Some reflections on the RESTING SAFE Toolkit

Our Portland-based RESTING SAFE team met yesterday, and we reflected on the role of our popular ed EJ Toolkit project (e.g., mold and mildew, fire safety zines, spiderweb air quality testing tutorials) in this broader movement for the right 2 rest, housekeys not handcuffs, homes for all. We talked about the toolkit being a "triage" tool on the surface -- but also a tool for knowledge-legitimizing and collective knowledge-building, because of WHO is involved. If a group of wealthy college students were making this toolkit it wouldn't hold nearly the same potential; in fact, it'd amount to asking houseless people to “take better care of their environment". We also discussed the process of how interviewing people across the country around EJ concerns will contribute to a much broader national grassroots houseless group network to emerge.

Community Control Over Land, Housing, Police - MAX RAMEAU in town!

RESTING SAFE brought Max Rameau to town last week, from Pan-African Community Action in DC (and co-founder of Take Back the Land). We organized 5 events over 3 days, and all told engaged with ~150 people around the topics of community control over land, housing, and police. Here’s a run-down of the events and key take-aways brainstormed by our RESTING SAFE team:

1) BIG event : 100+ people gathered at Woodlawn MIC on a rainy cold night, mostly from very grassroots/radical Black and/or houseless orgs, to hear Max speak on community control over policing. We also witnessed some beautiful music, art, and homemade food, in a space filled with groups' banners and posters. The crowd gave Max a well-deserved standing ovation! Our organizing team reflected on how refreshing it was that Max could launch into some pretty radical ideas without spending time trying to convince the audience that racism and homelessness are problems that can't be solved via lukewarm reforms.

2) Nuts and bolts of community land trusts: Hosted by Lisa and Sharita from the Black Life Experiential Research Group Everything, this meeting focused on everything CLT - from why a group might configure an LLC vs 501c3 CLT model, to how different arms of a group using different tactics might work together. We also discussed why a new, as-yet dreamed up model might be even better than a CLT for de-commodifying land and housing. Key point: start with an overarching objective, then work backwards to figure out a strategy to get you there.

3) Grassroots group strategy session - This was the culminating event. People from a dozen mainly houseless and/or very grassroots tenant rights groups, most who'd attended #1 and/or #2 above, convened to reflect on "lessons learned" for their own work + connected with people from groups who might not know each other. Max helped set the stage with a few words, small groups formed for break-out discussions based on interest areas (Business Improvement District policing, building people power / knowledge, self-run houseless communities trying to HOLD ground once they have it, and neighborhood-based anti-displacement / affordable housing), and then groups reported back to the larger group and committed to a next step (like, "trade contact info and convene for a CLT study session").

4) Smaller session: Knowledge-sharing meeting with the Portland Clean Energy Initiative / Oregon Green New Deal coalition folks. Max was interested in learning more about the model to take to the east coast.

5) Smaller session: Max presented on why the civil rights movement needs to evolve into a human rights movement.

KEY TAKEAWAYS (from the RESTING SAFE lead organizing team’s group reflection meeting following the big events):

  • structural racism rather than racial prejudice should be the target of our work

  • get clear on building power instead of settling for influence - know the difference and strategically choose one or the other, but whenever possible shoot for building power

  • study and prepare for crisis and chaos -- the "movement moments" when totally new and transformative models can emerge

  • PACA is proposing a new model of community control over police, and why this "movement moment" is an important one with regard to policing; learn more about it, and think about ways to adapt it

  • it is imperative to be "scientific" in our thinking about movement-building

  • develop systems of accountability instead of relying on trust

  • center the most marginalized in our work - i.e. Black queer women and trans people

  • it is imperative that white people organize their own communities to fight systemic racism and racial prejudice

  • acknowledge that "resistance" has an important place -- but that now is a time to push forward

  • join an org! - don't go it alone

  • get clear on objectives before deciding on strategies

  • community land trusts are one key tool for de-commodifying land (and they emerged out of Black communities in the south long before white Vermonters started them) -- but develop clear analysis to know if/when to pursue a new model

  • a human rights movement is a logical next step, building on the civil rights movement

  • and MUCH MORE!

HUGE shout outs to Max for taking time to share wisdom; Mic Crenshaw, Donovan Smith, Johnny Cool, Coya Crespin, Q, and Ibrahim for joining Max on the stage Friday night; to all the groups who tabled (Monica, Benjamin, and Kaitlyn from WRAP, Sarah from Glitter Squad, Chris from Black Community of Portland, Aileen and Charles from Street Roots, Coya from CAT, Adam and Lisa from Right 2 Survive); everyone who brought food and helped organize other events, especially Joanne from Lents Strong!, Lisa and Sharita from BLERG, and Donovan from Gentrification is Weird!; Woodlawn MIC, Rose CDC, BLERG, and Social Justice Action Center for providing space; Equal Exchange for kicking down snacks and coffee; and funders - Antipode Foundation, Social Justice Fund Northwest / PHCC, and Bonneville Foundation.

RESTING SAFE - Report from Los Angeles

For the last few days of January, Ibrahim, Laquida, and Erin travelled from Portland to LA for the Housing Justice in Unequal Cities conference, hosted by UCLA’s Institute on Inequality and Democracy and LA Community Action Network. The Housing Justice in Unequal Cities research network brings together researchers, grassroots groups, and other institutions working to understand “issues of housing precarity (evictions, homelessness, displacement, segregation, informal settlements)”, as well as “practices of housing justice (eviction blockades, community land trusts, housing cooperatives and commons, tenant organizing, homeless unions, social rent, land value tax)”. We were honored to represent Portland and share the work that Right 2 Survive is doing in collaboration with local groups and others via the Western Regional Advocacy Project and beyond, as well as to learn from people who attended from around the world!

Mold & Mildew Pamphlet - hot off the press!

We finally finished up our very first RESTING SAFE Toolkit product, a pamphlet highlighting the harmful effects of mold and mildew, as well as some of the ways in which people sleeping in tents, cars, and other makeshift shelters can keep mold and mildew at bay.

We are so grateful to Street Roots vendors for sharing their expertise with us! For example, one person described how they slip a few dixie cups in between their tent and tarp to keep the air flowing. Genius!

And we LOVE the artwork, created by Quinn!