Tag: Social Justice

Articles

The 43: Remembering Ayotzinapa

Maricela Becerra
Lucy Seena K. Lin
Gus Wendel

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Consuelo Flores’s altar created for Self Help Graphics’ exhibition ‘‘The 43: From Ayotzinapa to Ferguson.’’

Tragedy does strange things to our conception of proximity. Sometimes we can connect more easily to another’s suffering in a different country than we can to a tragedy a few miles away. In the expanse of Southern California, where the experience of urban space is fragmented into disconnected islands of community, what does a mass shooting in San Bernardino, at the urban periphery, mean to someone living in the city of Los Angeles proper? How do Angelenos process an act of violence toward a queer, primarily Puerto Rican, community at an Orlando nightclub? Post-feminist cultural theorist Judith Butler, when writing about the conditions for a “grievable life” makes an “appeal to a ‘we,’ for all of us have some notion of what it is to have lost somebody.”What can we hope to recover by offering our grief across territories in search of a collective memory in this current era of cultural plurality and technological interconnectedness? Los Angeles, as one of the world’s centers of artistic and cultural production, is a laboratory for interrogating the role of art, informality, and grieving in the global twenty-first century. The case of the forty-three disappearedstudents from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Mexico—a tragedy that reverberated throughout the world—has illuminated Los Angeles’ particular role in the production of collective memory.

On 26 September 2014, forty-three students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College disappeared from Iguala, a city in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. Guerrero is a largely rural state with a majority indigenous population, many of whom leave their home region as economic migrants in search of jobs in other Mexican cities and in the United States. With the bodies of two students recovered to date, forty-one students remain missing. Gema Santamaría, Professor of International Studies at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, claims that the Mexican government’s lack of transparency and efficacy in the investigation process reflected its lack of accountability in the aftermath. Indeed, public perception increasingly viewed local law enforcement and the federal government as complicit in the disappearances. “Ayotzinapa ‘fue el Estado’ inasmuch as it was and continues to be the result of impunity and systematic practices of abuse within different levels of government.”3

In Los Angeles, mourning for the students has taken the form of what we call “anti-memorialization,” whereby traditional forms of memorialization are upended through informality, ephemerality, art, and the digital realm, in order to politicize and bring attention to an injustice. While informal memorials have existed as long or longer than their formal counterparts, anti-memorialization moves these informal memorials into the contemporary reality of a digitally networked world and pushes them from private mourning to public activism.There was also an outpouring of protests, demonstrations, and informal memorials throughout Mexico in response to the disappearances, with the largest demonstrations numbering in the tens of thousands on the streets of Mexico City. The global response was no less overwhelming: groups of students, local organizations, artists, activists, and other mourners posted their rituals and protests online to signal their solidarity with the friends and families of the disappeared students, and with the Mexican nationals demanding accountability from their government. The reactions and the incident itself went largely unreported by formal local and global news outlets and instead leapfrogged into the digital realm, where a keyword search of “Ayotzinapa” produced numerous links to a variety of alternative online-style reportage, including blogs, political media sites, YouTube pages, and Twitter feeds and hashtags. The Global Anti-Memorial Map for Ayotzinapa’s 43 locates and catalogs the cities where the anti-memorialization activities were presented first in physical form and then posted and shared online. The public anti-memorials ranged from mass protests, demonstrations of candlelit ceremonies, public performances to the recurring motif of empty school-style chairs that symbolized the missing bodies. Documented and archived on the Internet, these acts represent the beginning of a globally oriented collective memory of mourning and protest.

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Consuelo Flores’s altar created for Self Help Graphics’ exhibition ‘‘The 43: From Ayotzinapa to Ferguson.’’

Seven months after the disappearance of the forty-three students, families and other activists installed a metal sculpture reading “+43” on Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma. Along the sidewalk, the phrase “Porque vivos se los llevaron, vivos los queremos!” (“Because they were taken alive, we want them back alive”) was painted. The installation of “+43” was accompanied by no formal ceremony; there were no government officials present. Rather, the installation of what the activists called an “anti-monument” was a public challenge to the Mexican government that had failed to provide any answers. The anti-monument expresses the public’s refusal to accept death as the final condition. Moreover, the anti-monument’s appropriation of public space, just blocks away from formal memorials to Mexican history Ángel de la Independencia and the Monumento de la Revolución, contests the national discourse of what is worth remembering. With the large metal sculpture by an anonymous artist came a warning: if the Mexico City government removed the anti-monument, they would be seen as accomplices of the crime.Several people volunteered as guards of the anti-monument in order to keep it safe.

In Los Angeles, as in Mexico City, the proliferation of anonymous street art, in the form of stenciled and spray-painted icons of the number “43,” political text, and unplanned sidewalk altars nearly two years after the reported disappearance, reflect ongoing informal calls for justice. In an art installation by Consuelo Flores, images of each of the forty-three students are interspersed with floating cutouts of flora and fauna, all suspended above a shrine of red handprints on paper sheets and stones placed in a formation that surrounds a single, black fabric-covered desk to symbolize the student status of the disappeared. The piece was part of an exhibit sponsored by Boyle Heights–based arts organization Self Help Graphics and Art entitled 43: From Ayotzinapa to Ferguson. The exhibition anti-memorializes not just the forty-three students from Ayotzinapa, but victims of police brutality in the United States as well, linking the two social movements across national borders. This anti-memorial was part of a larger, three-part exhibition, Ayotzinapa: A Roar of Silence, which took place over sixteen weeks and involved three other local arts organizations dedicated to social justice: Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), Center for the Study of Political Graphics, and Art Division.

Embedded in 43: From Ayotzinapa to Ferguson is a cosmopolitan orientation, initiated by the international call for poster art by the Oaxacan-Mexican artist and activist Francisco Toledo to universities, museums, and art communities. The request was Toledo’s way of grieving with mourners around the world, and his action prompted local and global linkages that amplified the otherwise isolated anti-memorialization acts through the organization of political arts spaces in Los Angeles. The coalition among the four arts organizations, prompted by the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Culver City, is movement-building akin to the sort of organizing in which political activist groups engage. As a group, these organizations assumed the mantle of public accountability even as they contended with their own missions, communities, political and aesthetic principles, and precarity as small, struggling organizations.Shown sequentially, the exhibitions amounted to what the LA Times called an “arts festival of protest” by providing a platform for artists to memorialize the victims, for the immediate public to participate in the related programming, and as a cry for Angelenos to resist structural injustice.

