Personal stories of local people who have struggled with home foreclosure were the theme of an exhibition and panel discussion held last week at Emerson. Much of the discussion centered on the effects of foreclosure that impact the community at large: besides leaving individuals and families homeless, foreclosure results in vacant homes, which can lead to rising crime rates and can drive down property values in neighborhoods. The event was sponsored by the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies and Perspectives on Race, Identity, Sexuality, and Multiculturalism (PRISM).
Boston-based documentary photographer Kelly Creedon presented video from her exhibit on the foreclosure crisis in Boston, followed by a panel discussion on community activism and how it relates to the local foreclosure crisis.
Panelists included Boston residents Reggie Fuller, Antonio Ennis, and Marshall Cooper Jr., who are trying to address the foreclosure crisis and save their homes through their involvement with an organization called City Life. Institute Scholar-in-Residence Yasser Munif and Journalism Associate Professor Roger House were also part of the panel. Munif discussed his research in the areas of spatial racialization and racism in urban environments, and House talked about access and activist journalism. Mirta Tocci, artist-in-residence in the Institute and curator of the Joan Resnikoff Gallery at Roxbury Community College, moderated the discussion.
Cooper, a 63-year-old Massachusetts resident who has been personally affected by the foreclosure crisis told his story. “I loved to work,” he said, but when his mother and father got sick he had to leave his job to take care of them. “I didn’t mind that because they took care of me when I was young,” he said, “and I could never repay them.”
Cooper was given a loan that he says he couldn’t afford and, eventually, when he couldn’t make his mortgage payments, his house was foreclosed on. “City Life brought me back,” Cooper said of the day he saw an advertisement for the nonprofit group on Channel 44. “They gave me my strength back.”
A 40-year-old community organization based in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, City Life has worked on many different economic social justice issues in the Boston area, including foreclosure. City Life’s membership is around 1,800, and every Tuesday night 100–125 people attend its weekly meetings.
“Change comes about through social movements, but social movements come through critical awareness,” one of the fundamental principles of City Life, said Fuller.
Liz Montaquila is a graduate student in the Deparment of Journalism