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Ghost Ship Fire Remembrance Day proves Oakland’s Black lives don’t matter

Thursday, February 23, 2017 14:03
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(Before It's News)

by Kheven LaGrone

Anyone driving through Oakland will see the homeless encampments scattered throughout the city. Over the years, countless Oakland citizens living in those encampments have died or been faced with life threatening violence.

Ieshia Moss welcomes you to her home. She’s an Oakland native but can no longer afford to live in her own hometown. – Photo: Kheven LaGrone

Most of the citizens living in those encampments are African Americans born and raised in Oakland. Gentrification displaced them from housing in their own hometown.

On Dec. 2, 2016, 36 members and friends of Oakland’s warehouse community died while partying in the Ghost Ship warehouse. In contrast with the people in the encampments, most were not African American or born nor raised in Oakland.

Both the party and the warehouse had been unpermitted and illegal. Yet councilmembers Gallo and Kaplan wrote a resolution declaring a day to honor the people who died in the fire.

According to the Oakland Council, those people who died partying in the warehouse, not the people in the encampment, have become “a symbol of Oakland’s affordability crisis.” On Jan. 23, 2017, the Oakland City Council declared Dec. 2 “Ghost Ship Remembrance Day.”

This Ghost Ship Remembrance Day honors the parties that helped displace Oakland African Americans into encampments. Those parties, often unpermitted and illegal, attracted white partiers from outside Oakland and made Oakland “cool” and “hip” for them.

One white artist spoke on feeling privileged when he moved to Oakland; Oakland welcomed him and his community of illegal warehouse parties. In order to accommodate them, many landlords evicted their African American tenants.

Some discriminated against African Americans applying for openings in their buildings in favor of the new white prospective tenants. With nowhere else to go, many African Americans found themselves in those encampments seen throughout Oakland. Thus, Ghost Ship Remembrance Day honors gentrification.

According to the Oakland Council, those people who died partying in the warehouse, not the people in the encampment, have become “a symbol of Oakland’s affordability crisis.” On Jan. 23, 2017, the Oakland City Council declared Dec. 2 “Ghost Ship Remembrance Day.”

At the Jan. 23 Council meeting, speakers from the warehouse community asked the councilmembers to declare the day of remembrance. In contrast to the homeless encampments, most of the speakers and supporters were white.

Many were part of the Oakland Warehouse Coalition. The speakers felt entitled to a space to live, party and create art.

They acknowledged that their living arrangements often violated code and were illegal; they also acknowledged that their landlords feared those code violations could lead to another disaster like the Ghost Ship fire. The speakers feared that their landlords would evict them, just as past landlords had evicted the people living in those encampments.

The speakers wanted the City to block the evictions. Despite knowing the risk of danger and harm to others, the speakers asked the City to protect their party and play privileges.

The day after the Oakland City Council declared “Ghost Ship Remembrance Day,” the Oakland Warehouse Coalition sent out an email bragging about their victory in the declaration of the day honoring their community. They didn’t mention the people they helped displace.

Perhaps they had been sheltered from knowing their roles in creating those encampments that they passed, or even ignored. People in the coalition complained about being displaced by gentrification, not seeming to realize that they were that gentrification.

The day after the Oakland City Council declared “Ghost Ship Remembrance Day,” the Oakland Warehouse Coalition sent out an email bragging about their victory in the declaration of the day honoring their community. They didn’t mention the people they helped displace.

The Oakland City Council named the remembrance day after the Ghost Ship, not any Oakland natives displaced into the homeless encampments. Yet, the councilmembers wrote that “many artists, immigrants, people of color, and others from marginalized communities are living in substandard conditions.”

This wording disguised the privilege of the artists by listing them with other “marginalized” communities. In reality, people choose the life of artists; few people choose to live in homeless encampments.

By grouping the African Americans in the encampments with the artists, the City Council’s declaration trivialized the plight of Oakland African American citizens living in those encampments. Years from now, as Oakland celebrates “Ghost Ship Remembrance Day,” Oakland will forget its citizens living in those encampments.

Ieshia Moss

Ieshia Moss has good job skills and needs to work so she can house herself, her young son and her disabled mother. – Photo: Kheven LaGrone

Thirty-one-year-old Ieshia Moss was born in Oakland and grew up in East and West Oakland. However, she can no longer afford the rent in her hometown.

Four years ago, she was living with her disabled mother and her then 5-year-old son. They lost their Section 8 housing and have been homeless ever since. They lived in a camper, but it was towed away. So for the past year, she has lived in a West Oakland homeless encampment.

West Oakland Commerce Association members looking for an employee should consider Ms. Moss. She has training and experience in office work. She is looking for a job, but she has no bus fare for a job hunt or interviews outside of West Oakland.

The West Oakland Commerce Association complained that they had trouble finding employees because people coming from the outside were turned off by the encampments. The association will not have this problem in considering Ms. Moss for employment.

West Oakland Commerce Association members looking for an employee should consider Ms. Moss. She has training and experience in office work.

She will not be surprised to see an encampment or be afraid to pass it because she is currently living in one. In addition, hiring Ms. Moss, even part-time, will help ensure that West Oakland’s economic development includes this Oakland native.

In addition to looking for a job, Ms. Moss is actively looking for housing. She has applied for Section 8 housing throughout the country, but has not received it.

Ms. Moss is a registered voter. She distributed voter registration forms at her encampment.

Kheven LaGrone, activist, writer, artist and curator of “Coloring Outside the Lines: Black Cartoonists as Social Commentators” and many other acclaimed exhibits, can be reached at [email protected].



Source: http://sfbayview.com/2017/02/ghost-ship-fire-remembrance-day-proves-oaklands-black-lives-dont-matter/

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