Brother Ali on Occupy Homes and the foreclosure crisis

Categories: Brother Ali
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Photo by Jonathan Mannion
Note: Brother Ali is a Minneapolis rapper signed to Rhymesayers Entertainment and is one of our 20 Best Minnesota Musicians. His latest album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, will be released in August. Here are portions of an interview discussing the Occupy Homes movement, which Ali will speak about at Macalester College Tuesday and at Mankato State University on Wednesday.

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Brother Ali: I moved around a lot as a kid, and never lived in a place much longer than a year or two. When I moved to Minneapolis, my mom said "We're not going to move anymore." That's when I was 14. So North Minneapolis is the closest thing I know to being home, where people have known me for a long time in my life. Growing up there, we were told the best thing you can do for your community is get your finances together and own your home. That was going to be the big way that we we were going to better our situation, and better our community. If someone bought a house, it was celebrated. It was a way to turn things around and make a better reality for ourselves.
Tonight's meeting is about the Occupy Homes movement, which is something that started in the Twin Cities. Homeowner Monique White was in foreclosure. She is the first person in her family to own a home. She raised her kids there, and she has a grandchild who spends a lot of time at that house. It's in North Minneapolis.

She lost one of her two jobs -- it was working with at-risk youth, another community service. She missed two payments on her house, and then she got two part-time jobs. When she resumed payments, they informed her that it was too late, and she was in foreclosure. US Bank had owned the mortgage, and they sold it back to Freddie Mac, and Freddie Mac was evicting her. Between her and Anthony Newby, and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, he was working really hard on the foreclosure situation. They put their heads together and did all of the programs that you're supposed to do to no avail.
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Monique White, center, and her family.
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As a last-minute sense of desperation, they went to Occupy Minnesota and Monique asked the volunteers there if they would help her, and if they would occupy her house. So they did. For a few months, a wide variety of people came and stayed at the house and vowed that they weren't going to let the police take it.

That bought some time. The powers that be are learning that the people are having this kind of democratic reawakening. Things are so bad, that people who used to feel privileged and part of the bubble are now saying that the only way to maintain any kind of dignity is to get this sense of community stronger. The people rallying around her bought enough time so that eventually the district attorney got involved in her case, and asked the court not to evict yet so that they would have time to investigate and see if there was fraud on behalf of the bank and Freddie Mac.

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