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Right to Housing Freedom School Photo Story


Long-time DC residents gathered at Thurgood Marshall Academy on October 5th to tackle the issues of landlord neglect and displacement by force in the District.
Facilitator and Right to Housing Committee member Rosemary Ndubuizu kicks off the Freedom School by introducing attendees to ONE DC and to the issues raised at the Mini-Assembly held in July.
Attendees get to know each other in a buddy exercise. Participants ask each other two questions: “How long have you been in DC?” and “Have you experienced landlord neglect or displacement by force?”
A round of applause after three sets of “buddies” roleplay different scenarios of landlord neglect or displacement by force.
Landlord neglect is not a new phenomenon. Statistics from a 1950 survey of homes in a majority Black SW neighborhood first targeted for “urban renewal” demonstrate how intentional neglect is used to justify displacement of Black families from their homes.
Facilitators break attendees into three groups for an exercise. Each group represents a different neighborhood in D.C.: Kalorama, a mainly white, wealthy neighborhood; Deanwood, a low-income neighborhood composed of mainly Black renters and homeowners; and Brookland, a low-income neighborhood with a mixture of Black renters and Black and white homeowners.
In the exercise, each group drew out the current composition of their neighborhood. Facilitators then played the roles of urban planner, developer, and politician to expose different displacement tactics, and the way capital and the state work together.
Next, the groups envisioned their “Beloved Communities” and developed a strategy to defend them. Each group was encouraged to dream BIG in their shared vision of a truly affordable, accessible neighborhood.
Groups present their visions for their dream neighborhoods, designed by the people for the people.
Groups then developed and presented strategies to protect their neighborhoods. They focused on three areas: outreach, to recruit community members to their movement; political action, to identify decision makers that need to be challenged; and neighborhood defense, to plan community building activities that preserve the practices and values of their neighborhood.
Everyone came together at the end to discuss pluses (what went well) and deltas (what would we change for next time) from the Freedom School. A lot of pluses!
ONE DC Right to Housing Organizer Patrick Gregoire finishes the Freedom School by inviting everyone to join ONE DC’s Right to Housing Committee in preparation for the upcoming People’s Assembly. In the words of Ella Jo Baker: “If you have strong people, you don’t need strong leaders.”

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