El Museo earns their facility!
Victory--a small bit of Aztlán, returned. An appeal last month for donors to help pay off El Museo de las América's mortgage succeeded. They just sent out the following message:
"Your support resulted in raising the match to win a challenge grant of $50,000 and pay off our mortgage. Thank you for making it possible to own our facility which houses 4,000 collection items, includes 4 galleries, and welcomes 20,000 visitors and 11,000 students each year."
Museo de las Americas
861 Santa Fe Drive, Denver
Will Obama nix the Pipeline?
Good news from 350.orghttp://360.org/: In the past week, President Obama has said this about the Keystone XL Pipeline:
"I meant what I said; I'm going to evaluate this based on whether or not this is going to significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere."
"That oil is going to be piped down to the Gulf to be sold on the world oil markets, so it does not bring down gas prices here in the United States."
"Putting all your eggs in the basket of an oil pipeline that may only create about 50 permanent jobs ... isn’t a jobs plan."
These comments are the result of years of relentless organizing by people across the country (and the world) putting pressure on the President. More than 1400 people have been arrested, including some last week, and tens of thousands more took to the streets in protests against the pipeline.
Since March, President Obama and his advisers have been met by protests at 30 different events -- from Washington, DC to Warrensburg, Mo. to Cape Town, South Africa. To see updates from all the Rapid Response Team events, you can click here: organizing-for-our-future.tumblr.com
The message might be getting through. While he still gives himself some wiggle room to approve the pipeline (and Big Oil insists it *will* be approved), there is far, far less wiggle room than there was even a week or two ago. If he's at all honest about his climate test, there is no way he can approve the pipeline.
Every independent analysis of the pipeline -- except the State Department's big-oil-tainted assessment -- reached the obvious conclusion that building an 830,000 barrel per day pipeline carrying the world's dirtiest oil will be bad for the climate. The only climate-safe tar sands is the stuff that stays in the ground.
Since President Obama's climate address, he is talking openly about rejecting Keystone XL. There will be a full report back from the Summer Heat wave of mass actions against fossil fuels coming.
350.org is building a global movement to solve the climate crisis. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for email alerts. You can help power our work by getting involved locally, sharing your story and donating here.
Bloguero Hogan is smoking his own books. Or is he?
This week, our SciFi guru, Chicano author Ernest Hogan who posts on Thurs. wrote the following:
"I’m some kind of weird magnet, and I'm getting called the father of Chicano sci-fi, wondering if a DNA test is in order."
I especially love Hogan's Cortez on Jupiter (1990). High Aztech and Smoking Mirror Blues are two more SciFi you should check out. From when I first found Ernesto, I considered him one of the precursors of Chicano SciFi/Fantasy, in the mainstream sense. There are others.
But when I sit on panels this month at WorldCon, one of the two biggest SF/Fantasy conventions, in San Anto, I can't repeat Ernesto's father-of-Chicano-SF pronouncement.
A "founding father" or "precursor?"--Yes. But THE father? There were others before him. Like Hank Lopez, Afro-6 (co-authored, 1969, Dell), a (still) futuristic novel about Blacks militantly taking over NYC. (Stay tuned to this Chicano channel for the plot becoming nonfiction, maybe in Detroit.)
Older than Hogan's books is Campos de fuego: breve narración de una expedición a la región volcánia de "El Pinacate," published in Mexico in 1922. Its author Gumersindo Esquer of Sonoyta has been described as a Mexican Jules Verne. No, he wasn't Chicano, but who pays attention to the border, anyway?
I'm not ready to jump on the Ernesto Hogan Chicano-Father-of-SciFi-wagon, yet. But, maybe I could be convinced before WorldCon.
Who will write the Chicano/mexicano story about home evictions?
Below I excerpted Laura Gottesdiener’s article, The Great Eviction: The Landscape of Wall Street’s Creative Destruction. It will give you a quick and awfully dirty view of the scope and depth of what Blacks in America suffered and suffer from the banks and financial company's depredation in recent years. And it's not over.
The excerpts might affect you as much as they affected me. Reading the entire article, gets worse. I dread to think how outraged one might get from reading her book. It made me wonder: Which Chicano will write one about what's gone on in the barrios? Or has it been written?
