amount of untapped wisdom in communities that we really never listen to. >> thank you. thank you. >> good afternoon. >> good afternoon. >> i wanted to thank you for requester presentation, and i wanted to make a statement and ask a question. i remember growing up, my grandfather's name was solomon, and he always said, you need to understand who is standing behind the curtain. you don't want to do business with the devil. sometimes, i think, in our nation now, we may be doing business with the devil, that, aka, the bank. if we look at our predatory
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system of lending, whether it's in housing or whether it's in education, where do we move from that? the reason i'm hearing the story about my grandfather is that loans were not available for him, so they purchased the land, they got the neighbors and the friends to build their homes, so they never had mortgages, and as a result of that, we still have the land in our family, and we're talking about the late 1800s. >> that's awesome. >> we need to look at another pair dime, especially for the future, and i tell my daughters the same thing. think about not taking out the bank loan and look at a different paradigm because this gives you the impression of that. >> thank you so much for sharing that story. i think you're grandfather is an incredibly wise man. that's my initial impression. yeah, we can't be doing business with the devil. i think that, you know, what you also spoke to about the way that you talk about it with your family today

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