A member of the Black Autonomy Federation reports on their organizing work in the areas of so-called Pittsburgh and Chicago.
From ‘hood to ‘hood and city to city, we stand the most to gain in uniting, as an oppressed community capable of liberating ourselves from our collective social conditions! Over half a million people are experiencing homelessness here in the US, 580,466, as of January 2020. However, more than 16 million housing units in the United States are vacant. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the same social contradiction exists, where over 800 people are documented as homeless.
According to the Pittsburgh Quarterly, however:
The city of Pittsburgh has nearly 24,000 vacant properties, including 7,500 vacant houses and buildings, according to a market analysis by the Center for Community Progress, a national land-recycling nonprofit. About 22 percent of the vacant houses and buildings are owned by the city.
Pittsburgh ghettos like Homewood, Hazelwood and the ‘Hill are socially situated much like Woodlawn, Englewood and Lawndale, here in Chicago. Vacant lots can be seen, not primarily downtown which is a lucrative tourist attraction; but outcasted from the world of the privileged.
To provide another example: 19.7% percent of people in the Steel City are statistically living in poverty. 17.1% percent of Chicagoans are in the same changeable situation. Statistics also attest that people of color make up the largest amount of people who live in poverty in both of our cities. Black people make up the highest amount of people living in poverty in Pittsburgh, PA: a massive 35.9%. The largest amount of people living in poverty in Chicago, IL, are also Black: over 200,000; 26.3% percent of the amount of people in poverty in our city!
The fact that so many of our youth here are living in poverty has remained a consistent misfortune in this city is also reason we’ve initiated a Black Autonomy Federation (BAF) – FREE FOOD FOR THE BODY AND MIND SURVIVAL PROGRAM. The youth, in particular, are among the most oppressed; and deserve to be empathically heard, as 12.2 million children are living in poverty in this country. The government and it’s system has failed to keep our youth out of poverty. 1 in 4 children under 18 in Chicago are living in poverty and 16,000 students are homeless.
Here in Woodlawn – a Black ghetto on the South Side of Chicago – there seems to be a vacant lot on every block. We see the posters of vote-begging politicians on our abandoned buildings, but never see them in the ‘hood, let alone doing anything to improve our conditions. Inner city slums like those in Erie, Philly, Harrisburg and the Southside of Reading, Pennsylvania, also reflects the systemic abandonment seen in other cities, like Kansas City, MO, Rockford, IL and Gary, Indiana, satelliting the amerikan slum belt.
We walk the alleys, rubbing our hands with enthusiasm this winter, excited how those of us – who ain’t no strangers to a life lived in shambles – are gettin’ it together, ourselves! By practicing anarchist (non-government) mutual-aid, we’re countering capitalist exploitation over our communities, as well as our minds! Our Neighborhood Upliftment Project (part of our larger Black Autonomy Federation’s Poor People’s Survival Program) provides FREE food for the body and mind.
We, who’d rather exercise control over both: our community as well as our consciousness, have the human right to improve our Collective Condition! We collectively know the power that comes with banding together! We’ve been doing it in the Black and Brown communities from one genocidal year to the next to survive the dog eat dog nature the capitalist system has created inside of our streets!
The odds grow in our favor the more we get it together. A clear demonstration of numbers can easily reveal to us another reassuring way how, as of 2020, there are only 900 police officers in the city of Pittsburgh. They’d be overwhelmed if but only a quarter of the 55,910 Black, Steel City residents would choose to form a Black Autonomous neighborhood defense committee everywhere our people are frostbitten with homelessness, or who struggle one check away from eviction.
In Chicago, there’s less than 1,200 officers working the beat. If the CPD faced the rest of the spectrum of city dwellers who hunger for something better than the inequities the system upholds, they’d be standing against 301,525 strong (257,329 of the people they’d face, being adults)! It isn’t us who should be the ones running away from the cops; if anything, it’s the cops who should be the ones running away from us!
The poverty and gang strife imprisoning us from our potential in the streets is protracted, and just about everyone of us have been aching long enough for something better than the inequities this system’s created! The Oppressed throughout the streets and prison cells from coast to coast are finding revolutionary redemption in the great Collective Awakening.
For this reason, they ban our writings, and censor them from the public. Schools of Thought, like Autonomy and Direct Democracy are taught from firebrand publishers like South Chicago ABC Zine Distro, True Leap Press, and Filler Distro. The left-wing printing press is the portable university campus for the Oppressed, and Black flagging them from the public and prisoners is a deliberate display of its powerlessness to the Idea.
In the projects and alleys, we read the anarchist teachings of Brother Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin and Alexander Berkman. We’re exercising dual-power – a power of our own, outside the existing political structure; a structure which all of us resent in some way, shape or form. We’re inspired by the wisdom of Sister JoNina Abron-Ervin. We’re attentive students of anarchists Anthony Rayson and the late Lucy Parsons.
We collectively know the feeling of an empty growl in in our stomachs; and to have the lights cut off due to not having enough to pay the bill on time. To feel the butterflies in our stomach when seeing police; when walking while Black…To walk out of stores that have Black Lives Matter signs in their windows, empty handed, due to poverty and the unequal distribution of wealth.
Governments know the potential of the sleeping giant within us, awakening; of the ruled and wretched naturally connecting with a knowledge of governing self – like steel to a magnet! Many of our white compaz face the same marginalization as outcasts due to them not fitting in. Panhandling for food is one unavoidably clear example. A defiant rejection of what politicians are peddling is another.
It’s visibly clear that capitalism is colorblind. These are reactions that ignite revolutions! We feel in our gut that we’re meant for more than the lot we’ve been given! We’re collectively destined for something far greater! We’ve been waiting with crossed fingers for alderman and other politicians to raise us out of these impoverishing conditions long enough and have the power to take our destinies into our own hands!
When you see a cop car flashing brightly, look around and see how many cars parked nearby that outnumber it. When you feel alienated in society, remember you have a place among the those of us on society’s margins & that you’re never alone. Spread the anarchist message of liberation from being governed and of governing others.
Let nothing or anyone stop you from using your mind to mentally rise from any form of repression! The hour of night is ours to make it through, and illuminate the streets with, as a flame free to melt the candle it’s been kindled on with the incendiary heat of it’s passion!
To the streets of Pittsburgh, PA, from 63rd/64th (O-Block) in Chicago!
We send you,
SOLIDARITY, LOVE AND STRENGTH!