My introduction to my new life in San Francisco was the Mime Troupe’s story of the I-Hotel. This was in the late 1970’s, and I had never heard of evictions before. I had never imagined that Elders, our teachers, our historians, our greatest global treasures, could be treated like this. When I moved to North Beach in the early 1980’s I had many times walked past “the hole” that was once the I-Hotel and felt a wave of sadness, each and every time.
Now, in 2014, I feel that same sadness as I walk through my neighborhood and pass buildings that were once the homes of my neighbors, mostly Elders, mostly first generation San Franciscan-Americans. I feel a physical stab of pain in my heart with each new report of yet another Elder, a family, a working class member of my community who is being disgraced, displaced and outpriced.
My own Ellis Act eviction notice arrived in April, 2013 and once I recovered from the shock, the pain, the despair, I vowed to fight, to fight along with the 20 people on my street who had received their notices around the same time as I.
I knew where to go to get help, support and legal help, but I soon learned that many of those in my community had lost their homes because they did not know their rights, because they were alone, because they didn’t understand the language the new owners spoke. I,along with another Ellisee, founded a committee to inform, to support, to stop the evictions.
I have learned that the most important four words to be said, to be heard, are “you are not alone.” The experience of hearing/seeing the I-Hotel story as taught me and inspired me to stand together as a community and fight for our homes. This story must be told over and over again.