Excerpts: "Economically speaking, the Obama era has been a five-year nightmare for Black America. Unemployment -13.7%, twice the rate for all workers. That jobless rate is a silent scandal.
"The wealth of African Americans evaporated in the economic collapse of 2007-2009, triggered by a housing meltdown in which African Americans were disproportionately targeted for shoddy subprime mortgage loans. As of 2010, the median net wealth of black families was $4,900; of white families, $97,000. A third of black households had zero or negative wealth.
"The HIT Squad, short for Housing Identification and Target: their goal is to map blighted, bank-owned homes with overdue property taxes and neighbors angry enough about the destruction of their neighborhood to consider supporting a plan to repossess on the re-possessors."
"Since 2007, the foreclosure crisis has displaced at least 10 million people from more than four million homes across the country. The displaced are young and old, rich and poor, and of every race, ethnicity, and religion. They add up to approximately the entire population of Michigan.
"African American neighborhoods were targeted more aggressively than others for the sort of predatory loans that led to mass evictions after the economic meltdown of 2007-2008. At the height of the rapacious lending boom, nearly 50% of all loans given to African American families were deemed “subprime.”
"In recent years, the foreclosure crisis has been turning many African American communities into conflict zones, torn between a market hell-bent on commodifying life itself and communities organizing to protect their neighborhoods. The more I ventured into such areas, the more I came to realize that the clash of values going on isn’t just theoretical or metaphorical.
“Internal displacement causes conflict,” explained J.R. Fleming, the chairman of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign. “And there’s no other country in the world that would force so much internal displacement and pretend that it’s something else.”
"It was three in the morning when at least a dozen police cruisers pulled up to the single-story, green-shuttered house in the African American Atlanta suburb where Christine Frazer and her family lived. The precise number of sheriffs and deputies who arrived is disputed; the local radio station reported 25, while Frazer recalled seeing between 40 and 50. A locksmith drilled off the home’s locks and dozens of officers burst into the house with flashlights and handguns.
"When Nicole Shelton attempted to move back into her repossessed home in a picket-fence subdivision in North Carolina, the Raleigh police department sent in more than a dozen police officers and an eight-person SWAT team. Officers were equipped with M5 submachine guns. A helicopter roared overhead. In Boston, one organizer with the community group City Life/Vida Urbana remembers the police acting so aggressively at an eviction blockade in a Haitian neighborhood that the grandmother of the family had a heart attack right in the driveway.
"Still, the difficulties white America has faced during the foreclosure crisis don’t compare with what Wall Street and the banks have inflicted, physically and psychologically, on African American neighborhoods. As countless leaked documents, insider dispositions, and Department of Justice filings demonstrate, those neighborhoods were systematically and illegally targeted for the worst of the worst mortgages. As one former Wells Fargo mortgage broker explained in a sworn affidavit, “The company put ‘bounties’ on minority borrowers. By this I mean that loan officers received cash incentives to aggressively market subprime loans in minority communities.”
"The effect, according to a 2012 National Fair Housing Alliance report, has been “the largest loss of wealth for these communities in modern history.” Between 2009 and 2012 African Americans lost just under $200 billion in wealth, bringing the gap between white and black wealth to a staggering 20:1 ratio.
"As Ben Austen wrote in the New York Times Magazine, “The U.S. Postal Service, which tracks these numbers, reported that 62,000 properties in Chicago were vacant at the end of last year, with two-thirds of them clustered as if to form a sinkhole in just a few black neighborhoods on the South and West Sides.” The same phenomenon holds true in cities across the country.
"Some foreclosed homes become brothels, such as a Deutsche Bank-owned house in South Los Angeles where the girls’ names and prices were scrawled in blue marker across the upstairs walls. Others become meth labs or gang hideouts.
"These bank-owned vacant houses help spread crime and poverty in already distressed communities. An illegal chain of events transformed these homes into drug dens. The crimes started at the top. Banks peddled toxic mortgages like crack, paying employees cash incentives to push them in African American neighborhoods. The loans exploded, so they forged millions of foreclosure affidavits to speed state-enforced evictions.
