December 6, 2011 began Occupy Homes, a nationally coordinated initiative to retake foreclosed back from the banks and give them to families in need. An action, that from the moment I heard about it, was so beyond excited to attend. I knew that other Occupations, including Minneapolis, had already been participating in actions occupying and fighting evictions (with and on behalf of homeowners) in foreclosed homes. And taking Occupy to the outer boroughs, to a community hit hard by the current economic status of our country, was a great step for the movement.
Occupy Wall Street, in collaboration with O4O, coordinated efforts to take a foreclosed home in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn where the rates of foreclosure are amongst the highest in New York City. OWS spent the weeks leading up to the day of action canvassing the neighborhood, reaching out, discussing our plans, our goals, and ideally creating solidarity within the neighborhood for the day action.
I met up with a friend in Ft. Greene to head to East NY. On the train, we ran into half a dozen other occupiers on their way. The stage had been set for a great day.
The day began with two rally points at the neighborhood’s subway stations. From there, the hundreds who had collected began a march through the neighborhood. From the first moments of the march it was clear that today would be a different kind of action. For the first time the streets we took were not full of yellow cabs, out of town commuters, predominately white tourists, and businessmen in suits. Additionally, any reservations anyone had about how the residents of East New York would feel about Occupy Wall Street descending upon it early in the morning were quickly allayed. The joy, interest, and general solidarity of every bystander I witnessed was clear from the onset.
The march snaked through the streets of the neighborhood, past business, homes, and schools, stopping at a serious of foreclosed homes along the way. Members of the local community, homeowners who have faced foreclosure, as well as Community Board Members who represent these districts spoke about their experiences.
The number of houses in the neighborhood that have been foreclosed was staggering. In an effort to publicly highlight this, Occupy Wall Street put up signs reading “Foreclose On Banks, Not People,” and yellow “police tape” that read Occupy Wall Street across the doors and windows of foreclosed homes.
At the third stop on the Foreclosure Tour of East New York, in addition to the speakers previously arranged, there were two impromptu speakers that came from the crowd o people in the neighborhood who had joined the march to share their stories.
One young man was facing eviction that very day. He was nervous to speak using the Human Microphone, but was so overwhelmed by the possibility of losing his home and saw hope in the Occupy Movement. Fighting through tears he told his heartbreaking story.
As a result, several members of Occupy Wall Street decided to go with this gentleman to his home to set up an eviction defense direct action.
After making four stops throughout the neighborhood, the march arrived at the fifth and last foreclosed home on the tour - The Occupied House. Having already gained access to the home, beginning renovations and repairs to make it more inhabitable (the house was sitting vacant for three years), Occupy Wall Street planned a block party in front of the home.
With more speakers, including members of the family who would be living in the home, amazing food, music, and dance, Occupy Wall Street, the Occupied House Family, and the larger community celebrated the liberation of this home from the banks and its return to the people.
When night fell, the now infamous OWS Bat Signal made a brief appearance. As the block party continued, Working Groups, including Facilitation held their regular meetings in the street in front of the Occupied House to show solidarity with the day of action.
The greatest success of D6, besides the great deed done on behalf of a family in need, was beginning to establish of a greater narrative, based on action, not words, of The Occupy Movement.
D6 answered the question, “What are we for?” rather than only highlighting, “What are we against?”
We helped make the lives of some of the hardest hit members of the 99% a little bit better. We showed a community that this movement is about them – their needs and their lives.
The banks abandoned this community for financial gain. We will not abandon them.
This is why I occupy.