Last Thursday, I attended a rally in Watts, a small community in southern Los Angeles, sponsored by ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). The rally was held to raise awareness about the critical nature of home foreclosures in Los Angeles and to launch ACORN's Home Defender Campaign.
The campaign is designed to keep foreclosed families in their homes. ACORN implements various methods to accomplish their goal. On the one hand, you have ACORN representatives directly communicating with lenders and on the other hand you have civil disobedience - ACORN representatives and volunteers locking arms along the sidewalk to block eviction officials from entering homes slated for auction.
Despite the negative characterization ACORN received last year during the general election, ACORN has been helping moderate and low income families for more than 30 years. ACORN has over 400,000 member families organized in more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in 110 cities across the country.
Participating at the rally was comic, writer, producer, actress, and, unbeknownst to me, political activist Roseanne Barr. Below is my interview with the ACORN supporter.
Kathleen Wells: Roseanne, how did we get here? How are American citizens, all across this nation, facing unprecedented levels of home foreclosures? Who is at fault and why is this happening?
Roseanne Barr: The people at the top are to blame for their rapacious and unregulated greed. Poor people rot in jail for doing far less damage than corporate criminals at the top who are coddled after committing more far-reaching offenses.
KW: Tell us, how did you get involved with ACORN. What were some specific campaigns that you have been involved with and how do you see your role going forward?
RB: I was introduced to ACORN while I was on the road with Michael Moore during the 2004 presidential campaign.
We met with Acorn chapters in Florida, Iowa and a few other cities. My boyfriend Johnny, me and Michael Moore's whole crew helped to drive old people from the inner city to the polls in Cleveland, Ohio on a snowy, cold election day during the second election that was stolen by Bush and Cheney.
I instantly recognized the women in acorn as being the same kind of women I had been in collectives with in my younger years in Denver, Colorado. I have always been a labor activist, as was my father and his father. Even the Roseanne show was a sit-com about American Labor.
KW:Elaborate on some of the things you've seen working with ACORN?
RB:I have seen that ACORN is the lobby for people who have no lobbyists. I have seen them organize and work with people in the most economically challenged corners of this country, where people are on their last leg and pushed up against the proverbial wall.
I like the people personally because they believe there can be justice and peace, and that those values are American and moral. I helped them to raise the minimum wage across the country. They are unstoppable, because God is on their side.
I also like the way a lot of these women can bake a pie, discuss economics and transform the lives of everyone they come into contact with. Women my age are a force that is getting ready to unleash itself against evil. But, the most impressive thing is that they elected Barack H. Obama through their fantastic organizing skills and knowledge.
KW: As you know the ACORN rally was held at the home of the Beard family. They have already been foreclosed upon, despite living in their home and raising their 3 children in that home, since 1985. For the past 10 years, Mrs. Beard worked as a teacher assistant and Mr. Beard has consistently worked as a cook, for 17 years. They refinanced to make repairs to their home - repairs that had been needed since before 1985. This was their first time refinancing. Their payments shot from 1,700 a month to over 3,200 a month. What does the Beard's story say to you, Roseanne?
RB: That banks and other lenders, advertisers, real estate agents all played fast and loose and made their money up front or along the way, but at the end of the process it's the working people who are out in the cold. Now there's a trend toward blaming buyers for being irresponsible. But, those buyers were often assured that rising home prices and values would always keep them ahead of their debt load. We saw commercials all day long encouraging people to borrow against their home equity. Now the bubble equity has vanished into thin air but the crippling debt remains.
KW: Will you go as far as to participate in ACORN's method of civil disobedience? You know, the part about locking arms with family members, when eviction officials arrive. You run the risk of being arrested - how, does that sit with you?
RB: I told Bon Bon and the other ladies of my age there that if they would watch my back I would watch theirs. One old woman told me in translated Spanish that she had been arrested for political reasons in her seventies (she is in her eighties now) and that the hamburgers were good in jail, and that everyone treated her like a queen, and the jailers told her they thought it was wrong to imprison old weak women. I said I will go anywhere for a good free burger. I think women in jail would like a lot of my jokes.
KW: I'm sure you've heard that California is suffering a budget crisis. I think our deficit is at 42 billion now. However, when the Governor came into office, 6 years ago, the deficit was 4 billion. What are your thoughts about that?
RB: I do not like Arnold because he hangs out with people who steal homes from widows and orphans and then they auction it off for half its value and then turn around and sell it again for a profit on the first profit, and then complain about how unfair the widows and orphans are for wanting health care and schools and hospitals. They are sociopathic pirates like in the Disney movie.
KW: Just last Thursday and ironically, the same day as the ACORN rally, the Governor, signed a package of bills, all aimed to balance the budget by the year 2010. Along with those bills, were two other bills that call on a 90 day moratorium on home foreclosures in the state. However, the Governor hasn't signed these 2 bills yet. Your thoughts?
RB: Pick up the pen punk.