The local and global proliferation of anti-memorials undoubtedly places pressure on those responsible—in particular the complicit Mexican government—to provide answers, to hold someone accountable, and in short, to act. Yet the extent to which the Mexican government cannot ignore its citizens’ demands would seem to depend on the intensity and duration of those demands. In other words, it depends on the degree to which the mourning of the event translates into permanent, collective memory.

According to French philosopher and sociologist Maurice Halbwachs, the theory of collective memory alludes to the idea that “knowledge about the past is shared, mutually acknowledged, and reinforced by collectivities such as small informal groups, formal organizations, or nation states and global communities.”In light of the 2014 event, collective memory has been shaped and defined by cultural or “collective trauma.” The collective memory of trauma is the “memory of an event or situation that is laden with negative affect, represented as indelible, and seen as threatening to a society’s existence or violating its cultural presuppositions.”8

The instances of ongoing violence in Mexico, government culpability, and state-sanctioned violence are not new to Mexico’s history. In 2013, according to the country’s national statistics institute, 93 percent of crimes in Mexico go unreported.During the Ayotzinapa investigation in Iguala, approximately 129 unidentified bodies of disappeared individuals turned up in mass graves unrelated to the Ayotzinapa students.10 Journalist Cesar Martinez wrote that the 1968 student massacre at Tlatelolco, and the forty-three Ayotzinapa students represent the two cultural traumas that have most permeated “Mexican society, political discourse, and civilian dialogues,” in the sense that these events have “usurped a society’s fears and memorialized them as an indicator to prevent a similar case from occurring.”11 To what extent has the collective memory in the aftermath of Mexico’s two “biggest” traumas led to collective action and social change, so that such traumas may never again take place?

Martinez argues that the “collective memories” of 1968 and 2014 have produced art, formal and informal monuments, and film, but no concrete legal accountability for the perpetrators.12 Knowing this, we must ask, is legal accountability the only type of accountability that is valuable to track in these events? In the case of the exhibition at Self Help Graphics, art is the mechanism through which awareness is raised by creating a participatory public, one that invests itself in social change over the long run. While high art is often complicit with the negative externalities of globally networked capital, this kind of participatory, socially engaged, and bottom-up art can be a powerful force for good. In other words, it takes time—and art can be a vehicle through which memory is sustained through time. This is especially important when accounts of “what happened” become increasingly contested.13 It might be better to say, then, that it is the quality and diffusion of the memory of the forty-three students that will ultimately determine the degree to which justice is served. Contemporary memory production, or anti-memorialization, sustains the memory of structural violence to drive the search for justice using tools of the digital age.

Los Angeles has become a key hub in the mourning for Ayotzinapa through its three-part exhibition which extended and amplified its place as a global tragedy. The exhibitions moved the anti-memorials into the gallery, effectively transforming the products of grief and outrage into objects of cultural and aesthetic import. These actions are not to monetize or to fetishize grief. On the contrary, their place in a respected art institution in Los Angeles, a city widely recognized as a cultural capital, state that the issue is important, and that the community of those affected extends from a handful of families in Guerrero to you, a visitor to this gallery.14 Self Help Graphics further localizes a globally diffused mourning by inviting forty-three Southern California–based artists to take part in 43: From Ayotzinapa to Ferguson. The artwork they produced grieves for not only Ayotzinapa victims, but also Los Angeles and the United States, with their histories of institutional violence against people of color. Given the large population of people of color—both immigrants and native-born—Los Angeles as a place embodies this in a heightened sense. In addition, Los Angeles is home to a substantial Mexican population, and specifically communities of indigenous Mexicans from the rural states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, and Guerrero.15 For these communities residing in the United States, they receive news of kin and kith in Mexico digitally, primarily from their online social networks. This is also how information of their transnational communities disperses, creating pathways moving between the local and global. The timeliness of the exhibition speaks to Los Angeles’ unique capacity as a migrant-concentrated, metropolitan node and a center for cultural and artistic production to respond with anti-memorialization, and an exhibition designed to travel beyond its geographic boundaries.

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Ayotzinapa anniversary march in Mexico City, September 2015. Photograph by the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, via Flickr.

The deluge of submissions to Francisco Toledo, totaling 700 pieces of poster art from locales like Iran, Denmark, Poland, Lebanon, Cuba, and Argentina, and the global manifestation of anti-memorial events, collectively represent the emergence of an extensive interconnected transnational network. This network understands the need for acts of solidarity and the knowledge that the aggregation of voices affects how movements, and, therefore, social change takes place. At a fundamental level, the need for global mourning, for a collective memory, and for what theorist Paul Gilroy calls a “cosmopolitan hope”16 to pursue a globalized humanistic existence is made abundantly clear. This is the learned need for solidarity of a cosmopolitan global community interconnected by digital culture that expresses their agency from below rather than waiting for or expecting that their governments and legal systems will enact the necessary justice. The 43: From Ayotzinapa to Ferguson exhibit is a reminder that when communities here and abroad come together to mourn and demand justice via art, the work produced not only serves as a reminder to reflect on these tragedies, it is a deliberate call to action for us all.

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A Day of the Dead offering to the disappeared Ayotzinapa students in Las Vegas. Photograph by Marco Mora-Huizar, via Flickr.

Notes

1 Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2004), 2.

2 Desaparecido (the Spanish word for “disappeared”) has a different connotation in Mexico than its English translation. In Mexico, “disappeared” is an active verb rather than a passive adjective. To call the forty-three students “disappeared” is to suggest that someone actively made them disappear.

3 Gema Santamaría, “Ayotzinapa: An Unheard Cry for Justice,” OpenDemocracy, 25 June 2016, https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/gema-santamar%C3%ADa/ayotzinapa-unheard-cry-for-justice.

4 For more on the new relationship between digital networks and political activism, see Manuel Castells, Networks of Outrage and Hope (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2015).

