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  • Brookland Manor Residents Fight to Protect Family-Size Housing

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In the News - Courthouse News: "D.C. developers accused of pushing out poor" 08.26.16

A legal news source, Courthouse News Service describes the current class action lawsuit filed by tenants at Brookland Manor. Both claimants have 4-bedroom apartments, and the redevelopment plan calls for the removal of all 4 and 5 bedroom apartments. There are presently 116 units with four or five bedrooms, which are not common in the District of Columbia. Currently, only 8 percent of DC housing units have 4 bedrooms and only 4 percent have 5 or more bedrooms.

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In the News - Washington Legal Clinic: "Discriminatory development practices and the affordable housing crisis in D.C."

The article details the discrimination lawsuit filed by Covington and Burling, LLP and the Washington Lawyers' Committee. It describes who would likely be affected by Mid-City's redevelopment of Brookland Manor and how those effects violate both the federal Fair Housing Act and the District of Columbia's Human Rights Act. The Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents' Association is working together with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless and ONE DC to fight the potential displacement and also the unfair tactics used by the property owner, Mid-City Financial. The struggle at Brookland Manor is connected with the broader fight for affordable housing across the District of Columbia. Redevelopment projects--approved by elected District leaders, zoning officials, and the Office of Planning--seek to create new communities but do so at the expense and displacement of long-term, low-income Washingtonians. Read more at Washington Legal Clinic

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In the News - NBC Washington: "DC residents file housing lawsuit against developer"

A brief video segment from NBC, this piece describes how large families are afraid of being displaced. Brookland Manor is home to hundreds of low-income residents, many of whom reside in 3, 4, and 5 bedroom apartments. The new development will not include 4 and 5 bedrooms and is planned to have significantly fewer 3 bedrooms. On the video, interviews with residents and lawyers describe the potential impact on families. Watch the segment here.

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In the News - DCist: "Brookland residents sue owner of massive complex over redevelopment plans" 08.25.16

Explaining the details of the discrimination lawsuit and the changes to affordable housing at Brookland Manor, this article highlights the changes in affordable housing and unit size in the proposed redevelopment. While Brookland Manor presently has 209 three or more bedroom apartments, the redevelopment will only have 64 three bedroom apartments and zero four and five bedroom apartments. Data gathered by the Washington Lawyers' Committee's Fair Housing Project indicates that 150 families will be affected and potentially displaced by the reduced unit sizes of the redevelopment. One of the plaintiffs on the discrimination lawsuit explains how the redevelopment will tear apart the long-established sense of community and social cohesion at Brookland Manor. Read the article here.

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In the News - Washington City Paper: "Northeast tenants sue owner for alleged discrimination" 08.25.16

This article details the discrimination lawsuit and also points out the gaps in Mid-City's argument that they are providing an "inclusive" where all current residents will be welcomed to remain. The proposals to the Zoning Commission actually remove housing sized for families. Mid-City's current practices documented by the Washington Post include suing tenants for small amounts and beginning the eviction process for minor lease violations. Read the article here.

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In the News - Washington Post: "Life at Brookland Manor"

The chairman of Mid-City Financial Corp responds to the Washington Post's investigative reporting, through a letter to an editor. Gene Ford, Jr., claims that the redevelopment is "socially responsible and inclusive." He argues this by listing the number of Section 8 contracts that will remain at Brookland Manor (373). Compared with the bare minimum that developers are required to provide, the number of affordable units are larger than the requirements of a new development. Though Mr. Ford indicates that everyone will be able to return to the redevelopment, he does not address the issue that large families currently in four or five bedroom units will not find similar housing at the redevelopment. Read the letter here.

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What Is To Be Done?

“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “state of emergency” in which we live is not the exception but the rule.” –Walter Benjamin Theses on the Philosophy of History, Thesis VIII

     Donald Trump is the leader of the free world. In his first week as president he has signed a disheartening number of executive orders: Reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, banning refugees and residents from seven Muslim nations, the authorization of a U.S.-Mexico border wall, and banning federal funds to international groups that perform abortions or lobby to legalize or promote abortions.[1] The left, galvanized by an unmistakably white supremacist regime, have overwhelmingly refused the Trump administration’s sovereignty. There have been marches, mass protests, and, in a few instances, the destruction of corporate property.

     However, there are two broad tendencies on the left that, if unresolved, threaten to stifle the revolutionary potential of the moment. One desires a world free from the systems of oppression that constitute the American political system. The other merely wants to return to a less tumultuous time. It is this second tendency that refuses to acknowledge the violent core of American politics. They refuse to acknowledge the rising tide of fascism beyond the figure of Donald Trump.
     
