How do we work together to stop displacement when it seems like everything is against us?: By Alliance Against Displacement
Alliance Against Displacement (AAD) (originally Social Housing Coalition/Alliance) formed in the lead-up to the provincial election of 2013 to raise the issue of the need for social housing in BC and oppose the imminent threat to social housing programs.
For decades, the threads of the social safety net have been cut one by one. Behind the cuts lurk the theory that if you’re in poverty it’s because you messed up somehow. Many social program cuts and austerity moves are already accomplished, and the next phase of the government attack on the poor appears to be dehumanizing bureaucratic streamlining and incarceration in prisons or institutions.
AAD focuses on communities facing displacement. We want to support the things that working and Indigenous people are already doing and build alliances among our struggles. This article outlines our strategies for this organizing work in 2016.
AAD wants to organize with people who are moved against their will out of their homes and their communities and into the streets, out of their reserves or rural areas and into the cities, and out of the cities and into the suburbs and towns.
Many people think that displacement and insecurity are normal. Warehoused in a temporary shelter, living precariously in a tent city, being evicted for renovations or redevelopment, chasing temporary work from one place to another, being deported – all these seem like they are just part of life.
AAD wants to challenge this idea that poverty, homelessness and displacement are an individual person’s problem. We think the fight against displacement can help unify our experiences and move us to work for justice against displacement.
AAD thinks that getting more social housing built is a really important part of our struggles against displacement. Social housing exists outside of market price increases and can be a shelter against very high housing prices that push people out.
In order to build our anti-displacement alliance, we are committed to developing community organizing drives that root down into communities, deepen connections and politicize our all of our experiences of displacement.
We recognize that the housing and displacement crisis is international, and the politics of displacement come from forces outside any local community and require that we get allies across the region and world. Yet people experience it intimately, with locally specific conditions and needs. An important part of community organizing is specific thinking, visioning, and planning work done by leaders from within that community. We hope organizing alongside local communities in struggle will generate ongoing organizing hubs and partnerships with local groups that can ally with other communities facing similar struggles.
Agitate, Educate, Organize
To build a community-based, anti-displacement organization, our focus in this current political climate cannot be only to call demonstrations and actions. Before people are displaced, our imaginations and our dreams are displaced.
In the midst of direct, immediate challenges to our communities’ survival, we must speak (or yell) our uncompromising dreams for a better world and a good, decent life for us all. To see past the fog of the present neo-liberal reality, we need to climb up on the shoulders of our ancestors and stand up with others around the world who have worked for justice.
To create space to think, discuss, and dream together, AAD supports The Volcano newspaper as a publication of the anti-displacement movement. AAD also organizes an informal, open to everyone education class series called the Conditions of Struggle (COS). The classes examine political questions that can help us strengthen and deepen our collective analysis and understanding. And you can come even if you don’t read the handouts.
Our struggle is inside and out
The challenge of building a movement for justice must include challenging the power dynamics that exist in our relationships with each other. When we come together voluntarily into an organization to contribute our energy, time, and visions for social justice, we also carry within us elements of the oppressive power structures that we want to destroy. If we are not able to support each other to do battle against the systems we oppose that have been planted inside as we organize against those systems outside us, we risk wrecking our dreams on the shores of our traumas.
AAD has developed an accountability process to support members (and those close to us) to hold accountable our members who wield oppressive gender, racializing, sexual, colonial ideas or behaviours. Our accountability process does not seek punishment, but transformative justice. We seek to make liberatory social and organizational spaces while we fight for a liberated world.