At City Life, we help people stay in their homes. 

City Life/Vida Urbana is a grassroots community organization committed to fighting for racial, social and economic justice and gender equality by building working class power. We promote individual empowerment, develop community leaders and build collective power to effect systemic change and transform society.

Are you fighting to stay in your home?

Join us at one of our weekly meetings, where you can speak with an organizer and lawyer, and meet others that are fighting the same battles! We have meetings in three locations:

Boston: Every Tuesday Night at 6:30, 284 Amory Street in Jamaica Plain. 
East Boston: Every Wednesday Night at 6:30, 28 Paris Street in East Boston.

Check for the next meeting here.

 

Recent News from CLVU


For over 18 months we partnered with researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to look at evictions filed in Boston Housing Court. We zeroed in especially on evictions in private-market (unsubsidized) housing. We also looked at Boston eviction filings during the COVID-19 pandemic (before they were banned in April 2020). What neighborhoods are most impacted? Who lives in these frontline communities?

DOWNLOAD the full report here: bostonevictions.org.

Here are our top findings:

  • Eviction filings in market-rate rental housing are disproportionately occuring in Boston’s communities of color. Over 2/3 (70%) of market-rate eviction filings are in census tracts where the majority of residents are people of color (even though only about half of the city’s rental housing is in these areas).

  • These disparate effects are magnified in predominantly Black communities, where market-rate eviction filings are two times more common than if these filings were equally distributed across the city. Over 1/3 (37%) of market-rate eviction filings occur in neighborhoods in which a majority of residents are Black (though only 18% of rental housing is in these neighborhoods).

  • We see similar racially disproportionate trends in evictions today, in a context where many more families are at risk of losing their home. During the COVID-19 pandemic, over 3/4 (78%) of all evictions filed in Boston during the pandemic (from the first outbreak to the moment evictions were banned state-wide, a 7-week period) are in census tracts where the majority of residents are people of color.

  • These trends are related to neighborhood poverty and income levels, but are more closely correlated with the racial composition of a neighborhood than other socioeconomic characteristics. Market-rate eviction filings are more likely to occur in census tracts where there’s a larger share of Black renters, controlling for other variables in predictive statistical models, including rent burden, median household income, and poverty rate.


Read the story in The Boston Globe and The Associated Press


[español abajo] This past week, Boston saw the ramifications of our government's failure to meaningfully address white supremacy and racial capitalism. In a time when our City’s Black and Brown communities are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, thousands of people risked their health and safety to protest the state-sanctioned lynchings of Black bodies.

We saw a burning rage, whose embers first sparked, when ships of looted black bodies reached these ports four centuries ago; a rage that smoldered as our country exchanged slavery for Jim Crow and then incarceration. These same  flames were fanned when the world watched Rodney King beaten -- ignited when Eric Garner was strangled -- and erupted into an inferno when we saw yet another Black life horrifically extinguished after pleading, “I can’t breathe.”

We are murdered, evicted, incarcerated, and sickened by agents of white supremacy and racial capitalism (racialized class oppression), whether they go by the titles of officer, judge, CEO, or president. They all play an active role in the same machine. This machine was first fueled by our looted ancestors, it continues to be oiled by prison workers in factories making license plates and bomb parts, and it is kept humming during a pandemic by Black and Brown essential workers behind the grills and registers.

The insidious nature of racial capitalism plays out in corporate media when it chooses to cover property loss, rather than the loss of Black lives. When the media cover an action, they focus on the fringe destruction, rather than the heart of the action: an unprecedented display of love and solidarity for Black people.

We know who the real looters are. They are the real estate companies displacing us from our Jamaica Plain, our Roxbury, our Dorchester, our Mattapan, our East Boston -- swallowing property with the intention to use it for profit, rather than to use it for a home, for a community.

Our wealth was extracted and stolen, and it still is. This reality was made painfully clear in 2015, when the Federal Reserve published data showing the median wealth for white households in the Boston area was $247,500 -- while for non-immigrant Black households it was only $8. We are still suffering from the lingering effects of capitalist tools rooted in white supremacy and white ideologies. These fueled the government policy of redlining, and the continuing government war on the community called the “war on drugs.” The losses Black communities have endured vastly outweigh the damage to commercial property here in Boston.

We know that white supremacy is not the only tool racial capitalism uses to extract wealth. It also uses patriarchy to exploit womxn, transgender people, and gender nonconforming people. It uses imperialism and militarism to exploit lands and immigrants, and it divides oppressed people around the world.

