OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — The activist women known as Moms 4 Housing were recognized as Black History Month honorees at the Oakland City Council meeting Tuesday night.
"I accept this, but I just serve notice as I stand here to say that we're not finished," said Tolani King as she stood surrounded by her colleagues on the steering committee of Moms 4 Housing—Misty Cross, Carroll Fife, Sameerah Karim, Merika Regan, Sharena Thomas, and Dominique Walker—in front of the city council dais.
Starting last November, the Moms 4 Housing group occupied a vacant West Oakland home at 2928 Magnolia St. for about two months to call attention to the plight of the many homeless people in society and the housing crisis affecting the Bay Area and the state.
The group was evicted from the home by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office in January after failing to win a court decision to allow them to stay.
The house had been purchased in July by Southern California-based Wedgewood Properties, which planned to renovate and sell the home. But a deal brokered in January by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf's office means the home will be sold to the Oakland Community Land Trust, which buys properties and converts them to affordable housing.
"It is amazing that our city council would honor us," said Walker. "And also I felt that this was kind of just for show. Because, yes, it is Black History Month, but 7 out of 10 of the homeless population is African-American. So I think the real way for the city council to honor Black History month is to do something to fix this."
"Moms 4 Housing showed us that the raw power of organizing can create the type of political shifts we need so that our policies truly become about caring for our must vulnerable community members," Kaplan said in a statement.
When asked whether it was appropriate to honor a group that had broken the law by squatting on property that wasn't theirs, Kaplan said it was best to see their actions in the context of the history of Civil Rights.
"Civil disobedience has been an honored tradition throughout our nation's history of how social change is accomplished," Kaplan said. "And so that, too, is part of the work that is needed to advance justice."
The Moms 4 Housing activists have been working with city council members to try to advance several ordinances, including legislation that would allow county auction properties to go to affordable housing. Another would give tenants first dibs if their landlord's property goes up for sale.
"It's disheartening to me that people are still homeless, I'm still homeless," said King, noting her group will not be satisfied until they are able to achieve real change.
"This has to continue," she told the city council. "We have to keep moving. We have to make a change. We cannot stop here."
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