We are reclaiming our power!
An Oakland, California housing activist just won her campaign for a city council seat, Blavity reports.
The activist, Carroll Fife, ran for the Third District city council seat and won against incumbent Lynette Gibson McElhaney by a landslide, mainly with the help of her 1,000 volunteers. It was Fife’s past work and her vision that secured her victory.
Fife is the founder of Moms4Housing, “a collective of homeless and marginally housed mothers [who came together] with the ultimate goal of reclaiming housing for the community from speculators and profiteers.” According to the organization, “there are four times as many empty homes in Oakland as there are people without homes.”
Last year, inspired by her own experience with homelessness, Fife decided to do something about this issue, galvanizing a group of homeless mothers who got together and took over a vacant property for two months. The management company, Wedgewood Properties, had brought the house below market value in foreclosure, intending to renovate it and resell it at a higher cost, an amount many couldn’t afford. As a result, the home sat empty for two years. The mothers decided to occupy the property, arguing for fair and affordable housing for all and Wedgewood eventually forcibly evicted them, sparking outrage among the community.
“The one demand that the moms had was to negotiate with the Oakland Community Land Trust. Since day one, November 18th, the position was that the organization, Wedgewood that purchased this home in a foreclosure sale sit down and negotiate for the sale of the house to the land trust so it would be permanently affordable,” Fife said.
Eventually, amidst pressure from the city, Wedgewood reluctantly conceded, selling the property through the Oakland Community Land Trust at a reasonable price that Fife made sure was no more than what they purchased it for and free of repairs so they couldn’t increase the sale price.
This became the impetus for Moms4Housing and the catalyst for Fife’s campaign run.
“My goal is not only to cultivate and develop the leadership, the critical thinking skills, and the analysis but also to make the space and give the platform to the people so that they can exercise what they know to be right, to lift up their experiences. Together, we can create the strategic points that will help us to victory over injustice. [Oakland is] the place where I’ve been organizing my entire adult life. I was evicted, and I was displaced from this district, and I’ve always said that I was going to come back,” Fife said.
Fife plans to continue advocating for safe, affordable housing as well as a re-examining of police presence. Her new seat on the city council allows her jurisdiction over seven areas in the city, including Downtown and West Oakland.
“It’s important to understand the history of civil disobedience in this country because every single right that we have today was won by people engaging and pushing on what was legal. Right. So it’s important to not criminalize women who are trying to bring attention and justice and humanity to the masses, for everyone. They are not the criminals here. The criminal system is one that allows homelessness,” Fife added.
Congratulations, Councilmember Fife! Because of you, we can!
Photo Courtesy of Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle