Starter Gentrifyers & the Roots of GentriFUKation


Tiny - Posted on 11 May 2013

Author: 
Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, daughter of Dee, mama of Tiburcio

Mama used to say, “when us po’ folks get evicted, we don’t leave, we just go live in the “sidewalk motels”. GentriFUKation Tours “R” US wasn’t started as an “edgy” piece of performance art, or a protest, or an installation at a gallery, but rather as a non-violent act of art-in-desperation to the violence of removal, colonization and displacement.

 

My poor body, daughter of another poor woman-body of color has been evicted over 28 times throughout my childhood as a houseless, chyle in Amerikkka. Most of the time we were committing poverty crimes, evicted because we didn’t have the money for rent in a capitalist society that values money over all things, even the housing security of a disabled single parent woman and her children. But so often when we had raised enough money in our mother-daughter led street-based business to pay the rent on a tiny place like the one we had in West Oakland, we were evicted, due the forces of gentrification, rampant re-development and real estate snakkking or what we at POOR Magazine called in another Art-Action circa 1999: Gerrification -so named after Jerry Brown who came to Oakland with the plan to “clean-up” aka evict poor folks out of Oakland and get rid of any trace of rent control being promoted at the time.

 

GentriFUkation didn’t stop there for me and my mama, as a poor family, we were always at-risk of removal, from scamlords to speculators, eviction, substandard housing, and lack of stability were a constant. Fast forward another 13 years, this time I was facing houselessness again, but this time as the single parent of an infant son taking care of my mother who was now very ill, and as an act of resistance, I had started a small collective house for low-income single parent women like myself,  we called it Mamahouse. It was located in the already gentrified streets of the “Mission” and we were lucky enough to find a severely substandard 3 bedroom available at a mere $1800 a month. Never mind that there were subtenants with wings & whiskers, (roaches, pigeons and mice), never mind that almost nothing worked, ever. We had each other, single parents and children, together, helping and working together, inter-dependently.

 

We stayed there throughout all the wrong-ness until that landlord from hell burned us out, literally, setting a fire instead of fixing any of the glaring habitability issues.

 

We found a second home for Mamahouse in the “Mission”, and while it was very nice, it was too nice, and after 2 beautiful years, the 2nd Mamahouse ended up gentriFUKed again, by a whopping $700 rent increase imposed on us. None of us mamaz could afford that. We tried to re-group, but it was the final blow. I and my fellow poor mamaz were houseless, again.

 

This last eviction was the final little murder of the soul as my mama used to call it, and this was when GentriFUKation Tours R US was born. Not meant to act as ambassadors, politricksters or non-profiteers with agendas and grant-guidelines, the gentriFUKation Tours R US tour-guides, are displaced, evicted, indigenous and/or houseless peoples who move through the post-gentriFUKed streets with maps of where we used to be, what hipster bar, over-priced restaurant, Tenants In Common takeover of rental housing or condominium was put in our place and the multitude of stories about our forced diasporas, out-migrations and where we are now.

 

We are instigators and art-in-action uncomfortable-makers. We speak on wite-supremacy, real estate snakkking and the endless attack on our poor bodies of color still trying to stay in our communities of origin.

 

The Roots of GentriFUKation

At the root of gentriFUKation is colonization. The original act of removal was the lie of discovery by Christopher Columbus, etc, the illegal migration of pilgrims and missionaries and the subsequent theft of land, resources and people of all indigenous nations across Pachamama. The first gentriFUKed peoples in this part of Turtle Island were the Ohlone Nation, still unrecognized by the colonizer government as a tribe. The other root of gentriFUKation is capitalism itself. How it encourages, promotes and arguably mandates the lie of separation and individualism, all rooted in Western, Euro-centric therapeutic crafted norms of sanity and normalcy. How droves of middle-class and working –class white peoples (and Western taught peoples of color) are taught through the multitude of societal messages, corporate media and factory school education to leave their family homes, their cities of origin and their elders so they can live alone and be good, productive consumers, purchasing an endless amount of Ikea furniture, brooms, silverware, towels, blankets, apartments, and so much more. Paying for Euro-centric therapy so they can “get over” their loss of their families and mamaz and cultures and spirits. And in the end, trying to build “community” in places where their sheer act of communing means that the existent community is forced to leave to make space for them.

