Sometimes, in the midst of those protest marches, a feeling springs up unawares, a feeling that Martin’s last dream can never die. His visionary dream of a Poor People’s Campaign remains an unsurpassed blueprint for the edifice of human rights we are still waiting to construct — a resurrection of the Dream.
l asked the lord in prayer/ why people are/ begging for food/ I thought god’s goodness/ was for everyone/ and the lord answered me/ the poorest of the poor/ count on you and me/ to be their voice hands and feet/ and when we give until it hurts/ the poorest of the poor/ will be no more
More enforcement droids were coming with their weapons readied. But people had taken enough. Those who had been waiting in the long line so that they could continue their meager existences were angry. They surged at the enforcement droids and collectively smashed them to bits in a process of spontaneous rebellion.
“I remember staring at barbed wire and armed sentries,” Yuki said. “I remember being engulfed by scattering dust in the whirling wind. I remember laying in my bed at the Topaz internment camp wishing I could raise my voice and say people should not be mean to one another.”
It remains socially acceptable to pick on people with mental disabilities. We are discriminated against in employment and in housing. We are essentially forced into segregation kept from participating in mainstream society. We are forced to live on meager incomes. We have been criminalized, locked-up, humiliated, overmedicated, shunned and abused.
“He was a musical angel,” said Suzanne Sastre. “His head was in the clouds or somewhere magical.” This man who would have given anyone the shirt off his back left very little behind except that same starry look in the faces of those who knew him, heard him, and loved him.
Even while Albany has refused to develop any housing, shelter beds or homeless services at all, for the past 14 years, homeless people have been camping on the Albany Landfill, taking care of the land, cleaning up construction debris, planting trees, creating works of art, and making it their home.
“As poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest... Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.” — Nelson Mandela
Wherever we find love, courage, sacrifice, generosity of spirit, resistance to injustice and a faith kept with others — ah, it is there that beauty appears, shining forth. Many “ordinary” people manage, perhaps in lesser ways than did Mandela, but not unlike him, to bring the Good into the world through their courage and devotion.
These reflections from the Homeless Memorial held at St. Mary’s Center in December 2013, are in honor of those who died on the streets of the East Bay. We must remember the people who died homeless and poor and reclaim our awareness of the sanctity and dignity of every human life.
Once-respectable environmental activists have shown their preference for “parks over poor people” again and again. They refuse to acknowledge that pushing for the eviction of homeless people goes against their own environmental justice policy. And rather than using the “Housing First” model, the City Council has chosen the “eviction first” approach.