That is why now, more than ever, the display of unity and love for Black lives happening around the world is urgently needed for all of our survival. 

City Life / Vida Urbana stands in solidarity with millions of people rising up demanding justice. We will stay true to our mission to fight for racial, social, economic, and gender justice by building working class power. We will continue to promote individual empowerment, develop community leaders, and build collective power to effect systemic change and transform our society.

WE DEMAND

JUSTICE FOR GEORGE FLOYD

JUSTICE FOR BREONNA TAYLOR

JUSTICE FOR AHMAUD ARBERY

JUSTICE FOR TERRENCE COLEMAN

JUSTICE FOR BURRELL RAMSEY


DEFUND POLICE AND PRISONS, FUND BLACK AND BROWN LIVES & COMMUNITIES

  • Defund the Boston Police Department, Department of Corrections, and sheriffs.

  • End BPD presence in schools and the racist gang database, end police sweeps, and end building new jails and prisons.

  • Cut the police budget from $414 million to $374 million. REINVEST IN COMMUNITY NEEDS, including $15 million for youth jobs and support for formerly incarcerated people.

  • Sign the petition at: http://tinyurl.com/defundpolice2020

  • Fund housing, health care, small businesses, and community based organizations and solutions


REAL COMMUNITY OVERSIGHT

  • Establishment of a Community Office of Police Accountability (COPA)

  • Allowance of COPA to receive separate police complaints outside of the BPD Internal Affairs Division

  • Establishment of police review board of seven to eleven members who will review and resolve COPA complaints


DECARCERATE NOW (AND BEYOND)

  • End incarceration. Free Black women, girls, and trans + gender nonconforming folk.

  • Release people via personal recognizance, clemency, compassionate release, and parole, and provide housing. 

  • Sign the petition at: http://tinyurl.com/nonewprisons 


ABOLISH ICE

  • End ICE surveillance and enforcement

  • Pass the Safe Communities Act.

ESPAÑOL:

El pasado 31 de mayo, Boston vió las ramificaciones de la incapacidad de nuestro gobierno para abordar significativamente la supremacía blanca y el capitalismo racial. Durante estos tiempos en los que las comunidades de color de nuestra ciudad están siendo afectadas desproporcionadamente por COVID-19, miles de personas sintieron necesario arriesgar su salud y seguridad para protestar contra los linchamientos de La gente de color.

Vimos una rabia ardiente cuyas brasas chispearon por primera vez cuando los barcos con gente saqueada de color llegaron a estos  puertos, hace cuatro siglos. Una rabia que ardió mientras en nuestro país se intercambiaba la esclavitud por el encarcelamiento. Cuyas llamas se avivaron cuando el mundo vió a Rodney King vencido—se encendieron cuando Eric Garner fué estrangulado-- y que estallaron en un infierno cuando vimos otra vida de color horriblemente extinguida después de suplicar: "No puedo respirar".

Somos asesinados, desalojados, encarcelados y enfermados por agentes, independientemente de sus títulos de oficial, juez, CEO o presidente. Son partes de dos piezas más grandes de la misma máquina, la supremacía blanca y el capitalismo racial. Esta máquina que fué construida por nuestros ancestros saqueados, continúa siendo engrasada por los trabajadores de la prisión fabricando placas vehiculares y piezas de bombas, y sigue tarareando durante una pandemia de trabajadores esenciales de color detrás de las parrillas y de las cajas registradoras.

La naturaleza insidiosa del capitalismo racial se ve reflejada en nuestros medios de comunicación cuando el sujeto es referido como la pérdida de propiedad, en lugar de la pérdida de una vida. Esta naturaleza es clara cuando se centra en la destrucción parcial, en lugar de lo que estaba en el corazón de la acción: una muestra sin precedentes del amor y de la solidaridad con la gente de color.

Sabemos quiénes son los verdaderos  saqueadores. Son las compañías de bienes raíces que nos desalojan de nuestro  Jamaica Plain, de  nuestro  Roxbury, de nuestro  Dorchester, de nuestro  Mattapan, de nuestro East Boston – adquiriendo propiedades con la intención de usarlas con fines de lucro, en lugar de usarlas para proveer viviendas.

