Our Herstory…began with #FeedThePeople
Overwelmed by the growing homeless crisis, a mother and daughter gathered friends and family with one simple mission – to show love on the streets. January 2016 Needa Bee and Joyous began a night of service that quickly avalanched into the People’s Response to the housing & homeless crisis. On the coldest night of the winter of December 2016, the kru was making their rounds in the encampments. Nearly everyone was deathly ill or in the hospital. It was on that night on the freezing streets, that Feed The People decided in the face of a local government that prioritized money driven development at the cost of a homeless crisis they were ignoring to start building homes for their unhoused brothers and sisters by any means.
PUBLIC LAND FOR PUBLIC GOOD!
The Village first popped up at Marcus Garvey Park on 36th Street and MLK in Oakland. On the morning of January 20, 2017 – while the rest of the world braced itself for the inauguration of Donald Trump as the president of the United States – Feed The People & Asians For Black Lives, allies of both organizations and curbside brothers and sisters, came together in the middle of the night to seize mismanaged and neglected public land. Under the camouflage of the hardest rainstorm of the year, 100 comrades and homies moved in three homes and supported a handful of curbside residents with packing and moving. By the end of the day, one RV, one camper, and four tents were moved in. And the frames and walls of three homes were up. Thus began day one of the 13 day direct action.
We intended to move in small homes, a hot shower, a healing clinic, and other services — declaring it a people’s encampment for those who need housing and basic needs and services. The action soon was called The Village, and grew to include more curbside community, local businesses and organizations, faith community, neighbors and activists from #FeedthePeople and #Asians4BlackLives, and residents thru out Oakland. We all agreed the Direct Action demonstrated our ability to provide what the City of Oakland would not provide to its most vulnerable residents.
We aimed to demonstrate through our visionary encampment that the human right of housing was accessible to all – even when the City and Developers have no will to do so. And in the face of a city government that fails to meet the needs of its people, it is possible for the community to unite to serve those on the street in a dignified and humane manner.
The Village action was also inspired by Malcolm X Grassroots Movement’s calls to #FreeTheLand, #BeUngovernable and to “build and fight” to resist the illegitimate government, most recently manifested by Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States.
Our action took place a day after hundreds of thousands of people across the country took to the streets and declared their cities to be zones free from displacement, mass deportations, registries, attacks on poor people, and corporate giveaways of public goods. Instead, they called for protection and expansion of healthcare, housing, food, and free public education for all.
Housed folks who helped free up Marcus Garvey Park & became part of The Village “demonstrate our solidarity with the poor, curbside, and displaced people of Oakland, many of whom are Black and Brown. As #Asians4BlackLives, we realize that gentrification, inaccessible housing, and privatized public land are a part of the ongoing war on Black people, which also includes racist police violence. We support the leadership of the homeless folks moving into this camp, and stand together with them in the fight for dignity and the fight against displacement,” said Ellen Choy of #Asians4BlackLives.
The Village aka Promised Land was narcotics- and alcohol-free, and prioritized housing for Black and Brown folks, families, women, elders, and disabled folks. The encampment hoped to keep growing to be able to welcome more, to be inclusive for any homeless residents in Oakland to move in, and to offer the appropriate services to meet their needs. Organizers also hoped that their version of what a compassionate community looks like would inspire others to reclaim public land in other parts of Oakland, and The Bay Area, and the country, to build similar havens of safety, service, and community. 137 homeless residents signed up to get shelter and services at The Village and hoped to get the support they needed to get off drugs and alcohol.
However, in the early morning of February 2, 2017 Mayor Libby Schaff and her Administration sent a bulldozer and 80 pigs in riot gear to raid and bulldoze The Village. But the Mayor’s violent action and criminalization of Oakland’s humanitarian efforts merely turned our direct action into a powerful movement.
For eight months, The Village and its supports and allies asserted housing is a human right and that precious city resources should be used to build both temporary emergency shelters and permanent housing for the homeless. The Village stood firm in our vision and efforts should be legalized and protected. And in Fall 2017 The Village won with the City Council unanimously passing the Shelter Crisis Declaration which not only permitted and protected their efforts, but forced the Mayor and her administration to grant us a parcel of public property for a pilot program and work with us to ensure our success.
And that begins the story of the 2nd Village – Two Three Hunid Tent City on e12th & 23rd Ave in East Oakland