Women lead foreclosure struggles
Published Mar 8, 2009 9:29 PM
The racist, sexist subprime mortgage industry and the crisis it created has
especially affected women and their families, so it is no surprise that women
are active in the forefront of struggles around the country to stop
foreclosures and evictions.
Sharon Black speaking to the
Bail Out the
conference in New York.
WW photo: Gary Wilson
In Detroit, two such women are Sandra Hines, a foreclosure victim herself,
and Vanessa Fluker, an attorney who fights the many illegal practices of the
banks and mortgage companies on behalf of homeowners. Both are leaders in the
Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions.
In Los Angeles, Martha Rojas, a Colombian activist and union organizer for
home-health-care workers, plays a leading role in the Labor-Community Coalition
to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions. She and Rosie Martinez, chair of Service
Employees Local 721’s Latino Caucus, are both outspoken advocates for a
moratorium on foreclosures.
Another such woman is Sharon Black of Baltimore, an organizer with the
Network to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions. She also works with the Bail Out
the People Movement and is a leader of the campaign to pass Council Bill
09-0289, which would require a 365-day notice before any foreclosure eviction
could occur in that city.
Black talked to Workers World about the dynamic struggle in Baltimore to
win relief for homeowners facing foreclosure and eviction.
Black: On Feb. 23, after months of struggle to get them to
take action, the Baltimore City Council introduced Council Bill 09-0289, which
essentially would place a one-year moratorium on evictions. It would require
that a 365-day notice of eviction be given to homeowners in foreclosure.
We launched a concerted campaign both within the progressive movement and in
the community. For several months we had been pressuring the City Council and
sheriff’s office to stop foreclosures. We wanted the sheriff to stop
taking part in the foreclosure process just like Wayne County Sheriff Warren
Evans did when he recently stopped doing sheriff’s sales in the Detroit
area. We wanted the council and local government to take action to stop this
Activists put up 800 posters in neighborhoods across the city and distributed
leaflets at emergency centers.We also launched an internet petition campaign
that definitely resonated in Council as we got a lot of phone calls with
complaints about clogged e-mail.
WW: What happened at the City Council meeting?
Black: Before the meeting we had a press conference and rally
demanding the Council take action. At the meeting, things suddenly broke open.
Council members spoke up and used the same language we’ve been using,
calling this an emergency measure. The bill has 11 sponsors. Only three council
members out of 14 did not sign on.
It was an unbelievable night and a big victory for the people! Now, by law, the
bill has to go through a process that includes a public hearing set for March
24, before it’s voted up or down. The banks were there to oppose it, but
we’ll be fighting bankers and lenders who want the bill defeated.
WW: What is the next step in this struggle?
Black: We’ve put out a call to the people of Baltimore
and all community leaders to help pass Council Bill 09-0289 and to come to the
March 24 Council hearing. It states:
“The Baltimore City Council has heeded the call of community activists
who have been working day and night to halt the rising tide of foreclosures and
the harm that it is inflicting on our communities.
“Council members Bill Henry and Mary Pat Clarke have courageously stepped
up to the plate, along with others, and have introduced a groundbreaking bill
that would act as a powerful incentive to banks and lenders to restructure
loans and keep families in their homes.
“This bill would require 365 days notice after a foreclosure is placed on
the docket before the sheriff can perform the odious job of putting families
out of their homes.
“Why is such a bill needed? Because every economic prognosticator clearly
indicates that the specter of joblessness and foreclosures will only grow
worse. Because those who are losing their homes are not just
statistics—they are hard-working families who are suffering through an
economic period that some are saying is as bad as the Depression of the
“They are Christina Sumpter, a mom who lost her job and fell behind in
her mortgage payments after her interest rates went up. She lives in a modest
row home in East Baltimore. She wonders what’s going to happen after she
exhausts trying to negotiate with Wachovia, which is now owned by the
billion-dollar bailed-out Citibank. Will she be in the street?
“Others are like Joe Bullock, who has waited over three months to get
foreclosure counseling because the centers are clogged with people waiting to
get appointments. He lives on the Westside. Mr. Bullock could lose his home
because he became disabled and lost his job. He is now working but
doesn’t know if tomorrow he’ll get the final notice.
“The banks and lenders who have received trillions in taxpayer bailout
money are simply not doing what they are supposed to do: making mortgages
affordable and keeping families in their homes. Those lenders who do the right
thing have nothing to fear from this bill.
“Keeping people in their homes helps everyone. There is nothing worse for
a community than boarded-up vacant homes. Vacant homes attract rats. They
devalue the entire neighborhood. It becomes a tremendous burden on city tax
revenues and services.
“The Baltimore City Council has an
opportunity to set a national precedent for cities and people throughout the
country who are looking for solutions to this crisis.”
The Network to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions urges everyone in Baltimore
and the surrounding area to attend the City Council hearing on March 24, 10:00
a.m. at City Hall, 100 Holliday St., to testify on behalf of Council Bill
09-0289. Call 410-218-4835 or email [email protected] to add your name to the growing list of
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