#RenterPower2018 Day 4: When We Fight, We Win

By Jewel Z. Rodgers
VITAL, Lincoln, Nebraska

Jewel Z. Rodgers of VITAL, Lincoln Nebraska. Photo by Mike Dennis©

I grew up on the backs of black liberal literature and a neighborhood swallowed in 40 years of consecutive poverty that all of a sudden had been allowed to be “valuable” now. So, when our facilitator asks, “what does community control really look like to you?” my first thought is collective ownership and investment in our neighborhoods with our dollars.

I’d chosen this tract for a reason (development without displacement and community control).

When I was younger, I was fooled into thinking that communities get better when you make them “pretty.” When I was 17 years old, I got my first internship at an architecture firm, and quickly realized it was never about the structure, it was about the people within them. That if you do not have true community, there is no equitable development because a neighborhood without community does not have to be torn apart by gentrification simply to be divided.

When the facilitator asks us, “what development without displacement looks like,” our group member says it means stable demographic. “All people that were there before, should remain there after.” A few minutes later, we came to the conclusion that this was something that could not happen without knowing our neighbors, creating deep relationships with them, and committing to doing what we could to uplift each other.

Today, for me, was not about the technical terms, it was about discovering that beyond all of the policy changes and rent controls, direct action efforts and community land trusts, you need the love and support of your people in day-to-day community, and you yourself must also be a source of love and support, and solidarity.

This assembly was much more than training and technical terms — it was about community. It was about building together, whether you’ve known that person for years or not at all; the common thread can be found in many places. Although I recognize that I have much more to learn, this experience has grown me beyond any expectation and when the fight comes, I will be willing to do what it takes to win because of what I have experienced here.