Portland, OR -- On Sunday, August 5th, residents of NE Portland held a block party in the historically black Woodlawn neighborhood, to celebrate the ongoing defense of Alicia Jackson's home from foreclosure, and to publicly reclaim the new duplex built on her land. This property is also on Ms. Jackson's land and was taken during the foreclosure process. Community members plan to use the reclaimed duplex, which is currently the subject of a legal dispute, as a base of organizing against gentrification and police violence in the neighborhood.
"This property was illegally taken from me by the banks. This community is strong. We will not sit by and watch developers destroy our neighborhood, while the police harass our youth and drive families from this community," said Alicia Jackson, member of the Black Working Group and subject of much attention when her home was liberated by 500 people on May 1 of this year.
Northeast is often called “the soul of Portland” because of its historically black neighborhoods, but gentrification, the replacement of locals by wealthier residents through bank investment and uncontrolled development, has changed that. In response, a growing number of people in NE are waging a public fight to keep their homes, rather than be relocated by the banks. The action at Ms. Jackson's home on May Day was the first of several community supported home defenses in the city this year. On Friday, July 27th, 79 year old Annette Steele declared that she would resist eviction, saying “This is my home. They can’t take it away from me. My neighbors support me and if the sheriff comes, I’m ready… I don’t have a gun anymore, but I keep hot water on the stove.”
“Housing must be defended to end violence in working-class communities. Stable housing creates an environment for community self-reliance and healthy relationships. Without secure housing, families are displaced and communities are fragmented,” said Lobo, co-founder of the Blazing Arrow Organization, a group that formed to fight gentrification and police violence in North and Northeast Portland. “Gentrification breaks the tie between generations, and forces communities to depend more heavily on outsiders such as the police to solve conflicts. Defending homes and stopping eviction protects the community’s safety.”
Continued exploitative development of NE Portland is tied directly to the PPB's Gang Enforcement program. Since the program began, over 200 people, mostly black youth, have been arrested each month along Killingsworth between N Interstate Ave. and MLK Blvd. In addition to land and building reclamation, Blazing Arrow Organization is beginning community patrols to monitor arrests and support people as police conflicts arise. The community patrols will be based out of the newly liberated center.
“Working people deserve to live without the fear of losing their home or being brutalized by the police. The BAO will use this new organizing center to stop gentrification and respond to police violence. It will be open to anyone fighting for freedom from white supremacy and oppression. We are working class, queer, and people of color, committed to creating a society that both meets our basic needs and respects our human dignity. We are prepared to defend ourselves and the work we are doing, and invite others to work alongside us."
The Blazing Arrow Organization was formed by a group of community members to address gentrification by way of housing defense. To find out more and get involved, contact Lobo at (925) 609-4815. To become part of the rapid response network and defend homes, text @ploc-openrrn to 23559.