     Leon Trotsky, in opposition to the Stalinists and their theory of ‘social fascism’, insisted on fascism’s specific political role: “The historical function of fascism is to smash the working class, destroy its organizations, and stifle political liberties.”[2] Trotsky’s analysis, however, situates fascism within an economic crisis rather than a general function of State repression. It is precisely during a crisis that the democratic process breaks down and capitalism is at its most vulnerable. Here the material conditions of the masses are a breeding ground for malcontent but also a germinating class-consciousness. In response, capitalism organizes fascist cells to dismantle anti-capitalist resistance. Thus, fascism appears during periods of “deep social crisis” by default.[3]
     
     Today, economic crises are bound to the material conditions of the middle class. The financial crisis of 2008 devastated the wealth of middle class Americans (albeit disproportionately amongst African Americans).[4] Now, income inequality has widened to such a degree that the middle class “may no longer be the economic majority in the U.S.”[5] Of those who voted, Trump won the majority of both white college graduates and white non-college graduates.[6] Other demographics reveal that Trump’s largest support came from those with salaries ranging from $50,000 – $99,000 as well as those living in the suburbs, small cities, and rural areas.[7] If fascism is capitalism in decay then it is also as much a crisis of whiteness. Yet everyone knows that Hilary Clinton won the popular vote (despite voter turnout plummeting to a 20-year low).[8] The issue is that the Electoral College, by its very nature, tends towards reifying white supremacy.
     
     We cannot emphasize enough the importance of the Alt-right aligning their movement with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign or the significance of Trump naming Stephen K. Bannon, former executive chair of Breitbart News, as his chief strategist and senior counselor. However, it’s a mystification to claim that Trump’s election is normalizing white supremacy. The truth is it was here long before January 20th. The Clinton administration built the carceral state; Barack Obama expanded George W. Bush’s clandestine drone war while also authorizing over 2.4 million deportations as President.[9] Trump’s policies and appointees are intensifications, not aberrations, of American politics.
     
     The ‘Great American Experiment’ has always been an experiment of white supremacy. Our nation grew by enslaving generations while thieving untold wealth from their labor. Modern medicine owes its status as a science to the ghastly tampering of black bodies.[10] We recoil in horror at the eugenics programs of the 19th and 20th centuries yet most forget that America forcibly sterilized Black and Indian women up through the 1970s.[11] Still, we risk erasing the struggles of marginalized people when we merely equate fascism with white supremacy. Trotsky’s analysis, as it was made from his historical position, fails only insofar as we maintain that fascism manifests during a period of crisis rather than as a phase in a larger coherent system of violence and oppression.
     
     From within San Quentin State Prison, George Jackson argued that fascism’s most advanced form was here in America.[12] For George, fascism went through three phases: 1) Out of power 2) In power but not secure 3) In power and securely so.[13] With each phase come varying modes of political violence from Mussolini’s Black Shirts to America’s expansive policing and prison apparatuses. However, binding the fascist mode of violence is its intolerance of any “valid revolutionary activity.”[14] In the late 60s, the FBI used COIINTELPRO to wage war against the Black Panther Party. Today, the State mobilized the National Guard and local police precincts to brutally repress water protectors in North Dakota. What we are beginning to experience is fascism’s shift from the exterior of the American political system to engaging the entire social body.
     
     So what is to be done? It is not enough to only engage in critique or to be anti-capitalist, anti-fascist, anti-racist, or anti-Trump. Negative concepts have never been strong enough to hold together revolutionary movements. The general strike, mass protest, and other forms of direct action are all useful tactics for waging revolution. However, their use is secondary to the community and values that drive them. We must refuse the call for a return to American politics and the white subjectivity it privileges. We cannot content ourselves with only pushing fascism back underground, back to only policing low-income communities, back to only terrorizing our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and beyond. We must begin to practice a politics of solidarity, inclusion, and radical egalitarianism. We must center the struggles of marginalized people and listen to their voices. We must prioritize political education. We must build alternative institutions. We must remember, “The essence of politics is dissensus.”[15] Our enemies will try to convince us that “we are insufficient, scarce, waiting in pockets of resistance, in stairwells, in alleys, in vain” but the demonstrations this past week have proven the contrary: “We’re already here, moving.”[16]

[2] https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1944/1944-fas.htm See: The Collapse of the Bourgeois Democracy.

[3] https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1944/1944-fas.htm See: The Fascist Danger Looms in Germany.

[11] See Reproductive Rights from Angela Davis’s Women, Race, & Class.

[12] Jackson, George. Blood in My Eye. New York: Random House, 1972. Print.

[13] Blood in My Eye. Page 123.

[14] Blood in My Eye. Page 118.

[15] Ranciere, Jacques, and Steve Corcoran. Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics. London: Continuum, 2010. Page 38. Print.

[16] Harney, Stefano, and Fred Moten. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. Wivenhoe: Minor Compositions, 2013. Page 19. Print.

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In the News - Washington Post: "As the nation's capital booms, poor tenants face eviction over as little as $25" 08.08.16

This article is a long, in-depth feature highlighting the difficulties tenants have faced at Brookland Manor. It highlights the experiences of tenants who have been threatened with eviction over small sums - sometimes held back to try to urge management to make repairs in their units. Urban renewal is bringing change to neighborhoods, or gentrification, and developers across the country and in Washington, DC, have financial incentive to redevelop older properties - once affordable - and market them as luxury units to wealthier newcomers. Small debts to property management companies are being used to threaten or clear out existing tenants and make way for the new development. Lawsuits over small debts also create an online, legal background that can be used against tenants in future rental applications. Read the article here.

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What is Economic Democracy?

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Thank You for Your Support!

Click below to view photos from our latest fundraising event -- a special ONE DC showing of Dance Place's What's Going On? Life, Love, & Social Justice. Thanks to your support, we are closer to our goal of raising $1.3 million over 2 years to support the opening of the Black Workers Center and #Another10Years of resident-led organizing for racial & economic equity in DC! Click here to donate.

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