Fw: Deep Appreciation

H. C. Covington -- I CAN America (icanamerica@email.msn.com)
Wed, 27 Oct 1999 01:14:55 -0400

Hey Tom, he sounds like one of *ours* doesn't he???

Dear All,

First I want to go on record as expressing the deepest appreciation for
everyone who has helped develop this list and who contributes to it.

This is my first post...so I will introduce myself briefly and then share an
thought or two.

I am a 35 year old Jewish man currently living in Northampton, MA.  I have
been on and off the streets of America since 1991.  I was raised in Spanish
Harlem, NYC and was taught organizing from my youth by my Russian Communist
mother.  She would take me to Malcom X movies, feminist rallies, rent strike
marches...I was born to fight for justice.  ( I will share more about my
life in future posts)

My dedication to social change is deep.  And as far as I can tell one of the
most important principles that needs to be addressed is the mutuality of
oppression. What I mean by that is those who are not facing the direct
oppression (in this case those who are not homeless) I believe need to
address the extent to which homelesness is a function of their own internal

What I am trying to address is the pervasive way in which poor people in
this society are seen, even by many progressive activists, as somehow weak
or in other ways needy and not as the victims of cruel human rights
violations that the entire society is complicit in.

Again and again in my discussions with activists I find myself having to
silence my rage; control the expression of my fear.  While there are many
orgs that seem to want to end the oppression destroying my life those same
orgs are profoundly ambivalent about what role I deserve to play in that
work.  I have spent hours talking to activists at several state wide
Coalitions On Homelessnes trying to see how I can assist them in their work.
  Again and again it comes down to their fears of me.  Their discomfort with
my blunt, direct and uncompromising ideology and articulation

So...if I can wrap this up conceptually....when someone who is not homeless
and has never been homeless silences someone who has been...that is how they
become complicit in the very oppression creating the homelesness.  What I
yearn for from the depth of my soul is my allies and the allies of my
brothers and sisters on the street to reclaim enough of their courage and
love and faith and power and voice and history that they never again seek to
silence my rage but instead do what makes the most sense: express their
utter solidarity with me...with ending injustice...and appreciate me for
sharing my story, sharing my rage and my despair.

What I have learned in my rather monk like life is that the tragedy of
homelesness is not really the objective lack of four walls (although that is
obviously important) but the profound and utter dehumanization ,
invalidation and betrayl that such poverty communicates in a nation with
such wealth.  And all I am trying to address is how people can deeply assist
people with the dehumanization by validating, loving and listening to these
precious and violated brothers and sisters of mine.

I deeply appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts and am thrilled to
be part of this list and meet such good people.

Jesse Mentken