"Once homes are vacant, bank contractors insufficiently seal and maintain them, allowing intruders to strip the houses of their copper wiring, plumbing, and sometimes even the furnace. The copper alone sells for anywhere from 50 cents to a dollar per pound. Finally, people dealing drugs begin to use the houses at night as distribution centers. The street-level crime drags down neighboring property values, spurring more foreclosures and evictions. And so the cycle continues.
"No single bank has been held accountable for drug dealing, murders, and rapes that occur on their unmaintained or poorly maintained properties. The only “crime” they appear concerned about is when community activists try to fix up such homes and move families in -- doing the job the bank was supposed to do in the first place. Then banks call the police to arrest the “trespassers.”
"The double standards in property maintenance lead to an “extremely troubling” trend in home sales: these uninviting neglected houses, disproportionately located in communities of color, are most often being snapped up by investors rather than families. Overwhelmingly, the investor of choice is the Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest private equity firms and now the nation’s largest owner of single-family homes. Since April 2012, Blackstone has spent more than $4.5 billion buying at least 30,000 houses concentrated in cities hard-hit by foreclosure, including Atlanta, Jacksonville, Orlando, Chicago, Charlotte, Phoenix, and urban areas across California. According to local real estate brokers, the company often makes its purchases in cash.
"The idea is that there’s big money to be made in rental properties these days, given that there are millions of displaced, former homeowners with wrecked credit scores looking for places to stay. It’s like a pay-to-play game of musical chairs -- except Wall Street owns the stereo, the speakers, the chairs, and the roof, and somehow when the music stops you’re always out.
"Vacant houses, whether owned by banks or Blackstone, create foreclosure spirals, each vacant house dragging down the property values of neighbors, which, in turn, decreases a city’s property tax revenue and the capacity of local government to provide essential services. Shuttered schools in Philadelphia and Chicago. Closed hospitals in Cleveland. Slashed senior programs in Baltimore. All of these essential services, eliminated far more often in communities of color, are the collateral damage of the foreclosure crisis.
"A 2011 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, submitted to the House Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, cited nearly a dozen examples of how such declines in tax revenues caused by vacancies have led cities to cut funding for public works, libraries, parks, recreation programs, and school districts. One city even cut a program intended to address vacant foreclosed properties, thanks to a tax revenue shortfall.
"Detroit’s recent bankruptcy filing only emphasizes the broader consequences of predatory lending and the foreclosures that inevitably result. That city may be undergoing the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, but unlike when the big banks and giant financial outfits teetered at the edge of collapse, President Obama has made it clear that this time there will be no billion-dollar federal bailout.
"Small groups of community organizers are shouldering the Herculean task of protecting such neighborhoods abandoned by the federal government. In Boston, the anti-foreclosure group City Life/Vida Urbana. In Detroit and Philadelphia, neighborhoods are seeding community gardens in hundreds of vacant lots. In Boston, one set of community activists cleaned up their block and dumped the trash -- gathered from the front lawn of a foreclosed Bank of America-owned home -- on the doorstep of the regional bank president’s brownstone.
"In Minnesota and California, grassroots political organizing pressured state legislatures to adopt the nation’s first two homeowner bills of rights. In Chicago, home liberation groups are rehabbing and occupying vacant properties, while anti-violence groups are intervening in the conflicts caused by poverty and mass displacement.
"The continued scale of the crisis -- forgotten by a media more interested in rising home values than eviction notices -- requires more than community rehab and tepid financial regulation. It demands that we question, and reimagine, a system of property ownership that has prevented large segments of the population from making real decisions about the communities in which they live.
"And in case you’re thinking that this is a problem only for Black America, think again. As the New York Times warned in April, “The alchemists of Wall Street are at it again… reviving the same types of investments that many thought were gone for good." The question is whether, this time around, we’ll see their potion for what it is: poison that threatens to turn each of us, as W.E.B. Dubois wrote, into “an outcast and a stranger in my own house.”
Laura Gottesdiener is a journalist, social justice activist, and author of A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home, published by Zuccotti Park Press. Excerpts are Copyrighted 2013, Laura Gottesdiener. Go here to read the entire article.
Es todo, hoy,