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A Housing Crisis Ain’t Nothin’ New: Connecting the Birth of Christ with the Birth of Moms4Housing

Moms4Housing West Oakland Moms House
Oakland, CA - Jan 14, 2020: Carroll Fife, ACCE Oakland Director and Dominique Walker, one of the Moms4Housing mothers addressing the crowd after the eviction. (Photo Credit: Denisha DeLane/Faith in the Bay)

Luke 2:6 – 7 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them (NIV).”

As we are not too far removed from the Christmas season, I am still reminiscent on the very coming of Christ. While I was a student at Morehouse College, I had the honor and privilege of singing with the Morehouse Glee Club, and every Christmas we had, and have, a joint Christmas Carol Concert with the Spelman College Glee Club. During my junior year, I recall singing a carol that posed a very poignant question that we often glaze over due to us romanticizing the birth, life and death of Christ. I will never forget our melodic voices inquiring, “Where will He be born? Oh, where will the Savior be born?”

That question modernized and brought into the reality of folks finding affordable housing today within the Bay Area makes me ask, where would Christ be born in 21st Century America? Where would the beloved Virgin Mary and Joseph the Carpenter be roaming around trying to escape the tyranny of an American Empire with a Trumped-out Herod? Would Christ be birthed in an overcrowded shelter or in a tent city, two entities that serve as band-aids to the chronic dis-ease of white supremacy and vulture capitalism?

[S]he wraps Christ in cloths and places him in a makeshift crate, because there was no housing available for them (McCants).”

 I wonder then, if Mary and Joseph were the only ones homeless that night? Or, how many other manger births were there before our Incarnate God? Better yet, how many vacate homes/buildings did they pass before creating space in the midst of the lowliest of animals?

This was and is the case, with Moms 4 Housing. Black mothers and children who, Divine in their own unique expressions of humanity, “were frustrated seeing house after house sit empty as they struggled to find beds for the night,” writes Sunny Dell, a guest writer for You Are Young, Broke & Beautiful. “They’d had enough, for themselves, for their children and for the countless other working homeless and nearly homeless rent-burdened locals who are being pushed aside and pushed out of cities they call home.”

Mary and Joseph, being invited into the Divine Life of God, have been given a task to birth and raise Jesus, yet even when you are birthing the Divine the realities of our toxic cultures still prevail.

Mary is the Theotokos, the “God-bearer,” and even though they are fleeing to Bethlehem to escape the tyranny of Herod, God does not deliver God-self down on a crystal pedestal or come down in carriage guarded by angels; however, God comes through the immaculate conception of a teenage girl who is struggling to find salvation herself. Yet, they are met with the struggle of fleeing to another province without universal healthcare, without designated housing for immigrants who are seeking safety and/or a new start to their life, and without other proper resources for a budding young family.

Luke 9:58 “Foxes are at home in their burrows. Birds are at home in their nests. But the Son of Man has no home (VOICE).”

Understanding the plight of Mom4Housing and diminishing down to silence this notion that they are “squatters”, Dell reminds us that “The house at 2928 Magnolia Street in West Oakland had been vacant for 18 months… The home was purchased in foreclosure just days before the two moms made the choice to occupy it. It was bought by a real estate investment firm with headquarters in Redondo Beach, with the eventual intention of flipping it for substantial profit.” This was not a family owned home but owned by a corporation.

This now prompts me to ask, as a minister of the Gospel, why aren’t or why can’t churches, faith organizations and leaders, pool their resources and income to purchase homes as well? Why haven’t churches with land and property engaged in, at minimum, conversation on how to utilize that land or property for possible solutions?

This is now the call to action for those who call themselves followers of Christ, who are serious about the work for ensuring basic rights for all of humanity. Although, God chose to come into this world meek and lowly, it was also to illuminate the immorality and inhumanity of an Empire mindset and imperialist thinking. To illuminate a corrupt government that segregates housing through policy making and legislation.

This housing crisis ain’t nothing new and to be silent is to be complicit and anti-Christian. Let us speak up and remember the call of Christ and our commitment to each other as brothers and sisters of the human race.

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