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Burning Spear News

Barry Farms housing struggle intensifies, Uhuru House DC under attack

Apr 23, 2013


 
Washington, DC—Barry Farms residents are forced to live in slum conditions while their requests for repairs go unheard. Thousands of residents have already been displaced by the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA).
 
Residents are battling attacks against their recreation center and the closing of donated space for the Uhuru House in DC.
 
Since June of 2011, the Uhuru Movement has shown a consistent presence in the Washington, DC community of Barry Farm through the Marcus Garvey Enrichment Program.
 
Through the dedicated organizational work of the Uhuru Movement, residents have awarded office space to the Uhuru Movement in Barry Farm.
 
The DC Uhuru House has since then become a safe space for the community to have meetings, trainings and family events.
 
As highlighted in the October issue of The Burning Spear newspaper, the Uhuru Movement has focused on fighting against the gentrification and displacement of Africans in Washington, DC.
 
The historic area of Barry Farm has become one of the main battlegrounds in this ongoing struggle, where 25,000 public housing units have been reduced to about 8,000 over the years.
 
The creation of the Barry Farm Tenants and Allies Association
 
In December 2012, the Barry Farm Tenants and Allies Association (BFTAA) was created in an effort to ensure that any so-called redevelopment plans of the African community actually benefit that community.
 
The BFTAA consists of residents, Uhuru Movement forces, allies from neighboring housing units and low income communities who have also been displaced by the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA).
 
The BFTAA also includes members of local organizations, such as Empower DC and Our DC.
 
BFTAA was formed because tenants had no confidence in the abilities of the current Barry Farm Resident Council to represent the interests of the people.
 
According to residents, the council had proven to be dysfunctional in communication, often giving notice of important meetings at the last minute or not all.
 
The council was inefficient in bringing forth the real concerns of the people to housing officials and was easily manipulated into siding with the DCHA and the many greedy neocolonialist leaders who look to gain money in the “redevelopment” of Ward 8, in particular, mayor Vince Gray and councilman Marion Barry.
 
The BFTAA hit the ground running, gathering information door-to-door with surveys, questionnaires and cameras to document the years of neglect in the housing units by maintenance teams, which resulted in dangerous black mold, mice, roaches, bedbugs, and seriously dilapidated structures.
 
Hazardous slum conditions have been allowed to fester, in hopes that the community will become an eyesore and people won’t mind the city tearing it down and displacing its residents.
 
There are also serious environmental concerns of possible toxic waste leaking into the water supply from nearby Superfund sites. Lead paint and asbestos contamination are other concerns.
 
In fact, the recent deaths of several residents have caused alarm amongst many in Barry Farm.
 
The BFTAA launched a campaign of meetings, protests, petition signings, radio, newspaper and television interviews, and even put two residents up to run for a local advisory commission.
 
A boycott of a local parasitic corner store with overpriced goods, filthy floors and walls, and little nutritional choices was also planned.
 
The BFTAA is also developing a program for community control of neighborhood protection as a deterrent to the colonialist tactic of constant police containment of Africans.
 
The battle for recreation
 
DC Parks and Recreation decided to lock the doors and demolish the Barry Farm Recreational Center without informing the residents. This was supposedly in order to build a new facility, which could take 18 months or more, with no plans whatsoever given for providing another space for the community.
 
The BFTAA disrupted the mayor’s photo-op for this new facility.
 
Participants at the event included mayor Vincent Gray, Marion Barry, DCHA, Parks and Recreation representatives, local politicians, preachers, police brass, teachers and the media.
 
None of them represented the interests of the actual residents, but only represented the petty bourgeoisie who did not have to live there.
 
In fact, the backdrop for the mayor were children imported from a neighboring charter school, none of whom were actual children from Barry Farm.
 
Even the dirt for the photo-op groundbreaking ceremony was not from Barry Farm, it was imported too! It was all just an elaborate farce.
 
The demands made at the protest were: 1) To allow the facility to remain open and repairs be made without demolition because there is no other nearby recreation center for the children to go 2) Community involvement in the entire process of planning for any new recreation center, and 3) A guarantee that the new multi-million dollar center allows access to the actual poor and working class residents of Barry Farm.
 
As a result of the protest, the mayor and the Department of Parks and Recreation were forced to meet with BFTAA and agreed to cease destruction of the Recreational Center and to cease development of a new one without community participation and communication.
 
While the recreation center’s doors are still open, the entire field of the center has been completely fenced off, denying access for the children.
 
The BFTAA protested again, demanding “No more meetings until repairs are made to the housing units in Barry Farm!” when meetings with the DCHA produced no guarantees to fix the existing slum conditions, or guarantee the ability for residents displaced by renovations to return to the community.
 
The alliance also debated Marion Barry on a local radio program on the subject of redevelopment in Ward 8. This debate held him accountable for being the neocolonialist lackey that he has been for years; smiling in the face of the people, and then selling them out behind their backs for profit and power.
 
Barry Farms property manager locks doors to Uhuru House
 
Within days of these developments, BFTAA members were informed that the DC Uhuru House locks would be changed by the property manager, essentially stopping all meetings from happening.
 
Baffling excuses were given for this abrupt decision, such as organizations other than the Uhuru Movement were utilizing the space (even though these organizations consisted of residents). We know that this is just a way to intimidate residents and attempt to stop the momentum of the growing resistance here.
 
These tactics are nothing more than bullying techniques that the Uhuru Movement will adamantly fight against. While a meeting has been set with the property manager and Resident Council representatives, a full scale “Hands off the Uhuru House” strategy has been laid out to generate support and defend against this attack of the petty bourgeoisie jackals against the self-determination of the working class.
 
This all happens under the eye of constant police containment and the possibility of 15 public school closings in African neighborhoods of DC.
 
We call on all, residents and allies alike, to stand against this continued war against African families in Washington, DC.
 
The resistance of the masses will not be stopped. Their voices will be heard.
 
 
No More Gentrification!
 
Repair the Barry Farm Housing Units Now!
 
Hands off the Barry Farm Recreation Center!
 
Hands off the Uhuru House!
 
All Power to the People!

 

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