On July 26th I went to Chicago with a few other OHMN folks for a regional action on the Federal Housing Finance Administration (FHFA), and I want to give a quick update/reflection on our trip. In case you missed it, a group of us joined several housing justice groups in Chicago for an action on FHFA. The event was hosted by Centro Autónomo, Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, and a few other groups in Chicago. We came representing Occupy Homes MN, and there was also a group from Detroit Eviction Defense.
The action began with a BBQ hosted by Sabrina Morey, a Chicago resident living in a reclaimed vacant home. After enjoying food and meeting incredible organizers from across the city, we took school busses to the suburbs where we protested outside the home of Peter Giles, the regional director of Freddie Mac. We rallied in solidarity with all the homeowners being foreclosed on by Freddie Mac, including Minneapolis resident and OHMN member Jaymie Kelley, who has been in her home for over 30 years. Here is an article written by Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign and Centro Autónomo summarizing the action.
While we were there we stayed with a wonderful family, Maria and Gerardo Calvillo, who are living in a reclaimed vacant home. In addition to their work with Centro Autónomo, they also run a radical day care center in Rogers Park called El Ruiseñor (The Nightinggale). Maria and Gerardo teach the children in both English and Spanish and educate them about environmentalism and revolutionary struggles led by people of color. Last year Maria and Gerardo nearly lost the day care to foreclosure, but fortunately they managed to save it with the help of a friend. Now they are trying to save up funds to purchase the property.
Occupy Homes MN members recently voted to donate $100 to support the El Ruiseñor Learning Center. Photo credit: DNAinfo Chicago/Benjamin Woodard
It was awesome to talk with Maria, Gerardo, and other organizers in Chicago and see first-hand how similar groups around the country are organizing, and compare that to the work we're doing here in Minneapolis. I mostly talked to folks in Centro Autónomo. I learned a bit about their organization structure, action planning processes, and vacants program that I think could be helpful to us. I’m looking forward to having these conversations and creating spaces for us reflect and grow in the future.
Also, if you're interested in going to one of these regional actions in the future, there will be more coming up. We actually over-fundraised for this trip, so we're planning on using the remaining money for the next trip. We also talked about fundraising specifically so we can do more of these trips in the future. I had a great time and would encourage you to go if you have the opportunity!
Thank you to all the people who contributed to make this trip possible. These trips are very beneficial for us because they allows us to build relationships with groups in other parts of the country and learn from the work they are doing. So thank you for investing in us! And shout-out to Becky who drove the whole way there and back!
PS: If you’d like to make a personal donation to the El Ruiseñor Learning Center, you can send a check to 7463 N Ridge Blvd, Chicago IL 60645 made out to El Ruiseñor. You can visit the websites of Centro Autónomo, Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, and Detroit Eviction Defense to support their work as well. And as always, you can donate to Occupy Homes MN here.