Gentrification, Eminent Domain, and Evictions Plagues Black Neighborhoods in Atlanta

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Seven years ago a tent city sprung up at Turner Field to expose and say “NO” to the ongoing gentrification of Black neighborhoods, and the predatory use of eminent domain to steal Black people’s homes who refuse to sell.   

At age 91, Ms. Mattie Jackson fought City Hall and  Mayor Kasim Reed ‘s attempts to use eminent domain to take her home in Peoplestown.   The city wanted her home and all the homes on her block to build a park and a retention pond that was not needed and the neighborhood did not want.  The neighborhood fought back and won.

  “We occupied this space for 63 days a few years ago and organized for community benefits from the sale of Turner Field. It was not easy but we were not going anywhere until we got a community benefit.  We did get a community benefit of $5 million dollars for the stadium neighborhoods for economic development, affordable housing, job training, and job skills,” Sherise Brown, a community organizer, said.   

On August 8, 2020,  housing activists, community leaders, and local residents returned to Turner Field to honor the tireless community work and life of Mattie Jackson who recently died at the age of 98 in her beloved home in Peoplestown. 

Fifty-plus people participated in a Legacy March from Turner Field to Ms. Mattie’s home to honor her work in housing insecurity, renters’ rights, widespread displacement, and gentrification that continues to plague Atlanta. The march also highlights the continuing threat to Ms. Mattie’s home and community from gentrification, eminent domain, and evictions.

 “I got to know Ms. Mattie Jackson in her 90s in the fight to save our homes. and all the homes on that block in Peopletown.  She did not want to go and neither did we, so we said we are not leaving.  With the support of the Housing Justice League, Georgia Stand Up we are able to say seven years later we are still in our homes.  Ms. Mattie took her last breath in her home and that is a victory,” Professor Tanya Washington, a Peoplestown resident, said. 

“What we can do in tribute to Ms. Mattie’s legacy is to continue the work she dedicated her life to. We are fighting to make sure Ms. Mattie Jackson’s family gets to stay in the house where their mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother took her last breath.  We invite our mayor to make that a reality for the family and we shall not be moved,” Washington said. 

The fight continues to protect legacy residents and communities, stop predatory use of eminent domain, stop the gentrification of Black neighborhoods, stop displacement and evictions of Black families, and to advocate for community benefits.   

COVID-19 THREATENS PEOPLE’S HEALTH, JOBS, AND HOMES

Even before COVID-19, there was an affordable housing crisis, because people are not making a livable wage.  There are homeless people who work but don’t make enough to afford a place to live.  COVID has made people more aware of inequalities in a city of haves and have nots. 

 Atlanta’s haves live in multi-million dollar homes while a growing homeless population of have nots live in cardboard boxes under bridges or in tents.  The shrinking middle class face the loss of jobs and evictions during the pandemic and may soon join the homeless.   

The struggle for justice has gotten harder as people not only face a deadly coronavirus  that has already killed over 168 thousand Americans – but also racially motivated police violence, systemic racism, loss of jobs due to the virus, and a racist President who only cares about himself, his money and is more loyal to Vladimir Putin than the American people.    

If that was not bad enough, the Federal Eviction Moratorium expired on July 24 and additional unemployment insurance expired on July 31.   Congress has yet to expand the unemployment or the moratorium putting the nation on the verge of a housing/homeless crisis not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

 Georgia does not have a statewide eviction moratorium which means residents in different countries face a confusing patchwork of different local policies and protections which are expiring.  

Fulton County had 2,500 eviction cases pending before the pandemic and since March 6,500 more evictions cases have been filed.  DeKalb County has 2,000 eviction cases filed since March 2020.  Cobb County has over 1,000 eviction cases filed, according to the Atlanta, Journal, and Constitution.  

 Housing advocates fear thousands of people will be forced into homelessness if they are evicted from their homes and apartments during a deadly pandemic and historically high unemployment.   

Most of the eviction filings are happening in minority and low-income neighborhoods, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis of more than 8,000 eviction filings.  

Up to 40 million people – 40% of U.S. renters – are predicted to be at risk of eviction in the next several months, according to Statista  

If Congress does not extend the moratorium and unemployment soon, we may see a tsunami of evictions followed by a flood of homelessness in the country.

If you receive an eviction notice due to COVID, here are some helpful numbers. 

Housing Justice League Hotline 404-946-9953

Atlanta Legal Aid Society 404-524-5811

Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation 404-521-0790

Georgia Legal Services Program (rural GA) 404-206-5175

Trump did not “Make American Great Again” he broke America.  The entire system is collapsing under Trump’s leadership and we may not be able to recover for years or decades. 

 We have 28 million unemployed with millions more filing every week, and 40 million renters face eviction and also losing their health insurance during a pandemic.  We have over 5 million people who have contacted COVID and over 168 thousand deaths.  Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. are predicted to be over 300,000 thousand by November 3, 2020. We have a government by the rich and for the rich, that is not working for the rest of us.

by Gloria Tatum

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