Presence, Prayer & Procession of the Housed for the Unhoused


Tiny - Posted on 27 June 2019

Author: 
POOR Magazine Solidarity Family

As I looked up at a bus stop on my route home, I recall thinking about the choice I had in that moment to show up or plead exhaustion and go home. Home. I have a home. The irony that I was choosing between going back to the comfort of my house or to a rally explicitly for the housed to show up for the unhoused is more obvious to me now. But I do remember thinking about what POOR has taught me, no, MODELED for me, in the past few years about what it looks like to show up.  And so I turned around and headed towards City Hall.

Once I arrived, albeit a good 20 minutes late, I saw the powerful circle of ceremony that had been created by the Poverty Scholars, and about a dozen of us who were there in solidarity.  Within minutes of sitting on a bench, I felt re-energized by the medicine of what was being shared by both Poverty Scholars and those who had been invited to speak for the housed. Soon, the three of us Solidarity Family members were called to share our stories at the mic.

Here’s what I shared.  That I’d spent the past decade of my adult life organizing from my oppressed identities—queer, poc, assigned female at birth—until I saw that I wasn’t fully acknowledging and leveraging the power that I have as an academic with access to skills, networks, and legitimacy in this society. And that thanks to POOR, I’ve been learning how to enact Community Reparations with gratitude for what it opens up in me, as I see it not only as my duty and responsibility, but also a tangible practice to shift away from the individual-minded system I (and most of us!) have been trained to operate within.  And that Poverty Scholarship continues to teach me what including my whole self in these movements looks like; that my solidarity is most effective when I speak from my own experiences. Finally, I shared how important it was that I and other folks with race, class, and academic privilege talk about these issues with others especially because looking and sounding like us gave us what Poverty Scholars call “Linguistic Domination Skills,” or the ability to use language that is most likely to be heard and respected by people in power within non-profit, government, and financial worlds.

There’s so much more I could share, but I’ll end with my gratitude for encountering POOR Magazine, attending PeopleSkooL (the next one is happening August 23-24, 2019--don’t miss it!), being a part of the Solidarity Family, and most recently being invited to share my words at the rally.  It’s true that I both still have so much to (un)learn and NOW is the time to enact change.

 

-Miyuki Baker, PhD candidate, UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies

 

Growing up, I’d ask my parents why there were people living on the street. What we should do about it. They didn’t have an answer. Neither did the city. That was almost 30 years ago, and houselnessness has only increased in San Francisco.

A few weeks ago, I stood with POOR Magazine, SF DSA and other community members outside SF City Hall. It was an explicit call for housed people to show up for our unhoused neighbors. To say that we don’t support anyone being "swept" away like trash instead of given housing and having their basic human needs met. 

Growing up, I knew that it was wrong for my family to have so much while others had so little. To drive past people asking for a dollar under the freeway at 5th and Bryant and go quiet. This feeling of wrongness turned into anger. I didn’t know what to do with my anger. They told me to forget it, that guilt helps nobody. I didn’t know that what I needed instead was accountability.

POOR Magazine is where I found it. They taught me how to heal from the anger, how to face it at the source. 

As people with class privilege, as people with housing in this impossibly expensive place in this world torn apart by capitalist greed, we have a responsibility. These “sweeps” are being done in our name. We are the people whose"quality of life" the city wants to protect by making it so we don't have to see the suffering the system perpetuates. 

The question isn’t just why are there people living on the street. The question is why are there people living in 2nd and 3rd houses? Why are there people who own empty houses where no one lives at all? Why do we hold on to so much hoarded wealth? Why can’t we just let go?

POOR Magazine gave me the opportunity to let go. To heal with community reparations. 

We can’t just drive past and go quiet. Can’t just shake our heads and ask why. The other side of poverty is wealth hoarding. Those of us with hoarded wealth can step out of our paralyzing guilt and into community. We grew up in a society that’s broken. We can grow together into something new.

 

- Yael Chanoff, Poor Magazine Solidarity Family Member

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