Saturday, November 25, 2006

Finding Your Voice By Taking It

When corrupt and inept politicians and bureaucrats forfeit the rights of its citizens to basic housing through mismanagement, indifference, and greed, it is not uncommon to see people take matters into their own hands. Right now a classic text book example of that is going on in Liberty City, the oft forgotten burg of the black and voiceless. Umoja Village, a shantytown by any other name, is rising on an acre of public land at NW 62nd Street and 17th Ave. Ten years earlier, the City of Miami tore down a derelict apartment building and, from looking at the empty lot, forgot to build a new one for the people who live there. If you live in that community, this is the way of the world as you know it. It's something to shrug your shoulders over but nothing to lose sleep over.

Unless you're Max Rameau, activist-at-large. Protected by Pottinger v. City of Miami, a law that prohibits police from arresting homeless people trying to to stay alive on public property when no other space is available, Rameau not only seized the day he also seized the land on October 23rd.

Cool. MVB wishes him and his village people good luck. "Umoja" is Swahili for "unity." We thought it was "irony," since the village is there because local government screwed its poorest citizens. Max, thanks for sticking it to the man for the rest of us. We're sure city and county government didn't expect you to stay this long. You recently celebrated what you call on your website "Thankstaking" and what the rest of us call "Thanksgiving." Happy Thankstaking!

Max, as an aside from the publisher, although my street sig might be O.W.G for "Old White Guy," I hope you might consider that you'll get more of anything with honey than vinegar. Try cutting back on the negative, alienating, angry crap on your website and in your speeches. You already have our sympathy but getting our support in money and in-kind donations is going to take a kinder, gentler approach because, to be honest with you, blaming America and the white man for your troubles won't help your cause one iota when "the man" inevitably comes for you and the villagers in the middle of the night. Hopefully that won't happen. Hopefully they can build public housing quick enough to get you and the villagers a decent place to live. Realistically, that won't happen anytime soon so be prepared. Make sure your media contacts are stored in your cell phone so they can be there when the shit hits the fan. Maybe just knowing you'll phone in the media should the powers-that-be try to bulldoze the village will be enough for them to leave you alone. Simply put, Max, as long as you and your village remain a black eye on the new face of Miami rising downtown with each new chi chi condo only the wealthiest can afford, one way or another, your days are numbered because "they" will find a way around the law to make you and everything you stand for go away.

UpDate (11/30): Today the Miami Herald ran a story on Umoja Village noting that it now has reached a full capacity of 40 residents and has had to turn away 10 people. Miami City Manager Pedro Hernandez visited the community on Wednesday and told Rameau that they share the same objectives, finding affordable housing.

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