Nuestra riqueza estaba, y sigue siendo, extraída y robada. Esta realidad quedó dolorosamente clara en 2015, cuando se publicaron datos que mostraban que la riqueza promedio de las familias blancas en Boston era de $247,500, mientras que la de las familias de color era sólo de $8.00. Seguimos sufriendo los efectos persistentes de las herramientas capitalistas arraigadas en la supremacía blanca. Estos alimentan la política del gobierno de “las zonas rojas”, y la guerra del gobierno contra la comunidad, llamada la "guerra contra las drogas". Las pérdidas que las comunidades de color han sufrido superan enormemente los daños a la propiedad, de los vidrios de las tiendas aquí en Boston.

Sabemos que la supremacía blanca no es la única herramienta que utiliza el capitalismo racial para extraer la riqueza. También utiliza el patriarcado para explotar a las mujeres y a las personas inconformes con un género. Utiliza el imperialismo y el militarismo para explotar las tierras y a los inmigrantes. Es una máquina que se alimenta dividiendo a personas oprimidas en todo el mundo.

Es por eso por lo que ahora más que nunca, la exhibición de unidad y amor por las vidas de la gente de color que sucede en todo el mundo es urgentemente necesaria para la supervivencia de todos nosotros.

City Life / Vida Urbana es solidaria con millones de personas que se levantan exigiendo justicia. Nos mantendremos fieles a nuestra misión de luchar por la justicia racial, económica y social; y por la igualdad de género, mediante la construcción del poder de clase trabajadora. Continuaremos promoviendo el empoderamiento individual, desarrollando líderes comunitarios y construyendo el poder colectivo para llevar a cabo el cambio sistémico y transformar a nuestra sociedad.

EXIGIMOS:

JUSTICIA PARA GEORGE FLOYD

JUSTICIA PARA BREONNA TAYLOR

JUSTICIA PARA AHMAUD ARBERY

JUSTICIA PARA TERRENCE COLEMAN

JUSTICIA PARA BURRELL RAMSEY

QUITEN FONDOS PARA LA POLICÍA Y PRISIONES, DEN FONDOS PARA LAS COMUNIDADES DE COLOR

  • Desfinancien al Departamento de Policía de Boston, al Correccional y a los alguaciles.

  • Acaben con la presencia de BPD en las escuelas y con la base de datos de pandillas racistas, poner fin a las redadas policiales y terminar la construcción de nuevas cárceles.

  • Reduzcan el presupuesto de la policía de $414 millones a $374 millones. REINVIERTAN EN NECESIDADES COMUNITARIAS, incluyendo $15 millones para empleos a jóvenes y apoyo a personas que han estado en la cárcel.

  • Firmen la petición en: http://tinyurl.com/defundpolice2020

  • Financien las viviendas, la atención médica, las pequeñas empresas, las organizaciones comunitarias de base y las soluciones.

SUPERVISIÓN REAL DE LAS COMUNIDADES

  • Establecimiento de una Oficina Comunitaria de Responsabilidad Policial (COPA por sus siglas en inglés)

  • Asignación a COPA para recibir denuncias policiales separadas fuera de la División de Asuntos Internos de BPD

  • Establecimiento de una mesa directiva de revisión policial de siete a once miembros que revisará y

  • Resolverá las quejas a COPA

DESCARCELAR AHORA (Y MÁS ALLÁ)

  • Dar fin a los encarcelamientos. Liberar a las mujeres de color, a las niñas, y a la gente inconforme con su género.

  • Liberar a las personas a través del reconocimiento personal, de la clemencia, de la liberación compasiva y de la libertad condicional, y proporcionarles viviendas.

  • Firmen la petición en: http://tinyurl.com/nonewprisons 

ABOLIR ICE

  • Terminar la vigilancia e imposición de ICE en MA

  • Aprobar el Acta de Comunidades Seguras

Remembering The Life and Legacy of City Life/Vida Urbana Leader Mary Wright
By Steve Meacham


“I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh and just like the river I've been running ev'r since
It's been a long time, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will”

(“A Change Is Gonna Come”, Sam Cooke, Ben Sollee)

Listen to Mary's powerful rendition of this song here:

Mary Wright passed away on May 8, 2020. She played a leading role in the Housing Justice Organization City Life Vida Urbana. In our weekly mass meetings, she would often be called upon to sing this song by Sam Cooke. Although I heard her sing it countless times, it always brought tears.

The song symbolized her personal and movement for justice narratives. She moved from Selma, Alabama, where she witnessed the heart of the Black Liberation movement, to Boston.

