Racism and affordable housing shortage spotlighted in Cambridge meeting

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – On September 14, the issues of race, class, and affordable housing converged in the powerful wake of an August 31 Black Lives Matter action which “condemned” Cambridge City Hall and handed “eviction notices” to every member of the City Council for their lack of substantive action on the affordable housing crisis facing working people of all backgrounds, and especially people of color.

Three of the “Cambridge 4” BLM activists and non-African American “accomplices” arrested at the City Hall action, including Mari, Drew, and Abraham, joined a meeting with members of the Committee for International Labor Defense (ILD) at the historic Center for Marxist Education in Central Square, Cambridge. The aim of the shutdown and the meeting with ILD was to bring attention to the interdependent issues of race, the lack of affordable housing, and economic oppression.

On behalf of ILD, Wadi’h Halabi welcomed everyone to the Center, giving both a historical and international context to the struggle for racial and economic justice, which he noted “always begins in the United States with the struggles of African Americans.” Halabi continued, “The ILD rose to prominence as a result of its global campaign in defense of the Scottsboro Boys in the 1930s, and we are looking to revive Labor Defense to defend the working class and oppressed peoples around the world and right here in Cambridge.”

Mari, one of BLM’s “Cambridge 4” arrested at City Hall, spoke passionately to meeting participants about her home town. “I am from North Cambridge – this is my home, and I don’t like what’s happening here. My people are forced to move out of their homes to let the wealthy move in. We shut City Hall down because we’re demanding a raise in Inclusionary Housing from 11.5 to 25 percent; we’re looking at the City Council and asking that they permit MIT to build housing for 5,500 graduate and post-graduate students, which will free up existing housing for working Cambridge families. We want the City to use free land to build stable and affordable housing units, and establish a rent-to-own program. We shut City Hall down because not a single member of the City Council signed on to our demands.”

Members of the Committee for ILD, the Communist Party USA-Boston, Black Lives Matter-Cambridge, local affordable housing advocates, labor, and students joined together at this event under the heading “Racism and Class Consciousness” to share their stories and build an alliance in response to the class war going on in Cambridge, across the country, and globally. This attack of globalized capitalism is directly responsible for skyrocketing housing costs in our cities and towns, and is supported by a system bent on making profits on economically oppressing, incarcerating, and abusing working people – especially African Americans.

Mari, Drew, and Abraham invited closer cooperation between the participants and encouraged members of ILD and other allies to follow BLM-Cambridge on Facebook for all the latest information on meetings and actions to challenge structural racism in Cambridge. BLM-Cambridge representative DiDi Delgado welcomed this coalition of students, people of color, working class folks, labor, and other progressives, to join with BLM-Cambridge in its regular Race Talks, Real Talk, Anti-Racism Workshops, and Housing Workshops.

As a part of its regular monthly meetings, ILD provides a safe space for labor, students and activists to engage in sharing information on current campaigns as well as learn from previous struggles. The educational program for September and October is focused on drawing lessons for current campaigns from International Labor Defense and the Scottsboro Case, taken from James Allen‘s memoirs.

Photo: Activists from Black Lives Matter Cambridge chained themselves to Cambridge City Hall on August 31 to bring attention to the need for affordable housing. | Black Lives Matter Cambridge


Donald Donato
Donald Donato

Donald Donato is a writer appearing in People’s World, Britain's Morning Star and the social science journal International Critical Thought (Routledge). For nearly 30 years, he has written about social and economic development as a planner, field researcher, development project manager, an adviser for research, publications, and communications, and a freelance journalist. Donato is a member of the National Writers Union-UAW Local 1981.