5 David Vicenteño, “Colocan ‘Antimonumento’ 43 en reforma por normalistas de Ayotzinapa.”

6 “We’re building threads of unity in order to survive,” Bernstorff says, “because we’re all small organizations, with similar struggles. We don’t survive alone; we survive as a unit.” Deborah Vankin, “A poster exhibit stopping in LA gives voice to Mexico’s missing 43 students,” LA Times, 16 February 2016, http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-ca-cm-43-students-missing-sparc-20160221-story.html.

7 M. Halbwachs, On Collective Memory (Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press, 1992), 42.

8 Neil J. Smelser, “Psychological Trauma and Cultural Trauma,” in Jeffrey C. Alexander, Ron Eyerman, Bernard Giesen, et al., Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2004), 31–59.

https://news.vice.com/article/suspected-student-massacre-illustrates-depth-of-lawlessness-in-mexico.

10 https://news.vice.com/article/ayotzinapa-a-timeline-of-the-mass-disappearance-that-has-shaken-mexico.

11 César Martínez, “68, 43: Analyzing the Collective Memories and Cultural Traumas of Mexico’s Most Infamous Atrocities,” 68 43, 4 May 2015, https://mexico6843.wordpress.com/68-43-analyzing-the-collective-memories-and-cultural-traumas-of-mexicos-most-infamous-atroicities/.

12 Ibid.

13 Andreas Huyssen, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 28, 4.

14 See again Castells’ Networks for more on the roles that community and what he calls “togetherness” play to spark political change.

15 Lisa Kresge, Indigenous Oaxacan Communities in California: An Overview (Davis: California Institute for Rural Studies, 2007).

16 “The challenge of being in the same present, of synchronizing difference and articulating cosmopolitan hope upward from below rather than imposing it downward from on high[…].” Paul Gilroy, Postcolonial Melancholia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 67.

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Before a Justice for All march in Washington DC, December 2014. Photograph by Elvert Barnes, via Flickr.

Maricela Becerra is a Ph.D. student in the department of Spanish and Portuguese at University of California, Los Angeles. Her research focuses on the post-memories of the Tlatelolco massacre in contemporary Mexican authors, and the exchanges between the Chicano student movement in Los Angeles and the Mexican student activists in 1968.

Lucy Seena K. Lin is a master’s student in Urban and Regional Planning at University of California, Los Angeles. Her research examines cultural production in everyday practice and in building resilience and vitality of communities.

Gus Wendel is pursuing a master’s degree in urban and regional planning at University of California, Los Angeles. He is interested in the ways that visual culture informs planning and design, the politics of place and space, and urban planning history.

Articles

Vol. 6, No. 3, Fall 2016

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URBAN HUMANITY

Read the latest from Boom California, Volume 6, Number 3, Fall 2016.  All articles from this issue are free and open to read.


Contributors

From the Editor’s Desktop
Jason S. Sexton

The Boom List
What to do, see, read, and hear this fall in California
Boom Staff

What Are the Urban Humanities?
Anthony Cascardi, Michael Dear

Urban Humanities and the Creative Practitioner
A manifesto
Dana Cuff, Jennifer Wolch

A Boom Interview
In conversation with Jonathan Crisman and Jason S. Sexton
Karen Tei Yamashita

Practicing the Future
Exercises in immanent speculation
Jonathan Crisman

The 43
Remembering Ayotzinapa
Maricela Becerra, Lucy Seena K. Lin, Gus Wendel

Monumental Hydraulics
Diego Rivera’s Lerma Waterworks and the water temples of San Francisco
Rafael Tiffany, Susan Moffat

Relocating Romare Bearden’s Berkeley
Capturing Berkeley’s colorful diversity
Lauren Kroiz

A Boom Interview
In conversation with Jennifer Wolch and Dana Cuff
Mike Davis

The Battle of the Bulb
Nature, culture and art at a San Francisco Bay landfill
Susan Moffat

Waves of Data
Illuminating pathways with San Leandro Lights
Greg Niemeyer

Hanging Out with Cyclists
Noam Shoked

Seeking Literary Justice

La Caja Mágica in Boyle Heights
Maricela Becerra, Cat Callaghan, Will Davis, Grace Ko, Benjamin Kolder, Alejandro Ramirez Mendez

Neither Here Nor There
Engaging Mexico City and Los Angeles
Dana Cuff, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

Learning the City
Developing new networks of understanding

Jonathan Banfill, Angélica Becerra, Jeannette Mundy

The Inside-Out Museum/The Inside-Out University
A Conversation
Walter Hood, Shannon Jackson

Urban Humanities Pedagogy

The classroom, education, and New Humanities
Jonathan Banfill, Todd Presner, Maite Zubiaurre

Articles

The Other LAPD

by Catherine Gudis

Homeless and formerly incarcerated people making art in LA’s Skid Row

From Boom Summer 2016, Vol 6, No 2

Based in Los Angeles’s Skid Row and comprised largely of the area’s formerly homeless, the Los Angeles Poverty Department creates performances from the writings, stories, and experiences of its participants. The mission of LAPD (yes, their acronym is purposeful) is to illuminate the social forces that shape the lives and communities of people living in poverty. For thirty years, LAPD’s creative body of work has included theatrical productions, street parades, a museum and archive, and educational programing, all aimed at the problem of “poverty,” a word that too often elides what is actually a constellation of some of the most intractable social problems of this era: institutionalized racism, the criminal justice system, the failed drug wars, crises in mental healthcare, and the forces of capital, which separate people from basic rights of citizenship. Yet what LAPD achieves is ultimately at human scale. The group brings back into view those who are most often forgotten (the disenfranchised, the impoverished, the mentally ill); the players make you feel what you might never otherwise know, even if you’ve lived it (audiences are often Skid Row residents); and the performances create ruptures in master narratives in order to supersede the social divisions between us, to allow understanding and even regeneration. In the words of its founder and director, John Malpede, LAPD allows “ripples of thought” to permeate the hard edifice of capital.1

State of Incarceration is an LAPD production that taps the inside knowledge of core company members, including Kevin Michael Key, Riccarlo Porter, Anthony Taylor, and Ronnie Walker, and roomfuls of other participants, some from parolee reentry programs in the area. Virtually all Skid Row citizens can claim firsthand knowledge of the criminal justice system. It’s hard to escape the system once you’ve hit Skid Row, given its long history of aggressive policing, criminalization of poverty that renders illegal the daily actions of homeless people—actions such as sleeping on sidewalks and carting one’s belongings—and ticketing for minor infractions, such as jaywalking, with $100 fines or more that go to warrant and then arrest when unpaid.2

