“Cuando luchamos, ganamos! When we fight, we win!”
I, like tens of thousands of other people who were revolted and frightened by what happened in Charlottesville two weeks ago, showed up in Boston this past Saturday at the Fight Supremacy march and rally, organized and led by Black Lives Matter Network, Black Lives Matter Boston, Black Lives Matter Cambridge, The Movement for Black Lives, and others.
I joined up with City Life/Vida Urbana, a housing justice organization in Boston, which had about 40 participants in day-glo yellow T-shirts following behind a CLVU banner. They were gathered with approximately another 30-35 people from compatriots such as Right to the City, Chinese Progressive Association, Dorchester People for Peace, and Liberation Health, according to CLVU lead organizer Steve Meacham.
The multiracial group made itself heard with chants in English, Spanish, and Creole. It was, appropriately, one small group in a huge crowd of 40,000, which included everyone from swing dancers (“vintage dance, not vintage values”) to children of WWII vets (“fighting Nazis at home for my dad who fought Nazis overseas”).
“To have 40,000 people march against the system of white supremacy was pretty amazing. I wouldn’t have foreseen such an event only a few months ago,” says Meacham. “Of course, even such a huge turnout does not penetrate all of Mass., much less all the country. Much work to do.”
The atmosphere was determined, and, especially after the news filtered through that the supposed “free speech” rally had been poorly attended and ended early, quite joyous, with at least one activist brass band weaving through the crowd.
Here’s how CLVU described why it was organizing to have an official presence at this march:
The fight for housing justice, for community control over land, and against mass displacement is part of a larger global struggle against White supremacy and “profit over people”.
Grassroots organizing against displacement is a matter of racial justice. According to local organizers, Charlottesville has experienced massive displacement of the African American community from a height of approximately 49% of the population in the early part of the 20th century to just 19% in 2017. This mass displacement is playing out in communities across the nation as gentrification and neo-liberal development push out Black and Brown working class communities to make way for luxury development. White supremacy plays out in the evictions and massive rent hikes we see throughout our nation’s major cities.
Homes for All, a campaign of Right to the City, said this in its follow-up email on Tuesday:
We believe the fight against white supremacy must include a fight for housing as a human right for all people, and the fight for Homes For All must work to end systems of white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism and all forms of oppression. There can be no housing justice without racial justice.
Housing is on the radar of racial justice activists. Not only did the Charlottesville organizers mention displacement, but earlier this year, after pressure from organizers working on reparations, Charlottesville passed “an equity package” sponsored by vice-mayor Wes Bellamy that included funding for public housing redevelopment.
As Meacham put it: “1. The fight against white supremacy goes on all the time. The fight against displacement, given who it disproportionately affects, is part of that struggle. 2. The fight against white supremacy benefits everyone, including white working-class people. There is no way we can unite to defeat those at the top without recognizing and defeating white supremacy.”
Check out the latest issue of Shelterforce, released today, for more on the connections between racial justice and community development.