Two actions Saturday and Sunday by City Life/Vida Urbana and Affordable Housing Eglston/Beantown Society showed “what democracy looks like!” as the youth chanted to drivers Sunday afternoon outside 3200Washington Street.
City Life demonstrated at 26 School Street Saturday afternoon – setting up an eviction free zone in the middle of the street. Tenants facing eviction from that building said they can’t afford to even live in the new affordable units planned for at 3200 Washington Street.
This was the point of Affordable Housing Egleston and the Beantown Society at the Sunday rally: how do the youth stay in the community they’ve lived most of their lives?
AHE knows its history. They set up a one night tent city on the sidewalk of 3200 Washington Street evoking the legendary Tent City demonstration of April 1968 when Black and Puerto Rican demonstrators pitched tents in a parking lot on Dartmouth St and demanded public housing.
About 30 youth and community members spent the night; some staying until 3 am before going home. They demonstrated that tents may be the only option for many low income families on the edge of Jamaica Plain.
A night projection was flashed on the Iffley Road brickwall showing a greedy landlord being pushed out by the forces of ” Equality. Justice and Roots .. the three values that should be reflected in the 3200 Washington Street building but are not” as the AHE press release stated.
Area E 13 police kept a low profile throughout the night. According to a few of the demonstrators the police made no effort to evict the tent city but mainly checked in from time to time; a police cruiser was parked not far away most of the night but not near the demonstrators site.
Late Sunday afternoon the Jamaica Plain News walked over to the 3200 Washington St Tent City and talked with a few of the demonstrators.
17 y/o Marvin Mendoza lives at 3042 Washington Street with his mother , aunt, three cousins and an uncle. Mendez is an entering senior at Charlestown High School and he knows first hand the message of the new Tent City.
“Our landlord – who used to live in the building – sold it a month ago.” said Mendoza.” The new owner wants to renovate the whole building. We’re paying rent to the new owner”
Although Mendoza said his family has received no eviction notice and apparently are paying the same rent, they fear for the worst and have decide do move out.
” Even my church [Eglsia Reforma Emmanuel} has to move.” he said.
“I joined the movement,” he said ” because I’m living through this.”
It’s also personal for 20 y/0 Bernardo Cruceta . He has lived at 1903 Columbus Avenue for 11 years.
” I’m new to this.” he told the News. “I just lost my job. I joined yesterday. This is my family. It’s a good cause. I mean how come we have to earn $65,000 a year just to live in a house? This is not possible.”
” I’m going to see where this goes”. he added.” I’ll follow the lead. I dont want to see homeless people here.”
Michal Shapiro is from Jamaica Plain. The 32 year old just joined the board of Spontaneous Celebrations. Beantown Youth Society fits in well with her work with youth organizations such as IBA Villa Victoria and Youth Jobs Coalition.
She sees the movement as confronting the uneasy quality of life youth face today.
” Young people live with this,” she told the News. “They see all the change coming to their community. They know people who were forced to move.”