One of every five people released from incarceration back into Los Angeles go directly to the streets, many taking their “gate money” (money given upon release from incarceration and reentry into society) to Skid Row when they leave state prison or county jail.3

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With no paucity of experience to work with, LAPD’s process is as important as the performances themselves, particularly in aiding street-level truth and reconciliation. In workshops, the group collects data about our carceral state, recounts and improvises counter-narratives, derives new insights, and perhaps even founds a new and more egalitarian way of understanding how to comprehend the complex social reality of disenfranchisement. In its process and performance,State of Incarceration offers an affective historical accounting and cataloging of the pieces of personal experience that are rarely part of the publicly accessible record, but which comprise the experiences of significant populations and are essential to any collective reckoning with mass incarceration and the cycles of poverty and violence at its base. The performance creates a space for formerly imprisoned people to share experiences as well as strategies of survival, and it “creates a moment of exchange and reflection on how they and we, the people of California, can recover from living in a state of incarceration.”4

When performed, State of Incarceration (2010–present) lines cellblock bunk beds wall-to-wall for audience members to sit on, mimicking California’s overcrowded jails and prisons. It begins with the “History of Incarceration” song, a spiritual performed by the entire cast, whose combined voices forge a sense of the communal, across historical time and space, as the song connects the prison-bus journey to slave routes and chains. “This history is like used-up water to me; it flows in my veins, in my blood, in my community,” they sing. Similarly poetic are monologues expressive of interior lives born out of the memories of LAPD performers, two of whom landed back in prison between productions of State of Incarceration (one for stealing toothpaste).5 Doing jumping jacks in one’s cell becomes liberation (“rhythm moves my spirit. . . lost in freedom”). A prisoner intones his upcoming fate—”thirty days in the hole” (solitary confinement) with “four walls, no TV, no books, only me,” and repeats a chant that includes, “I walk. I sit. I look. I think. I cry. . . time rises and falls like the ocean. . . I exist.”

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At the performance’s end, the players ritualistically clean “one wall at a time,” “one brick at a time,” “washing down for the addicted, weak, and sick,” enacting a baptism of forgiveness and release. Finally, they prepare for communion, using “the spread,” another prison ritual. Ramen, Cheetos, and plenty of garlic are base for the communal meal, added bit by bit to a giant garbage bag opened on the floor. Audience members are invited to share the “spread,” as actors put plates of food into our hands. Thus, we too take communion, joined together with both those acting as prisoners and guards, and perhaps together we feel some of the responsibility of living in a state that is supported so fundamentally by the policing and incarceration of our most vulnerable members.

Taken in its entirety, State of Incarceration is a litany of the rituals of incarceration, from the ride on the bus—termed the Slave Ship in the performance—to the state prison, to therapy and passing the time, to release and the Kafkaesque struggle to remain out of the control of the criminal justice system. What follows is a short excerpt that illuminates a few of the struggles the newly released face.

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Excerpts from State of Incarceration by the Los Angeles Poverty Department.

Performance directed by John Malpede and Henriëtte Brouwers.

RONNIE: Relapse + JIMMIE: Johnny Mack (two texts inter-cut)

RONNIE: I am being released from prison soon. I have no money and nowhere to go, and on my release my addiction will start fighting for control of my thoughts.

JIMMIE: I committed a crime that, you know, I’m not proud of. I got out of the penitentiary and the government don’t have too many places where a fellow like me can get a job.

RONNIE: All of my good ideas will go straight out of the window if my addiction wins over my thinking. However I have too much pride to leave jail and go straight to a program. How could I even think of embarrassing myself like that?

JIMMIE: They tell you to be honest on an application. I can guarantee you that the moment I walk out of that door, they throw my application in the garbage.

But on the other hand I don’t have a problem with getting high in jail—only when I’m on the streets. But I need money and clothes and the only way to get that is to sell dope.

JIMMIE: Years ago, when you got out of prison you could get on welfare. Nowadays, you can’t go on welfare, unless for three months, or sometimes you even can’t get on welfare. So, you are out on the street, in a shelter, or you are back to what you were doing. You know what I’m saying? No way out of it.

RONNIE: Nobody is going to hire me because of my record. So I am going to have to find a way to stay out of jail, take care of myself and stay off drugs.

JIMMIE: Because like I was saying, the government does not have a lot of places where a guy like me could go. It is totally up to you to get out of the situation.

RONNIE: And the reality is: I hit downtown at 6 PM, and by 9 PM I was high with my girlfriend.

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My First Job

DEBORAH: The first chance I had to get a job, I had to go down to the office and get a print out of my record. I had to do it that day—or no job. I had one dollar to my name. When I got there, they told me the record was free.

WORKER: If it don’t take longer than 10 minutes to print out, it’s free. After that it cost $5 a minute.

DEBORAH: I didn’t say anything, just nodded. I didn’t care. I wasn’t gonna let anything stop me from getting that job. I wasn’t gonna put the brakes on myself.

WORKER: I asked you, do you want to have me print it? After 10 minutes it cost $5 a minute. You understand?

DEBORAH: If it came out too long, then I’d deal with that, somehow. But I wasn’t gonna give up, get hopeless. Walk away. No way.

WORKER: “Yes? You want me to print it?” That girl didn’t have a dollar to her name.

DEBORAH: I stood there while it was printing and every guilty thought came back into my head. How I was guilty of this, and that and some more this and that. How they were gonna find things out. How I’d messed up, messed up, couldn’t help but mess up. How they hated me, knew I was stupid, knew I would mess up and always keep messing up. The longer I waited the more hopeless my situation was.

WORKER: The whole time it was printing she stood there scared to death I was gonna ask her to pay something she couldn’t.

DEBORAH: What was I waitin for? You know they’re not gonna give it to me. I’m not gonna get the paper. What is wrong with me thinking I was gonna get that job? Get real. What the hell you waiting around for? Just to be humiliated. You like that. Being humiliated. You like that. That’s what feels good to you. Feels right. You like it, otherwise you’d get the hell out of here right now. You wouldn’t have come here in the first place.

