Built Environments #19: Occupy Atlanta and My Period of Personal Enlightment

Occupy Atlanta Ruins A Foreclosure Auction

This photo is either from Creative Loafing or from the Atlanta Journal Constitution. I really can’t remember.

About two years ago I was at a point in my life where I knew something was very very wrong in the United States. Students loans and medical debt seemed distressingly burdensome for everyone who faced them. I had a degree and full-time work experience, but I’d made the mistake of leaving that job to return home to Atlanta. At the time I was unwittingly entering one of the worst job markets in the history of the US. So, I got two part time jobs and a lot of even smaller part time jobs. And I got to watch my nephew grow up and help my parents around the house. Which is why I’d moved home, although I’d certainly expected to be doing it while working a full time job.

And then one day I was presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity. To leave my home, to leave my bed, to leave my parents, and to go sleep in a tent in Woodruff Park. I believe it was one of the absolute best decisions that I have ever made. Not because I had a particular effect on the countries current circumstances, but because I learned to articulate those circumstances. I learned how to pick apart injustice, inequity, and each “crisis” until I had the facts of the matter. In a park in Downtown Atlanta, I learned how our country works.

It was during that time that I first became interested in housing justice. I didn’t know what went into buying a home and I assumed that every foreclosure was some overreaching person so desperate to achieve the American Dream that they’d acted irresponsibly. That was what the media had been saying after all. But I also knew what the media said about Occupy Atlanta, so, I did some reading on my own.

And then I occupied a home. I helped a family move their things. I talked to them about the payments that they’d never missed. I learned how their bank had stolen their home and how their neighborhood had been ruined by nearly a dozen foreclosures. And then I helped disrupt a foreclosure auction. I learned that some people who buy foreclosed homes are greedy and profit off the misfortunes of others. They’re glad for the dysfunction of the system, because it allows them unlimited fodder. I learned that some people who buy foreclosed homes profit off that misfortune out of their own desperation. I learned that when you disrupt a foreclosure auction there are people on the steps begging others not to bid on their homes.

I went to get my MPH because I wanted to be the best advocate possible. At the time I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be the best advocate for housing justice. But I knew that I needed to learned even more to be able to create effective interventions for injustice. I just wanted to be a better Occupier. You can’t kill an idea. That’s the point isn’t it? People can clear tents out of a park, but they can’t clear the idea that something is very very wrong from the minds of the American people.

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