Photos credit Daniel Yang
Housing justice activists from around the country joined community members, urban gardeners, and hip hop artists for a tree-planting ceremony and concert at Monique White’s north Minneapolis home Wednesday night. White was one of the first homeowners in the country to work with the Occupy movement to fight a foreclosure and pending eviction. Monique won her home after a seven-month campaign of community pressure against US Bank and Freddie Mac.
Forty-five housing justice activists in Minneapolis for a national Occupy Homes conference were excited to meet Monique, who has become a folk hero of the Occupy movement. “Monique White’s story has inspired people, certainly Occupy Wall Street in New York, and frankly all across the country,” said Han Shan, an organizer with Occupy Wall Street. “This work exemplifies the very best of Occupy Homes organizing.”
Fellow Northside foreclosure fighter Ruby Brown, who won her house two weeks ago, joined Monique in a ceremony planting a plum tree behind her garden. “The plum tree symbolizes hope and a commitment to stay rooted in our communities,” said Jillia Pessenda, an organizer with Occupy Homes MN and urban farmer. "It reminds us what is possible when we stand together to manifest the change we believe in. It is also a testament to Monique and her courage and grace that helped inspire the Occupy movement into neighborhoods across the country."
The crowd of 200 raised fists in celebration when Frank Clark, a member of Monique’s union who helped build the 35W bridge, and his wife Kristina announced their own victory: Bank of America and Freddie Mac had agreed to renegotiate their mortgage after a four-month campaign with Occupy Homes, one day after their redemption period ended. “I’m proud to stand with my fellow laborer Monique,” said Frank, “and know we will both be in our homes for the rest of our lives.”
Internationally renowned hip hop artist Brother Ali, who was arrested in June in part of an ongoing Occupy Homes effort to save the Cruz home in south Minneapolis, hosted the event and gave a surprise performance at the end of a lineup that featured Toki Wright and I Self Devine.