Thursday, June 28, 2012

New Video: "Five Horsemen," basketball, and the difference between tragedy and injustice

HUGE thanks to Jessica Roelofs for shooting and editing this. She's great.

This is a poem/story I've been writing for years. At its core, this is about how some of the bad things that happen to us are just bad luck, or fate or whatever... but many of the bad things that happen to us-- often the things we THINK are just bad luck or fate-- happen for specific reasons.

It's like... getting struck by lightning is bad luck. Tripping and falling down the stairs is bad luck. But when we start talking about war casualties, hate crimes, sexual assaults, shootings and more, that's something very different.

A family losing their home to foreclosure isn't just bad luck. Someone, somewhere, profits from that.

A little kid getting shot while he's sleeping on the northside isn't just tragic. Gun violence doesn't just happen. Poverty, gun control laws, lack of opportunities, a messed up education system-- a million other factors play a role.

A trans woman of color being assaulted by a group of white drunks isn't just an unfortunate circumstance. It's the product of a culture that encourages, whether explicitly or implicitly, the oppression of people who aren't straight, white men.

A black teen getting shot by a vigilante isn't just the work of one horrible racist. It's the work of a media that demonizes black and brown youth, a messed up Florida gun law and other factors.

A polar bear starving to death because of the destruction of its habitat shouldn't make us sad.  It should make us angry.

A friend or relative giving his or her life while serving overseas isn't just a horrible thing to have to deal with. It's the product of a system built on war and imperialism. It's the responsibility of the politicians who vote for war, the media who promote it, the people who let it happen. It's bigger than what we can see.

But when we start to see the systems and institutions at work, we can start to fight back. When we see how the little, everyday, concrete, face-to-face elements of our lives intertwine with theses larger, sometimes-abstract institutions, we can find the power that we have to change things. That's what this poem is really about.

You can't avoid tragedies. But you can work to change injustices.

As always, please share this-- tumblr, twitter, facebook, blogs, email lists, whatever. I really appreciate it.  And you can check out my other poems here.

UPDATE: here's the text:

Monday, June 11, 2012

'Occupy Homes' Anti-Foreclosure Activist Fights to Save Mom's Home

(Re-posting this must-read press release from Occupy Homes MN)

Colleen McKee Espinosa, a single mother of three -- including Nick Espinosa, a volunteer organizer who has helped other homeowners fight foreclosure -- hoped that negotiations with officials at Citibank would allow her to catch up on her mortgage and keep her home. But Citibank still has the home scheduled to be auctioned off at a sheriff sale at 11 on Wednesday, June 13th.

McKee Espinosa, a registered nurse, has owned her home for 16 years. Last year, she attempted to pay her Citibank mortgage to catch up on three past-due payments on the indicated due date. The bank told her the home had already been sent into foreclosure.

“I’ve come up with the money I owe them but they refuse to take it,” McKee Espinosa said.

Colleen's son Nick Espinosa is a volunteer organizer for the group Occupy Homes Minnesota, a group that has waged successful campaigns that saved the homes of Monique White and US Marine veteran Bobby Hull.

Despite her son’s activism, Colleen McKee Espinosa was initially reluctant to speak publicly about her case. But after meeting and finding support from others fighting to stop their foreclosures, McKee Espinosa joined forces with homeowners and Occupy Homes activists to begin a community campaign to ask Citibank to negotiate a fair settlement that would let her keep her home and finish paying a mortgage that, until recently, had only six years of payments left.

After the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the blog Crooks and Liars, and others covered the story, Citibank officials contacted the family, assured them they were doing everything they could to resolve the case, and assigned them a contact in the "executive response unit." Despite this, the bank is moving to auction the home at a sheriff's sale this Wednesday at the Hennepin County Government Center, after which time the bank would have no legal obligation to work with the family.

"My mother has struggled her entire life to keep our family afloat and give my siblings and I a better life than she had," said Nick Espinosa, "I've dedicated the last 8 months of my life to helping families fight against unjust foreclosures and the greedy banks that would rather leave homes vacant than work to keep families in their communities even after being bailed out with our tax dollars. CitiBank won't be stealing the home I grew up in from my mom--it stops here."

The family has seen a huge outpouring of support from the community since the campaign started. McKee Espinosa's union of 20,000 nurses statewide, The Minnesota Nurses Association, St. Anthony East Neighborhood Association, and hundreds of neighbors have called for Citibank to negotiate with the family and signed an online petition asking Citibank to work out an agreement with the family. Most neighbors on the block have sent letters to Citibank and display yard signs in support of the family.

"I have decided that I'm not leaving my home until we get a good faith negotiation. I'm fighting to send the message to other people not to give up, because if you're isolated you can't fight these people,” said McKee Espinosa. "I'd tell the banks they better watch out because people are catching on to their game and a lot of people are going to fight back now."

(One additional note-- we'll be having an Occupy Homes-themed poetry slam and open mic on Tuesday, June 26 at Kieran's Pub in MPLS.  Sign-up at 7:30, show at 8pm.  Bring poems about economic injustice, activism, fighting back or just social justice in general.  Proceeds will go to Occupy Homes)