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WORKER: I came back with the print out. It came out to eleven minutes. “All right Miss Anderson, here you are.” Eleven minutes, but I just gave it to her and didn’t say anything. Didn’t ask her to pay.

DEBORAH: While I was waiting for those papers, it all came back to me. I was nearly overwhelmed by the stigma, the stamp of being a criminal—a convict. I was overwhelmed by the fear.

Notes

Photographs from a performance of State of Incarceration courtesy of the Los Angeles Poverty Department.


1. Malpede uses this phrase in connection with a discussion of Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 poverty tour through Eastern Kentucky. Lynda Frye Burnham, “When Kennedy Came to Kentucky,”American Theatre (July/August 2004), 33.


2. “Homelessness is not a Criminal Activity,” public education statement developed by the Los Angeles Community Action Network, November 2003, accessed 13 October 2009,www.cangress.org; John Thomason, “Can a ‘Homeless Bill of Rights’ End the Criminalization of LA’s Most Vulnerable Residents,” The Nation, 13 October 2014, accessed 1 December 2014,http://www.thenation.com/article/can-homeless-bill-rights-end-criminalization-las-most-vulnerable-residents/.


3. Robert Greene, “From Jail to Skid Row, Where ‘All Healing Needs Are Met,’” Los Angeles Times, 4 February 2016, accessed 1 June 2016, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-starks-los-angeles-homeless-20160203-story.html; Abby Newell and Cindy Chang, “Ex-Inmates Want L.A. County to Stop Dumping Mentally Ill Inmates in Skid Row,” Los Angeles Times, 28 September 2015, accessed 1 June 2016, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-jail-skid-row-releases-20150928-story.html.


4. “Radar L.A.: State of Incarceration,LA Stage Times, 10 June 2011, accessed 1 June 2016,http://thisstage.la/2011/06/radar-l-a-state-of-incarceration/. Also see “State of Incarceration” project descriptions at Los Angeles Poverty Department’s website, accessed 1 June 2016,http://lapovertydept.org/projects/state-of-incarceration/.


5. Conversation with LAPD members Walter Fears and Henriëtte Brouwers, 2 February 2014.

Articles

Justice and Time

by Keenan Norris

From Boom Summer 2012, Vol. 2, No. 2

Before and after Oscar Grant

Crime

1 January 2009. Oakland, California. Underground. The all-illumined Bay Area Rapid Transit Fruitvale train station platform.

A melee of indistinct origin and uncertain conclusion occurs on an arriving train. The transit system’s private police are called in to restore order. A big, husky officer walks along the outside of the train beating his baton furiously against the train windows. He produces his taser, flashes it about like an abstract warning. His male and female fellow officers decide to roust the offenders. Young men in baggy pants, their dreadlocks and beanies and hoodies bobbing back and forth, are hustled off the train. Confusion ensues. Insults and expletives are exchanged between the officers and young men. A crowd gathers. A mass of jeering New Year’s youth form a circle around what is quickly degenerating into a spectacle.

Photograph by Nick Fisher

The crowd is chanting, deriding the gang of overzealous, armed security guards. The boys argue with their captors. They make a big deal about being handcuffed, continue to volubly object and claim innocence even as, one by one, they adopt the physical positions of compliance. Hands behind their backs. On their knees. On their stomachs. On the ground.

Cell phone cameras are held aloft, their black, inscrutable lenses trained on the rolling debacle. These are the first images of Oakland in 2009: A stupid fight. Some stupid kids. Some stupid cops.

Two officers, including the one with the baton, force a medium-sized, nondescript brother to the ground. They want him to concede completely. He has conceded, gone limp and immobile. The one with the baton is still on top of the kid, the difference in weight and strength obvious by the way the kid collapses stomach first, prostrate. More arguing, more jeering, more complaints. Then the officer produces his gun. He points it directly at the kid’s back. He shoots him once, then presses his knee deeper into his back.

Photograph by Michael Mees

Trial

It was on the enclave island of Alameda, connected to Oakland and the rest of Northern California’s East Bay by three mechanical bridges, that the “Oscar Grant Trial,” as it’s come to be known throughout California, really started to make sense to me. At an Alameda diner, I overheard a man say that Alameda’s business plan, in case disgraced Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Officer Johannes Mehserle was found innocent, was to raise the bridges before the riot spread to the island.

I remember wondering how the man would like it if the bridges stayed raised and the good people of Alameda had to swim to work for a while. He could lead the way.

Slip the yoke and change the joke, as black folks used to say.

I never actually wanted anyone to swim to work, but this overheard remark crystallizes the conflict of visions that slashes across this case. The verdict is in. The jury has decided, but the decision no more than a formality. Involuntary manslaughter; in other words, an accident.

The scales of justice do not tilt this strangely in a single instant. In this case, they started tilting in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, when BART police officers tried to confiscate the camera phones from the onlookers who had just witnessed and recorded the shooting. They were tilting when the proposal went in for the trial site to be moved from Oakland to conservative bedrock Orange County, and when downtown Los Angeles was eventually decided upon as a compromise location. They were tilting when the defense and prosecution took an hour to agree on a jury without even one black juror, and they were tilting when the judge summarily dismissed the first-degree murder charge before closing arguments were read. All of this could have been predicted.

Photograph by Michael Mees

Verdict

Viewed from the perspective of an ideology and a lived experience that encourages trust in law enforcement and a court system that from time immemorial has protected and served, Officer Mehserle appears as a tragic figure guilty merely of a rash misreach for his taser, poor police education, and an understandable panic at his proximity to several (variously handcuffed, prostrate, unarmed, and restrained) young black men. But viewed from the perspective of those young black men, or this young black man, that vision is absurd. The notion that we black men—prostrate on train platforms, loitering aimlessly on corners, bullshitting in bars, raising children, being loving spouses—may one day surrender our lives to some weird welter of color-struck paranoia, half-assed job training and taser confusion is idiotic. Statistics, by the way, tell us that violent crimes committed by black people overwhelmingly are committed against other black people, that in fact (as opposed to fear), white people have never been at the mercy of an irrepressible black crime wave. From our perspective, this verdict lends any police action formed against us, including shooting a prostrate man in his back while he lies on a clean, well-lit train platform in full view of dozens of witnesses, plausible deniability. Black men, in the governing ideology, are not understood as victims of crime. Emmett Till’s coffin has closed. Our murder, whether from police action or drug war crossfire or whatever, becomes the sacrifice by which the nation ritually defines its distance from randomness and premature death.

