Grandma's Hands


root - Posted on 31 December 1969

We have to free our elders from the city and state prisons, i.e. nursing homes, shelters and institutions and bring them back home

by Leroy Moore Jr./PNN

In the Early seventies Bill Withers wrote and recorded a song about the love, respect and feelings about his grandma and how he use to take care of her at a tender age of six, the piece was entitled Grandma’s Hands. Every time I listen to Grandma's Hands I feel proud about how families in the Black community treasured and took care of our elders. So what happened! Now the message of the late Bill Withers has vanished from our community and grandma’s hands are in the handcuffs of city bureaucrats, sheriff’s, people in the nursing home industry and others outside our homes. Our respect, love and duties to our elders are still present in our communities, but like gentrification, not only our streets but our homes are being invaded by outsiders who are making rules on how, where and with whom we should live and take care of our own.

Lately our city bureaucrats, Governors and agencies have knocked down our doors to tell us how we should live. In the last month and half I have read, advocated and listened to heartbreaking stories from elders who are being evicted because someone in their house were supposingly using drugs, i.e., the infamous HUD's One Strike Policy to the recent threat from our Gray Governor’s proposal to stop allowing family members to act as caretakers under the In-Home-Support- Services System.(IHSS) As a Black disabled advocate, I also realized that many of these stories are coming from Black disabled elders all around the Bay.

As a member of the Mayor’s Council on Disability, another member and I brought the issue of In-Home-Support Services in the homeless shelters into City Hall. Through our work we have noticed a lot of complaints from people who are disabled in the shelters and who need IHSS but are not receiving these services. One consumer has been kicked out of a shelter because he has a personal care taker and now is having trouble with an SRO landlord over the same issue. Advocates, family members and organizations in the disabled community have been trying to educate political leaders and society as a whole, that it would be cheaper to have our family members at home or in the community as opposed to locking us up in expensive institutions, and nursing homes like. Laguna Honda. Remember last summer when a disabled activist group named ADAPT took over this city on this same issue?

ADAPT stopped traffic in this city and tried to talk to Willie Brown about how the rebuilding of Laguna Honda would go against the Homestead Act which says that people with disabilities should be transferred to community living from institutions. After a week of protesting and talking to city leaders, Laguna Honda still stands and will enjoy a makeover with a huge price tag while there is a lack of accessible low-income housing in this city for anybody including people with disabilities.

I grew up with my granddad sleeping in a room next to me and nobody in my family would have thought of having it any other way. However lately in San Francisco and Oakland many of our own Black leaders have helped handcuff our grandparents and dragged them out in the cold to lock them away in nursing homes or to leave them out in the cold to defend for themselves. For example, a couple of years ago then San Francisco Supervisor Amos Brown had property located in the supervisorial district in which he wanted to run so to do this he had to evict an elder Black woman. He didn’t think twice about the future of this elder lady. In the end the eviction took place, and Amos never spoke about it again.

Now 2002 the Sloan family of Oakland is facing almost the same situation. (see If it wasn't for Her There would be No you by Isabel Estrada/PNN)
Alfred Fisher, who acts as Estate Manager and Investigator for the Alameda County Social Services helped break up the Sloan family and made the family homeless by selling one of Sloans’ houses. His reason was to pay the enormous price tag for the nursing home in which Mrs. Beatrice Sloan resides now. A place that Mrs. Sloan doesn’t want to be. Oh by the way Alfred Fisher is Black! As a person with a disability I’ve experienced how people rudely think they can come into your life and take control, like they know better. This is happening to the Sloan family as I write this article. Alameda County stepped into the Sloans’ house and quickly set new rules. The county took Guardianship of Mrs. Sloan and the other hand of the County made sure that the Sloans have no place to call home.

We have to free our elders from the city and state prisons, i.e. nursing homes, shelters and institutions and bring them back home. Our Black leaders need to look at how the system and supervisors have made them the oppressors of their own people while ‘Masta’ is sitting back watching us destroy ourselves. Is a paycheck worth killing our own people? The Masta got us doing his dirty work! Listen to the late Bill Withers’ song, Grandma’s Hands and lets organized to unlock our Grandma’s hands!

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