Poor Peoples Economic
Human Rights Campaign

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mobile, AL – Witness the Invisible – March to Fulfill the Dream

ShareThis Stacy and Chris sit outside their tent.

Today is day 10 of our caravan to the U.S. Social Forum. It’s our last day in Mobile, Alabama. The most striking part of our visit here was the homelessness. A couple of the homeless men we met in the town square, Derrick and Chris, showed us through a homeless encampment in the woods just minutes from the city center. Hundreds of homeless people live in these woods. A hidden network of paths winds deep through the trees and marshlands with tents, furniture, and people animating the landscape. Chris brought us to his family’s tent, where his wife, Stacy, and a friend of theirs were pulling copper out of trash that they had found to sell the scrap metal to companies. Stacy is pregnant with twins. Chris worked on supply boats until he was laid off months ago and could no longer afford to pay the rent. After spending some time on the streets he and Stacy decided to head into the woods with their family.  

“There aren’t enough shelters in the city and the police always harass us. This is the only place where nobody bothers us,” said Stacy. 

This makeshift homeless city in the woods, surrounded by snakes and alligator-filled swamps, is a harsh example of the desperate conditions forced upon the poor in the United States. It’s also a sobering reminder of how many people are hanging on by just a thread, and how an economic recession destroys people’s lives when there is no sufficient social safety net in place to protect them when our economic system fails to meet their needs.  

After touring the homeless encampment a wonderful woman named Dora took us on a driving tour of the African American Heritage Trail, where the history of African American resistance to racism and colonialism in Mobile has been preserved for hundreds of years. Mobile is a city on the Gulf of Mexico that was historically a hub for the slave trade, with ships coming in from Africa to deliver slaves for the Southern market. Today, the slave trade is long gone, but people of all races still suffer the plight of poverty. 

Less than 10 minutes away from the hidden city in the woods, wealthy bankers in suits stroll past dozens of homeless people in the park, a visual expression of the drastic wealth inequality which characterizes our economy. In the park Derrick tells us about the contracting company that recruits homeless people to work for $4 or $5 an hour, well below minimum wage, doing dangerous roofing work and handling asbestos.  

“He told me if I ever fell off the roof I would be fired before I hit the ground!” Derrick told us of his unlicensed superior.  

The contracting company works to fix up houses owned by one of the local bankers. Shamako Noble of our team helped organize a meeting with Derrick and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to talk about the dangerous and illegal labor practices employed by these contractors.  

We’re grateful to the United Methodist Inner City Mission for letting us park our giant truck on their property and letting us use their facilities. UMICM became a homeless women’s shelter after Hurricane Katrina to meet the overwhelming need for such a facility. Today it remains the only homeless women’s shelter in all of Mobile and is stretched beyond capacity. 

Finally, everywhere we went in Mobile we shared our vision of a better world, one without homelessness, unemployment, and poverty. We talked about our March to Fulfill the Dream, the legacy of Dr. King, the movement to end poverty, and the U.S. Social Forum. We hope that some of our new friends will meet us in Detroit for the USSF!

We’ll have more pictures and videos from New Orleans, Waveland, and Mobile online soon. Another car has joined us from Gulfport, Mississippi on our caravan. Now off to Selma, Alabama! 

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// posted by Jeff Rousset @ 1:48 PM Comments: I am Frances Coles, I really enjoyed meeting you all on last evening. I personally thank you for coming to our hometown. I know you will find my story to be amazing. My brother is the late Cleophus Hobbs, i.e. Peter Applebum’s, Dixie Rising. I lived in Milwaukee, duded,”The Selma of the North.”
# posted by  votingrightsyouth : April 15, 2010 7:26 AM   Post a Comment

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