I met her when she became involved with City Life. She started coming to our meetings when she and other tenants from her building received notices of a $1000 rent increase. Mary was an organizer, and she lost no time organizing those tenants to come to City Life. She led a multi-year struggle to defend her and her neighbors’ homes. 

Mary wrote letters, held meetings, spoke to media, and led protest pickets. She helped arrange legal defense with the aid of the famous David Grossman, a lawyer at the Legal Services Center and later the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Mary ended up winning a 10-year collective bargaining agreement for all affected tenants that kept rent increases modest during that period.

During this fight, Mary became more and more active with City Life. She attended countless rallies for other tenant associations, spreading the gospel of solidarity. When the foreclosure crisis hit in 2007, she extended her understanding of solidarity to the flood of small owners who were flocking to City Life meetings. Mary was at many eviction blockades where members risked arrest to stop auctions and evictions.

Mary was fearless. At one City Council meeting where a huge gathering demanded some form of tenant protection, the vote went against us. Mary led the huge crowd in singing the Sam Cooke song as people slowly marched out the door, pledging to return.

When we had the ability, City Life hired her. For years over 100 people have been attending City Life’s weekly mass meetings. Mary was an emotional anchor there, singing, educating, giving testimony. She represented City Life at many events. Mary collaborated with Dave Grossman to talk at Harvard Law classes.

One memory all City Life members share is the relationship between Mary and Jim Brooks. They came into City Life together. They helped lead most Tuesday meetings. Jim was a wheelchair user (he passed four years ago), frequently chaining his wheelchair to the balustrade of a front porch to stop an eviction. They became close friends, bantering back and forth in front of our meetings to give courage and community to many isolated and fearful people. Jim would frequently ask Mary to sing the Sam Cooke song to accomplish that goal.

Mary had a stroke just as City Life was renegotiating her collective bargaining agreement. She was placed in a nursing home, but continued to receive all kinds of visitors. Recently she tested positive for the Corona Virus and was taken at a much too early age of 76.

Mary was a deeply spiritual person. She was part of two churches. One was her beloved New Hope Baptist Church, where she was a long-time leader. The other was City Life, which has sometimes been called “housing church”.

Therefore it’s fitting to end with this (slightly amended) verse from the Sam Cooke song.

It's been too hard living, but I'm not afraid to die
'Cause I know there is someone, up there, beyond the sky
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will.


We're proud to announce that we've hired two new Organizers for the East Boston area: Frances Amador and Gabriela Cartagena! Both live in East Boston and are deeply connected to the immigrant communities that we empower in the area.

For a long time, Gabriela has been part of our campaign to win real affordable housing at Suffolk Downs as a leader in East Boston's PUEBLO Coalition. Frances discovered City Life/Vida Urbana in 2018 when her landlord gave her an eviction notice. Frances is still in her home, and now, alongside Gaby, is courageously leading our movement and empowering new leaders. We welcome this powerhouse team to our staff!


Residents across Massachusetts take collective action to win strong ban on evictions and foreclosures 

April 20, 2020 – Massachusetts Governor Baker has signed into law one of the country's strongest moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 crisis, H.4647. Well over 1,000 residents took collective action to win the passage of the law - including sending hundreds of emails urging Baker to sign it in the days leading up to its passage.

Here's what Massachusetts' moratorium does:

✅ Stops landlords from sending Notices To Quit
✅ Stops courts from hearing eviction cases or entering judgments
✅ Stops sheriffs from enforcing executions for possession
✅ Stops late fees + negative reporting for COVID-impacted tenants
✅ Moratorium on residential foreclosures
✅ Moratorium on evictions of small businesses

Among the thousands of families who benefit from the moratorium is a New Bedford couple, Robert and Lauren. The moratorium became law on the eve before a constable was set to physically evict them from their apartment. Robert is a construction worker whose company has no work for him due to the pandemic, and Laura is immunocompromised. They've been unable to make rent lately, like thousands of other households across the Commonwealth.

After receiving a 48-hour eviction notice on their door last Thursday, Robert called our popular housing hotline. The couple received legal assistance and quickly began to share their story in hopes of not only saving their home but helping others across the state as well.

