Help Occupy Atlanta Attend Facing Race 2012

Written by Julia Sebastian

Atlanta, Georgia is the heart of the U.S. foreclosure crisis and center to one of the strongest organized resistances for home defense in the country. Occupy Our Homes Atlanta is one of many issue-specific grassroots organizations to evolve through the general Occupy movement. As masses of people moved from the parks and plazas where Occupy activists first came together to the living rooms and community centers where people continue to wage struggles most pertinent to their livelihoods, we see increased focused, a fine tuning of strategy. There is no doubt that the dedicated work Occupy Our Homes Atlanta has taken on is desperately needed. At a most recent look, Georgia ranks the highest in foreclosure rates in the nation and absolute last in loan modifications. In the year 2012 alone, the Atlanta metro area faced tens of thousands of foreclosures. The members organizing these strategic actions, halting auction sales and applying direct pressure to culpable banks, are those community members most affected- generations of low-income residents of color.

This year the Applied Research Center, publisher of Colorlines, has granted scholarships for Facing Race 2012, our biannual conference happening this November 15-17 in Baltimore, Maryland, to four incredible young, female organizers of color who are leading Occupy Our Homes Atlanta in the fight to protect their homes and their city from a devastating foreclosure epidemic. These women will share their experience and foresight at one of Facing Race’s stellar panels, Where is the Color in Occupy?

The women of color are trying to raise money to pay for their fees to attend; the online campaign is here: Donate

One of the women, Carmen Pittman, will speak to her recent victory and ongoing efforts to defend her family’s fourth generation home in a working class Black neighborhood. Carmen’s home underwent foreclosure in November 2011. The home was auctioned off unbeknownst to the family as the matriarch, Carmen’s grandmother, was passing from pancreatic cancer. After her grandmother’s passing, Carmen and the Pittman family contacted Occupy Our Homes Atlantaand began the defense of their home. The Pittmans have since won a non-predatory loan from a community bank and Carmen continues to organize with Occupy Our Homes Atlanta. An interview with Carmen in her family’s home can be seen here: Occupy Atlanta Activist Fights Eviction from Family’s Longtime Home.

We interviewed this group of good friends and fellow organizers to find out how they see themselves in the foreclosure struggle and what knowledge they hope to share between racial justice leaders at Facing Race 2012 and on-the-ground movements in Atlanta.

Julia: Why don’t you all introduce yourselves and how you are involved with Occupy Atlanta and Occupy Our Homes.

La’Die: I am La’Die Z. Mansfield, an “African American” native of Clarksville, TN raised in Southwest Georgia. I live in Atlanta, GA and attend Georgia State University as a senior journalism/film student. My work within the movement started within the media committee of Occupy Atlanta and later the Home Defense Committee. And now I am an organizer for Occupy Our Homes Atlanta.

Abiodun: I’m Abiodun Charlotte Henderson. My mother, who died of AIDS over 15 years ago, was from Liberia, West Africa and my father who wasn’t always present in my life was from here. I was born in Brooklyn and have also lived in Queens… For the past 8 years i was a waitress and now I work for the betterment of the people. With all the groups I work with, I do outreach…I let people know what we’re fighting for and try to get them to relate and join the movement.

Leila: My name is Leila Abadir, I am a twenty year old Ethiopian/Eritrean American and grew up in a working class family. I currently work with Occupy Our Homes ATL while taking time off from Georgia State University.

Julia: Why is looking at race important for the Occupy movement, Occupy Our Homes, and social movements in general?

Abiodun: Race plays such an important role in the Occupy movement because of how this country has been built..on the back of Black slaves, financially and physically, and how the American government is still using Black people for money (clothes, shoes, prison, weaves, etc). When it comes to the Occupy movement and race being a factor, we have to realize that black folk have been the most disenfranchised people in this great country and are the real 99% even though everyone is feeling the heat now.

Leila: As a woman of color in America I see that there is no way to combat the systems that are currently oppressing us without addressing the issues of race, class, and gender which have been used as powerful tools to oppress. Any social movement including Occupy that seeks to break the cycle has to first address these issues.

La’Die: As an African American women in this movement, so many things have become even more clear than before. In particular, the housing crisis in our nation has hit minorities neighborhoods and communities the hardest. In working along side residence, it is obvious that the faces of the struggle are largely single, middle age, African American women.The movements has given a voice to those minorities groups that would not otherwise be heard. It is important to bring honest conversation to the issues of race, class and gender when working toward any social justice movement so that the change address and breaks down the ideology that established the system in the first place.

Julia: Absolutely. I’d love to know what you all are hoping to get out of the Facing Race 2012 conference?

Leila: Hopefully Facing Race 2012 brings forth productive intuitive conversations that continue the dialogue within radical organizers and organizations to keep these issues in the forefront.

Abiodun: I’m hoping that with this conference people will start understanding why Black people (those in the hood…working class…not those that are just now breaking barriers…1st CEO, first VP) are the way they are today. And why American black people that have “Made it” aren’t coming back to the hood in droves to educate others!

La’Die: I am hoping to gain knowledge and share ideas that I can bring back to the work being done here in Georgia around the housing and economic crisis.

These young activists of color are a crucial source of knowledge to have present at Facing Race. They have been granted a scholarship to attend the conference but still have some outstanding costs to make it to Baltimore.

Please click the link and donate today: Donate

Julia Sebastian is an intern with ARC’s Research Department and she organized with the Occupy Oakland Foreclosure Defense Group.

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