Support The Movement: Lower the Damn Rent

11NewOrleansCity-HouseForRentSign-b7360295The Rent is Too Damn High. You heard Jimmy say it when he ran for Governor of New York (representing “The Rent is Too Damn High” party, no less), and it is increasingly true with every passing day. Want to do something to help social justice? Want to be part of sustaining the Movement? Lower the damn rent.

Across the nation, there are plenty of people with resources who care about ‘people-first’ issues. From health care to prisons, they contribute to causes for racial, gender, and economic justice. Like the rest of society, we rely on the hard work of activists and advocates; people who are sometimes making dirt salaries. Some of our activists owe over $200k in student loans, and are toiling away to help our communities- merely hoping that somehow the rent, the loans, and maybe the credit card gets paid.

Community activism works when everyone contributes a little, but there will always be the need for some to contribute a lot. These are the people who keep our organizations afloat. Those that take the most controversial positions, even when on the right side of history, thinly spread the dollars they have around. We try to do too much with too little. The grassroots people often grew up in poverty, were the first in their families to go to college (if they did at all), and never had that extra something for when they took the unpaid internship or a poverty-level first job. No hand-me-down car. No spare $2,000 to move cities. Nothing but a prayer.

Wealthy people, from Boomers to Millennials, are sitting on a stack of property. Parents who provide down payments, grandparents who buy the house outright, and those who found economic success in their own careers. They own property, and many are landlords, because they know that the rent is too damn high. Some families are subsidizing their own son or daughter’s idealism, and that is good. But this collective of advocates will not amount to a Movement- particularly not one led by people directly impacted by the most pressing issues.

For many of us activists, we struggle with housing. Grown people with roommates, individuals in tiny apartments, pushed further and further from where we work. Some parts of society have recognized the need for “artists housing,” which was rooted in artists first squatting (fixing up abandoned buildings, often living without electricity); and then the urban revitalizations often had a sliver of tax breaks for the arts. (I won’t even go into Gentrification here).

Want to help The Movement? Create an activism rent. Don’t turn a profit, even consider taking a loss. You own the building and can sell it at a profit somewhere down the line. But if you’re faring well enough, perhaps you never sell it, perhaps it becomes part of the wealth in your family that might never be in the wealth of an activist’s family. Some of us are facing structural discriminations. Some of us are getting out of prison with nothing at age 30, 40, or 50 years old.

Activists think about the collective, and often we put ourselves last. Build with us, build movement, build family. We have children too, and yet our specific skill sets are best used on behalf of all of us, including you.

Are you a landlord? Do you care about social justice?

Help an activist and Lower the Damn Rent.

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About Bruce Reilly

Bruce Reilly is the Deputy Director of Voice of the Ex-Offender in New Orleans, LA. He is a graduate of Tulane Law School and author of NewJack's Guide to the Big House. Much of his writing can be found on www.Unprison.org.
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