In this episode we interview Rasheda Alexander and Sterling Johnson. They are both participants in the struggle to defend the UC Townhomes, which residents have renamed the People’s Townhomes in Philadelphia. This one of the most recent flashpoint struggles in Philadelphia in a long struggle to defend the neighborhoods Black Philadelphians were originally segregated into from the forces of gentrification and displacement. Sterling who is an organizer with Philadelphia Housing Action joined us previously in part 1 of our conversation on the book How We Stay Free to talk about the massive housing struggles for homeless people in Philadelphia in 2020.
In this episode both Rasheda and Sterling offer personal context, overarching analysis, and talk about the issue of housing among other things as a racial justice issue, as a disability justice issue, and as an issue of justice for the elderly.
Rasheda provides listeners with a concrete understanding of the liberatory potential of struggles like this, how they can transform relations among participants and be an example of abolition in practice. Sterling provides a great deal of analysis and context around the forces housing organizers have to fight, and advocates for a proliferation of encampments as a tactic in that struggle.
It is important context to know that the protest camp, by which I mean basically the pallets and the tents, was removed by the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office this past Monday. When we had spoken on July 27th it was supposed to originally have been removed on that day. It was through organizing, resistance, and support from other groups in Philly including organized labor that the encampment lasted as long as it did. I’m going to play a quick clip of audio of Philadelphia’s Sheriff who brands herself as a “social justice warrior” as she is removing the encampment. In the background you can hear residents and protesters chanting “we ain’t goin’ nowhere,” which has been a clarion call of the Save UC Townhomes movement.
Even with the encampment’s tents and barriers removed, the protest and the fight to Save UC Townhomes will continue. Please connect with them by following them on social media for more updates on how to support their struggle. And get involved in housing struggles in your own community. Even if it is not your home being impacted, these fights affect all of us.
We’ll include more links in the show notes, including an Opinion piece that came out in the Philly Inquirer after the demolition of the encampment:
“We are still waiting for the Mayor’s Office to respond to our demands. However, I am grateful for all of the support that our protest camp has received, and look forward to continuing our fight regardless of the court or the sheriff’s decision to dismantle it. I cherish this community and I will continue to fight for it until I can’t anymore.”
That quote by Maria Lyles, who is a resident of UC Townhomes, sums up the perspectives from residents who have been struggling to defend their community in this fight. It also echoes much of Rasheda’s sentiment in this conversation.
An editors note, this episode was a live conversation much of which the interviewees were outside, or at UC Townhomes. So there were a couple parts that had to be clipped, and there are still some issues that remain in the audio, in all cases they are brief and clear up quickly.
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Now here is our conversation with Rasheda Alexander and Sterling Johnson.