THE WINTER'S JOURNEY PROJECT
The Winter’s Journey Project uses classical music to amplify the voices of mothers who have experience housing insecurity. It began as a concert, and will perhaps one day be a concert again. You can read an article about the original concert from the KQED Arts blog here.
During Covid, I decided to turn it into a documentary film/music video hybrid, which seeks to reveal the often invisible struggle of family housing instability in America through the words of mothers who have faced the struggle themselves. Their stories are supported by the music and poetry Schubert’s Winterreise, a 19th century song cycle about being cast out, heartbroken, and homeless in the dead of winter, to take us on an emotional, political, and spiritual journey to examine our society's values, morals, action and inaction on this timely issue and to raise funds to support organizations attacking the root causes of family housing instability.
It will feature interviews with mothers from across the country: urban, suburban, and rural areas, as well as performances from a diverse group of female artists.
The goals behind this project is twofold:
To deepen public understanding of the lived experience of a kind of homelessness they do not see on the street - the often invisible plight of families in transition.
Raise money for organizations that are taking steps to help end this sort of crisis. We have identified community land trusts and permanent real estate cooperatives as the lights in the darkness of this issue. These stewardship organizations make it possible for low- to mid-income families to permanently live in affordable housing while retaining their own self-determination. Under this model, families live at cost and are part of managing their own housing.
In the process of making the concert version of The Winter's Journey Project, which premiered in May of 2019, I met Jocelyn Foreman. She's the mother of five girls and a Site Coordinator for Family Engagement in Berkeley Unified School District. This means she helps children who are food-, clothing-, and housing-insecure to get what they need so they can come to school and learn. She is an expert at mapping the struggles of one family into the struggles of a community, so when she helps one, she helps many.
The interview with her was profound. I was six months pregnant with my son when we talked, and the things she told me have stuck with me to this day. Since then, we have stayed in touch and become friends.
She's struggled with housing for over 10 years. When I met her, she believed she had found stable footing. She found a house for which she was able to meet the rent every month from the income of her job at BUSD and as an elder caregiver. Little did she know that when she signed the lease, the house was in pre-foreclosure. When she got the notice on her door the following summer notifying her of the foreclosure, her world was once again unstable.
But here is where there is hope: In Oakland, four mothers occupied a vacant property that had been snapped up by a company with deep pockets, but was not being rented or sold again. It was just being left vacant, like so many other properties in Oakland, where too many people go without housing to allow for such negligence. They were activist in their occupation, calling press conferences and founding a group called Moms4Housing. It was through their activism that California SB 1079 was passed.
This law gives renters of property being sold at foreclosure auction, as well as non-profits acting on their behalf, the right to match the highest bid after the auction. If they can do that, the house is theirs. With funds raised, the house will be bought on Jocelyn's behalf by a stewardship organization like a Community Land Trust or a Permanent Real Estate Cooperative. In collaboration with the stewardship organization they can manage repairs and maintenance while continuing with Jocelyn’s regular monthly payments.
This law has not been tested, and if we can raise the funds, not only can Jocelyn have stable housing, but she will pave the way forward for the many renters who will likely be facing similar situations after the ban on rent collection due to Covid19 lifts.
I'm working with mothers throughout the Berkeley Unified School District whose lives have been moved and inspired by her work. They include an apprentice with the Sustainable Economies Law Center, who is writing a blog about the legalities of this effort, as well as the Executive Director of Berkeley Public Schools Fund, who is fiscally sponsoring the project.
Jocelyn is a powerful force when it comes to taking care of her community, and now her community has a chance to be a powerful force for her.
If you want to learn more, join me for conversations In Jocelyn's Corner - where, throughout our fundraising I will be talking to people whose lives have been affected by her work, people who can explain more about the legalities of the effort, and people who can explain more about the community housing model.
If you've heard enough and you want to donate, do it now!
Under Program/Project, click "Other" and write in "BUSD Staff Support - Jocelyn Foreman"
Or through Together Rising: https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/TRGive...