Hours before Baker signed the law, Robert recorded a selfie video to share with neighbors across Massachusetts. "This will be our home," Robert said, pointing to his car, "if a moratorium is not put into effect." Watch the powerful video below:

Tearful upon hearing the news that the moratorium had passed and will protect the couple from eviction, Robert wrote us an email saying, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Robert still plans on consulting with a legal aid attorney immediately to make sure that the new rules are enforced and the couple is safe. 

Moments after Baker signed the bill, City Life/Vida Urbana tweeted: "OVER 1000 PEOPLE this weekend contacted @MassGovernor to win a strong #EvictionMoratorium in Massachusetts, helping families across MA keep their homes! Together, with our hearts and values, we defeated the real estate lobby's attempts to stop it."

The bill bans all stages of eviction, from the initial eviction notice to the final moment when a constable forces a resident from their home. It also bans evictions of small businesses. Because of the new moratorium, the Eviction Lab research project out of Princeton University has ranked Massachusetts #1 for strong housing policy during the COVID-19 crisis

Large real estate groups had argued against the bill in recent days, some saying that it violates the state's constitution. Many took issue with the bill's ban on eviction notices.

"Eviction notices often lead to families just packing up and leaving. Big real estate companies know that well. Most people don't know their rights and they panic," said Alex Ponte-Capellan, a Housing Justice Organizer at City Life/Vida Urbana. 

"At heart, we value people over profits," added Alex. "It's just sad how real estate lobbyists tried to stop these protections. It's a life or death issue," he added.

"The old rules, where real estate groups legislate our housing system, don't apply anymore - we have to move beyond that unjust system for our survival now," said Ponte-Capellan.

A broad coalition of community groups, labor unions, teachers unions, domestic violence centers, public health organizations, and legal advocates are welcoming the passage of the strong moratorium. Over 200 organizations in Massachusetts pushed for the bill. Core to the campaign was the state-wide coalition Homes For All Massachusetts, legal aid groups Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Greater Boston Legal Services, and the Massachusetts Community Action Network

Community leaders view the strong moratorium bill as an important step in addressing the disparate impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on communities afflicted by institutional racism and economic injustice.

“Before the pandemic, displacement was already wreaking havoc on working class neighborhoods and communities of color,” noted Isaac Simon Hodes of Lynn United for Change. “Evictions and foreclosures have always had a terrible impact on health, and now the coronavirus has turned them into even deadlier threats. A lot more needs to be done, but this moratorium is an important start in protecting vulnerable people during the coronavirus crisis.”

The urgency of the problem is clear, with over 700 new eviction cases filed statewide since March 13, and community groups reporting a flood of calls from people panicked by foreclosure letters or notices of eviction.

Betty Lewis, a grandmother and tenant association leader in Mattapan, received an eviction notice just days ago because she can't afford the $300 rent hike that Corcoran Management is asking from her.

"A lot of people don’t have money, we’re just getting by. We're real humans, real people, we deserve to have a place to stay,” said Betty, who was elated by the news of the bill's passage.

The Legislature’s action follows broad public support for a strong eviction and foreclosure moratorium, which reflects the widely felt impact of the crisis on both tenants and homeowners.

“In just over one day, more than 200 community groups, congregations, and unions signed on to a letter in support of a moratorium,” says Lew Finfer of MA Communities Action Network. “That coalition is ready to push for the longer-term mortgage and rent relief discussed in the letter. We’re really encouraged that key leaders in the State House are already talking about the need for additional measures and we look forward to working with them on that effort.”

We commend the legislators who helped to push the moratorium forward, including Representatives Mike Connolly, Kevin Honan, Nika Elugardo, Aaron Michlewitz, Speaker DeLeo and others. Senators Karen Spilka and Michael Rodrigues were also behind the bill.

In addition to temporarily halting residential and small business evictions and foreclosures, the final measure also requires that lenders offer small homeowners a mortgage forbearance, adding payments at end of the loan term.

“This bill is a good start, but we also need parallel relief for renters to prevent a wave of evictions after the emergency is lifted,” says Rose Webster-Smith of Springfield No One Leaves.

“Also, we’ve got to make sure that no one is burdened by crushing housing debt in the aftermath of the crisis," added Rose. "We hope to move forward rent relief for tenants alongside additional help for homeowners, owner-occupant landlords, and others impacted by the crisis," said Rose.

"Anyone who wants to support that should sign the petition from Homes for All Massachusetts at www.HousingGuarantee.org,” Rose said.

Photo above: Ms. Betty Lewis, a Boston grandmother who received an eviction notice during the COVID-19 pandemic.