Justice and time

The arc of the moral universe is long but it does not necessarily bend toward justice.

Between 1865 and 1870, Reconstruction saw sweeping legislation for full civil rights for black men, including the Fifteenth Amendment’s effectively enacted rights to vote and hold political office. The beginnings of black power were, tragically, located within a South characterized by anti-black vigilante and police terrorism, and within a Republican Party that effectively bound the freedom struggle to Northern capitalist interests much as our current-day Democratic Party binds a medley of underserved constituencies to an overserved business elite. The grassroots resistance of low country South Carolina rice workers by means of rolling labor strikes during Reconstruction’s final days testifies not only to the injustice of payment in scrip (the issuance of promissory notes that were only valid at local stores as opposed to actual monies exchanged for labor), and opposition to segregationist terror, but to the increasing unwillingness of most white Americans to represent black labor, let alone protect black lives. The trajectory of Reconstruction, from sudden admission of a previously enslaved racial minority into the body politic to an almost equally rapid foreclosure of freedoms—a foreclosure essentially supported by the unabashed antipathy of one political party and the apathy of the other—suggests not so much the impossibility of revolution in America as the certainty of counter-revolutionary opposition.

Absent representation and protection, a whirlwind of repression spread nationwide. All-white hamlets where blacks could travel through and conduct business only during daylight hours became commonplace in rural northern and western communities, as detailed in James Loewen’s 2005 book Sundown Towns. And the under-taught and consequently little-known, yet nation-defining anti-black riots, from San Juan Hill in New York City, to the Massacre in East St. Louis, to the Burning of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, forced blacks into more and more rigidly cordoned ghettos, from Harlem to Oakland. Not only did the riots take black lives, they wiped out businesses and destroyed much black financial capital. The riots signaled a virulent resistance to our migration into America’s centers of industry, wealth, and power. Systematic backlashes against minorities have neither been inevitable nor in inevitable decline, but rather tend to intensify during periods of social progress and inclusion.

Photograph courtesy of Keenan Norris

In Oakland and far beyond this city’s limits, our era is revealing itself not as some magical post-race realm, but rather a brook of fire familiar to a nation that has always known racial change as a violent crossing over. In the crossing there is no assurance, no affirmation. I still see shirts here and there around Oakland celebrating Barack Obama’s presidential victory of 2008. I still see from time to time, as well, those unearthly aurora red, blue, and beige graphics of President Obama’s face that make him look like something superhuman suddenly arrived. They read to me now as advertisements on the sharp brevity of euphoria. The shirts that I no longer see are the ones that memorialize Oscar Grant, not so much because he has been forgotten here, but rather because most know that his tragedy will be replaced many times over.

Articles

The People’s Sidewalks

by Bess Williamson

From Boom Spring 2012, Vol. 2, No. 1

Designing Berkeley’s Wheelchair Route, 1970-1974

A story of Disability Rights, although rarely included in accounts of the Sixties in Berkeley, runs alongside the history of protest against University of California policies, the War in Vietnam and the establishment in general. During these tumultuous years, a community of mostly young disabled persons, many of them students or graduates of the University, left a mark not only on the politics of the city, but the physical landscape as well. From 1970 to 1974, the City built the first planned, wheelchair-accessible route in the United States. These sloping curbs—varying in design over time—created the physical foundation for one of the largest and most active communities of disabled people in America.

Cover of The Independent showing Berkeley’s “Wheelchair Route” designers: from right, Hale Zukas; his attendant and collaborator Eric Dibner; community organizer Kitty Cone; and an unidentified helper. COURTESY OF THE CENTER FOR INDEPENDENT LIVING.

Berkeley was host to a growing populace with disabilities in the 1960s, including people with significant paralysis due to spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, and polio. This community centered around a small group of students who lived in a special dormitory within Cowell Hospital, the only building on the University campus that could accommodate wheelchair users. In an era before government requirements for “accessible” design, these students made their own ways through the hilly terrain of campus and city. They rumbled through town on hefty, rudimentary motorized wheelchairs, wheeling in the street or relying on friends to drag them up steps and over curbs.

For these young people, the rebellious spirit of Berkeley in the Sixties was infectious. The Cowell residents banded together, lobbying for greater accessibility on campus, more housing options and their own wheelchair repair shop. By the end of the decade, recalled one student, “everything began happening at once.” The campus was charged with political spirit as protesters clashed with authorities on campus and in the city. In this historical moment, Berkeley’s disabled community sought a space for themselves in the broader cityscape.

Center for Independent Living director Phil Draper at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Blake Street in 1984, Going Where You Wheel on Telegraph Avenue (op. cit.).

The first move to build curb cuts on Berkeley sidewalks came out of a coincidence of 1960s politics. In 1969, Berkeley erupted in riots over the University’s plans to build on an untended lot near campus that functioned as a “People’s Park.” After riots that brought the National Guard to town, the City renovated the Telegraph Avenue business district, widening sidewalks in a gesture towards local street life. In keeping with a brand new building code, these renovations included wide, flat curb “ramps” positioned at the corner of the sidewalk.

Curb cut diagrams by Yoshiaki Imafuku, in Going Where You Wheel on Telegraph Avenue (Berkeley, CA: Center for Independent Living, 1984).

While Berkeley’s wheelchair users greeted the new cuts with pleasure, they also noted concerns about accommodating a range of disabled persons. The wide, flat curve where the sidewalk flattened into the street caused problems for blind pedestrians who relied on a sharp curb to detect the edge of the sidewalk. Even for wheelchair users, the cuts’ diagonal position caused a conflict with turning cars. A visiting Japanese student, himself a wheelchair user, sketched the pros and cons of various curb cut designs, showing how the curb cut that angles into the street can push wheelchair users into traffic.

For a second round of curb renovations, the disabled community of Berkeley took an active design role, mapping more than 100 sites for cuts along Telegraph south of campus, and along Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley. They also offered a new design: a steep, sharp cut set outside of the main pedestrian intersection. These new cuts were steep for wheelchair users, but represented a compromise for a range of pedestrian needs—foreshadowing the “universal” ideal of later planning and design projects.