 

These are the things that no one wants to say, or maybe don’t even think of. These are some of the issues brought up by the Tour Guides on the GentriFUKation Tours.

 

The tragic thing is the confusion and shock of what I call the starter gentrifyers or gentrifyer-enablers, when they too get gentrified. Their belief that somehow they are inherently different, that they had nothing to do with gentrification, that it’s the policy-makers and the politricksters, the corporate interests and the Twitter executives that are “the cause of all this gentrification”.

 

But what they don’t realize is although the hearts and souls of the starter-gentrifyers is in no way like the self-centered hearts of the Face-Book, Google and Twitter hearts or the evil-alien hearts of the Lennar, John Stuart, Chase Bank and Wells Fargo executives, they too are here, caught up in the away-nation, ghetto-izing their elders, forgetting their ancestors and believing, above all, in the lie of independence from their families of origin. And how their presence, if even by default, adds to the sheer numbers of people census-ed in this City,  enables the rampant re-devil-opment of neighborhood after neighborhood, fuels the greed of the landlords and lays the ground-work for the insane level of evictions attacking literally thousands of poor and working-class elders who have lived here for decades if not their whole lives.

 

To be extremely clear, when I say all these people leaving their families I am not including peoples who leave their families of origin due to the fact that their lives were in danger if they stayed at home, or peoples like my mama who was an orphan and a foster home survivor who literally had no-one, no family to go to, and was all alone raising me, which is why we ended up on the street and living in our car when we couldn’t afford the rent in LA, Oakland and Frisco. No, I am talking about the billions of people who have perfectly good rooms and homes and elders and families who love them and will always love them, whose presence is always welcome and who themselves have bought into that same lie of independence and are now alone in their homes, with no more children and lots of rooms with no-one in them, waiting to no longer be seen as productive in a capitalist, ageist society.

In this way the non-profiteers, volunteers, social workers and activists graduating from endless institutions teaching them how to “help” us poor folks, are in fact the 21st century missionaries, coming to our communities with “good intentions” to save us, help us, revolutionze us, heal us, without realizing that in this process, they are displacing us. Perhaps, they could take that learning, helping, activating and revolutionizing home, to their own families and homes, communities and neighborhoods and help un-pack the lie of wite-supremacy, capitalist separation and the hoarding of stolen wealth and resources and the endless cycle of displacement.

 

So yes, the starter gentrifyers will end up being gentrified as well. And then where will they go? Maybe if they listen to the tour guides, on the next GentriFUKation Tours R US tour, humbly teaching, as us poverty and indigenous skolaz always do, they could consider, while they work on legislations, walk in marches and continue to fight gentriFUKation, leaving this city entirely, like many of our conscious “mentees” who graduate from POOR Magazine’s PEopleSkool do, giving their apartment or room to a houseless or evicted elder or family, and then going home to begin re-communing with their own families, their own mamaz, daddys, uncles and aunties, and in so doing, work on their own decolonization, their own embedded capitalist values, their own “inconvenience”.

This would be the ultimate act of revolution as then they would in fact be un-gentriFUKing this stolen Ohlone territory, one person at a time.

This story is an excerpt from Tiny’s upcoming book: Poverty Skolaship 101: A PEoplesTeXt.  For more decolonizing education, art and consciousness led by poverty and indigenous skolaz in resistance consider enrolling in a semester of PeopleSkool/Escuela de la gente at POOR Magazine. To find out about upcoming semesters or on-line classes go to click here To read more POOR Magazine narratives on gentriFUKation click here

 

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