We Can House Ann
2021-2023. Social engagement project using social media and other multimedia.
After the murder of Keith Stafford in Tallahassee, the unhoused community was invited to voice their concerns with Tally Community Aid, a mutual aid collective organized by nik rye. From this, a new collective of activists, artists, musicians, students, lawyers, and the unhoused became known as the Tallahassee Houseless Alliance (THA). Ann, an older, unhoused Black woman and well-known community member, asked for housing, which inspired We Can House Ann, a year-long social engagement project dedicated to getting her inside. During this time, Ann slept at nik rye's home. After several meetings as the THA, meetings with housing rights attorneys, fundraising efforts, and denied rental applications, THA found an acceptable space for Ann to live. Unfortunately, before the lease could be finalized, Ann was arrested. She spent a year in the Leon County Jail awaiting trial. Funds were allocated to her commissary, and the housing goal was never reached. Despite this not being the ending we hoped for, it heightened public awareness of systemic flaws, invited empathy for unhoused struggles, and illuminated the difficulties unhoused people face in reentering mainstream society.
Ann still lives on the streets of Tallahassee.
"Tonight, I wanna talk about Love.
To quote bell hooks, 'Love is an Action/Never simply a Feeling.
Love as the practice of freedom. Without an ethic of love shaping our political vision and our radical aspirations, we are often seduced in one way or the other into continued allegiance to systems of domination. Imperialism. Sexism. Racism. And Classism. A culture of domination is anti-love. It requires violence to sustain itself. To choose love is to go against the prevailing values of the culture. Many people feel unable to love either themselves or others because they do not know what love is. A love ethic emphasizes the importance of service to others. Within the value system of the United States, any task or job that is related to service is devalued. Service strengthens our ability to know compassion and strengthens our insight.'
Poverty, addiction, imprisonment, and violence are poisonous flowers sprouting from the tangled weeds of injustice, anti-love, and abusive systems of power. They are interconnected. If we are to dismantle and overcome racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and sexism, we must relearn how to love radically. Everyone deserves to be loved. Everyone deserves housing, food, and access to community support. We must actively love everyone around us if we ever expect to be better. I repeat myself: Everyone deserves housing. Ann deserves housing. The people on the street that you do not know deserve housing. They deserve respect. They deserve to be seen as human beings. They deserve love. Your love is endless. You are made of love. Let it pour out of you without the need to dominate, without the need for it to be returned to you. Without the need for them to prove that they are worthy. We must ask ourselves: Do we want to live in a society that punishes and isolates individuals for struggling? We must protect each other because we're all we have.
Too often, we blame those experiencing homelessness for their situation when we should be acknowledging that our current system does not work. Most people on the street are there because they have no one to support them. They do not have a community. Even with a community, those experiencing addiction, reentry into society from incarceration, recovery from trauma...sometimes they still don't make it. Earlier this year, Keith Stafford, a houseless man and my friend, was murdered in a hate crime after the City of Tallahassee removed his only shelter. They quickly returned the shelter, still dirty and covered in stickers, despite claiming refurbishment. And as such, the City of Tallahassee is also responsible for his death. The act of the removal was an attempt to displace him. Instead, they killed him. I cannot continue this without mentioning another loss. earlier this week, Tally Community Aid lost our dear friend and activist Wes to addiction. Wes was committed to helping the houseless, providing harm reduction supplies in Tallahassee, and cared deeply for the community - which was vast - and a lot of you are here tonight. They were so full of light, and we lost them. Ultimately, it was to systemic violence and a culture that promotes anti-love. The intersections of injustice must be dismantled. We deserve better. We all deserve love. What if we started to radically love one another? What if? Tonight, Tally Community Aid is honoring Ann and securing funds to get her housing. And after she is inside, we will be supporting her every day for a year as a community."