Berkeley’s Wheelchair Route, drafted by Ruth Grimes. Dots indicate the location of 125 new curb cuts. Map from City of Berkeley, Resolution No. 45,605-N.S. (February 13, 1973).

The early changes on Telegraph and the surrounding area were the first in a series of design projects to accommodate Berkeley’s large disabled population. Since the 1970s, Telegraph has been renovated and resurfaced many times over. In place of the original flat “ramps” are curbs with textured concrete slabs to identify the change in surface for the blind, often marked with bright yellow inserts with bumps. Designed decades before recent projects such as the Ed Roberts Campus (see article by David Serlin), these curb cuts were low-profile, but nonetheless important elements of an accessible city.

Raised curb cuts at Telegraph and Dwight avenues, 2011. PHOTO BY AUTHOR.

Articles

Architecture and Social Justice

by David Serlin

From Boom Spring 2012, Vol. 2, No. 1

Independent Living on Campus

Ed Roberts Campus, Berkeley, CA. Designed by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, 2011. Photograph by Amy Tremper.

In 1972, the Center for Independent Living (CIL) opened in a former car dealership building at the intersection of Telegraph and Blake avenues in downtown Berkeley. The CIL emerged from efforts by activists to create a community resource for people with disabilities. Among the leaders was Ed Roberts, one of the earliest severely disabled students to attend UC Berkeley in the mid-1960s. The Center, with its DIY-style warren of makeshift offices decorated with mismatched furniture, became a geographical and symbolic site for the disability rights movement’s grassroots activism.

The CIL worked with engineers, architects, urban planners, and city council members to alter the built environment, a breakthrough concept in an era when disabled people experienced paternalistic and often exploitative care. Curb cuts for wheelchairs, for example, and audible crosswalk signals were installed throughout adjacent neighborhoods in Berkeley and Oakland. Raymond Lifchez, a professor of architecture at UC Berkeley, collaborated with members of the CIL to implement domestic designs based on what disabled people actually needed in their homes and workplaces to accomplish tasks by themselves, such as accessible ramps and platforms, lowered kitchen counters, lift bars for toilets and bathtubs, and so forth.

By the early 1990s, however, the scale and diversity of Berkeley’s disabled community encouraged the CIL and its numerous supporters to explore the possibility of reconceiving what and how the center actually accomplished its goals. While larger quarters might provide more resources and serve more people, many believed that a truly reconceptualized CIL would be rooted not only in the principles of disability rights but align them with the principles of Universal Design, first developed by disability activist Ron Mace at North Carolina State University during the late 1980s. Universal Design bridges egalitarian function with modernist aesthetics; among its most widely adopted tenets are structural flexibility, such as moving walls, and designs for low physical exertion, such as automatic doors and elevator buttons placed at floor level.

The CIL’s goal of bridging disability rights with Universal Design was finally realized when, in April 2011, it reopened in an 80,000-square-foot space incorporated into the Ashby station of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) metro network, just on the cusp between Berkeley and Oakland. The building’s structural interface with BART includes a new public plaza, storage lockers, and a café, suggesting that it has retained and even expanded its status as a spatial crossroads for numerous urban needs and constituencies. Furthermore, the building’s energy-efficient ventilation systems and building materials, such as glass curtain walls that provide abundant natural light, underscore a vision of social justice through architecture galvanized by both Universal Design and the green architecture movement. A central helix-shaped ramp and wide corridors enable visitors to move around easily between floors, while fully accessible bathrooms, automatic doors and lighting fixtures, and way-finding devices for people with visual impairments send a fundamental message of inclusion and autonomy.


Some activists may mourn the loss of the CIL’s ragtag, DIY origins on Telegraph Avenue and bristle at the Center’s glossy sheen and well-appointed interior spaces. But the newly configured CIL, which has been renamed the Ed Roberts Campus of UC Berkeley, updates the radicalism of its organization’s most robust agitator for social and political change by recasting the building as a noble experiment in public architecture for the twenty-first century. Four decades after the Center’s original founding, and seventeen years after Roberts’ death in 1994 at the age of fifty-six, the Ed Roberts Campus has reimagined a local community institution as a sustainable and transit-oriented public space—one that demonstrates emphatically how designing for disability can lead to creative forms of collaborative urban redevelopment.

 

Interviews

Talking with Tenants Together

by Sasha Abramsky
From Boom Spring 2011, Vol. 1, No. 1

The journalist Sasha Abramsky talks to Gabe Treves, one of the organizers of Tenants Together, the San Francisco-based advocacy group, about the impact of the foreclosure crisis on rental tenants.

California has always been defined by its bubbles—and almost as much by its busts.

The state was birthed in the Gold Rush as tens of thousands of Americans stampeded west in search of a quick fortune. In the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, dreamers seeking to reinvent themselves and carve out new destinies have flocked into the state by the millions and California has floated on Hollywood money, defense contracts, technology booms, and real-estate speculation.

The corollary of the outlandish boom is the crippling bust. In the 1870s, following a devastating financial crisis, unemployment soared, political discontent escalated, and eventually a constitutional convention was called to rewrite the state’s fundamental operating procedures. California’s “peace dividend” at the end of the Cold War was a mixture of unemployment, social-service cutbacks, and rage, resulting in a populace increasingly hostile to government and unwilling to part with tax dollars to fund social infrastructure. When tech stocks crashed a few years later, the effects ricocheted through Silicon Valley—some of the wealthiest counties in all America. Today, in the wake of the housing collapse that began in 2006 and the financial meltdown that followed in 2008, one in eight Californian workers is unemployed; a similar number are underemployed (working part-time, despite wanting and needing full employment); and property owners by the thousands have gone into foreclosure or simply walked away from underwater mortgages, sometimes devastating whole communities.

Long defined by an anything-is-possible mindset, Californians are having to adjust to the realities of hard times. For generations, real estate in California has offered a route to prosperity; now, for millions of Californians it is an albatross. Five of the ten cities with the highest foreclosure rates in the country are in California: Modesto, Merced, Stockton, Riverside/San Bernardino, and Bakersfield.

