Today, we share excerpts, condensed for clarity and length, from an upcoming episode of the ARD’s podcast, The Work, featuring Noni Session, Executive Director of the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative in Oakland, California. In a city with a deep Black radical history and some of the most pronounced modern-day displacement, EB PREC is building shared economic and community power by preserving land without landlords.
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Consider: if you’re from a gentrifying neighborhood, how can you build solidarity with your community to resist displacement? If you’re a gentrifier, what steps can you take to respect and support your neighbors?
Q: What are the effects of gentrification in Oakland?
It looks like the loss of communities and histories while the folks who are supposed to guide and protect our cities stand by with their hands in their pockets. It looks like a tent empire rising up around you as high rises continue to go up at an alarming rate. It looks like well-paved boulevards and running parks while folks sit across the boulevard with a paper cup panhandling for change. Personally, as a third-generation Oakland native, I find it dismaying and embarrassing to myself and to my family and my history and my city.
Q: What factors are driving this process?
The urban area is now more desirable for wealthier and affluent residents than it has been for the last 20 or 30 years due to the demands of tech labor. There is a multiracial influx of the “creative class,” but you see little to no local Black faces. There are really two different cities developing. It’s pretty dismaying to see a $50 brunch across the road from the soup kitchen.
Q: But isn’t this process inevitable? What could wealthier people moving into communities of color even do differently?
You have to ask yourself in what ways have you been conditioned politically, economically, socially, neurologically to reinforce these “inevitabilities” through your daily gestures. Economic violence is an active, conscious, and purposeful choice. As a wealthy person, if you entered into a new affluent community, you would be quite deferential to your new neighbors. You would attempt to greet them or join in on economic practices that supported the stability of the community as a whole.
Where you send your kid to school, the city councilor you vote for, whether you greet your neighbor on the way in and out of the house, what restaurants you patronize, whether you turn your body away from someone on the street as you pass — none of that is inevitable. Not one choice is by fate.
The East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative is a people of color-led multi-stakeholder cooperative that buys land and housing and gives it to Black and Brown Oaklanders. More specifically, we support everyday Oaklanders and folks rooted in East Bay to connect, organize, fundraise for, and acquire land and housing that they govern autonomously.