And the damage is not limited to homeowners. Increasingly, California’s renters are being hammered. Landlords default on their mortgages and disappear with their tenants’ security deposits; banks reclaim delinquent homes and become absentee landlords; investors buy these properties at auction; and all illegally evict the old tenants. Tenants who have spent years carefully building up good credit find that they have an eviction on their credit report and their ability to borrow money—for example, to buy a home for themselves—disappears.

boom-2011-1-1-6-ufigure-1
Gabe Treves at work (photograph © Sasha Abramsky)

At Tenants Together in San Francisco, fielding calls from desperate renters being evicted as a consequence of a landlord going into foreclosure has become a full-time occupation for the staff.

Sasha Abramsky: Can you tell readers who you are?

Gabe Treves: I’m the program coordinator at Tenants Together. Among the many things I do is manage the foreclosure hotline, which we launched early in 2009. While a lot of attention is given to the plight of homeowners facing foreclosure, for the most part tenants are forgotten victims. However, it turns out that one out of every three foreclosed properties in California is a rental. In 2008, over 200,000 tenants were in foreclosed properties and were facing displacement. We haven’t yet run the numbers for 2009. But we assume it’s right around the same level.

Unfortunately, the reality for most tenants is that once the house they’re living in is foreclosed and the property is acquired by a bank or private investors, they want the tenants out as soon as possible—really by any means necessary. They contact real-estate agents whose job is to get rid of these tenants. They knock on their doors, misinform them, harass them, and bully them into leaving as soon as possible. They succeed in many cases. But the tenants are actually entitled to certain protections under federal law, state law, or in some cases city-level ordinances. Our counselors explain to them what their rights are and how to go about asserting them. The idea is that if tenants know their rights they will be able to stay in their homes for as long as possible and can use that time to find another suitable living situation—or in some cases actually stay in their houses.

SA: How many tenants do you work with?

GT: Since we launched in March 2009 we have counseled over 3,000 tenants.

SA: Where are most of them from?

GT: Well, you know, we get a lot of our calls from San Diego, a lot from Los Angeles—just because it’s such a big county—from parts of the Central Valley being very hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, from the San Jose area. Really from all over the state.

SA: Didn’t Tenants Together work with many people in the desert town of Ridgecrest? What happened in that community?

GT: It’s a great example of how our hotline can help tenants in foreclosure situations. In 2009 we started getting a lot of calls from tenants in Ridgecrest, most living in a handful of apartment complexes in the same couple of streets, all telling the same story. Suddenly, despite paying their rent on time, they learned their home was being foreclosed and they were facing eviction. Ridgecrest is a small city in Kern County, one of the most conservative counties in California. We decided to go down there, talk to the tenants, and find out what was going on. Onsite we were able to identify a few great tenant leaders and help them pressure their city government, the board of supervisors, to pass an ordinance protecting renters. With a lot of hard work and organizing they succeeded; the Ridgecrest City Council passed the Central Valley’s first Just Cause for Eviction ordinance in September 2009. It lists all of the reasons for which tenants can be evicted: if they don’t pay their rent, if they are disruptive, if they do anything illegal on or with the premises. Of course, it does not list foreclosure. This meant that when those properties were acquired by a new owner, the new owner could not evict the tenants. As a result, a huge number of tenants in Ridgecrest are now able to stay in their homes—the new owner has to serve as their landlord.

SA: But many cities in California don’t have these protections.

GT: Unfortunately, only sixteen cities in California have Just-Cause ordinances. That means in most of the state tenants have limited protections. Most are protected by the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, a federal law passed in May 2009. It was a major victory, but it’s still not as good as the city-level ordinances. It just extends the amount of time tenants can stay in their home after it is foreclosed. In some cases, if the tenants have a long-term lease, then it gives them the right to stay in their homes through the term of the lease.

SA: How has the foreclosure crisis changed California?

GT: What it changes is the way people perceive their sense of stability. A lot of tenants thought they had earned the right to claim that stability, that because they always paid their rent on time and did everything by the book they effectively had the right to their home. The foreclosure crisis has been a really harsh lesson about the illusory nature of that sense of stability. It’s been very demoralizing for a lot of people.

SA: How has it changed people’s behavior?

GT: People are more cautious, less trusting. It’s changed the relationship of many people with their landlords. The crisis, which has displaced so many people, makes a lot of people reflect on their communities. When they get suddenly displaced and are forced to move away, they have to reassess all the things they used to take for granted—the value of living near their jobs, near their schools, things like that. I’ve noticed that poor, working-class tenants have dealt with the situation differently from well-to-do tenants. A lot of poor tenants are resigned to this kind of thing; the foreclosure crisis just reinforces that they don’t have a lot of control and even when they pay their rent on time that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to secure the stability that their families need. A lot of them tell me, “Oh, that’s just the way it is.” They understand that security, stability, well-being are not in their domain, because they’re the working poor.

But a lot of well-to-do tenants, who felt they had earned that right and were entitled to some protections, are learning that they’re not. And that’s been very hard for a lot of people. It creates a lot of anxiety, a lot of mental stress. When that sense of security is violated and the sense of home is damaged or destroyed, it’s going to be very difficult for them to ever really reclaim it.

SA: Are you seeing towns where people are just leaving?

GT: There are whole towns, whole neighborhoods that have been blighted. They’re vacant. When people think about the foreclosure crisis they think about the individual occupant, but it can affect entire communities, businesses. If all the tenants in a community leave, it affects the businesses in that community, the schools, the social services. I’ve gotten calls from tenants: “The house to the left and the house to the right of me have been vacant for months.” They’re getting pushed out too, and they know their home will just join all the other vacant houses sitting on the block.

SA: If you compare what’s happening in California to what’s happening nationally, it looks like California’s bubble was bigger and now the bust is bigger. How is this changing the psyche of California?

GT: It comes back to Californian exceptionalism. I think Californians have always held a belief that if they work hard, do things by the book, they can claim that sense of stability, security, well-being. And now that sense is being deflated for a lot of people. They start feeling like the rest of the country—that they’re not exceptional, that they can just as easily fall victim to these massive national trends and institutions. I hope it helps people realize that their best chance to achieve real security is to pressure their city governments and the state and federal governments to pass more sensible legislation to protect tenants. And I hope that tenants will start holding the banks accountable for what they do and will pressure them to adopt more sensible policies and more humane policies. Because otherwise everyone loses. B