By Kristian Davis Bailey
Last Friday in Detroit, a Black woman and her 16 year old son were evicted from their home. A Black woman and her 16 year old son were evicted by a court order presented by a Black woman bailiff and enforced by the threat of violence from an overwhelmingly Black police team. A Black woman and her 16 year old son were made homeless by a team of Black workers who tossed all their possessions into a dumpster outside while the police stood by and kept guard.
On Thursday, activists from Detroit Eviction Defense and other community supporters rallied to prevent Jennette Shannon from being kicked out of her home. They prevented the bailiff from illegally evicting Jennette.
On Friday, around 6 am, activists successfully blocked one dumpster from approaching Jennette’s home when the driver decided to leave the site after facing a blockade of cars and people. Just as this driver, left, the driver of a second dumpster almost ran protesters over while speeding down a back alley in an attempt to sneak behind protesters to evict Jennette. When activists attempted to lock down the dumpster, the driver assaulted two protesters, placing one in a chokehold and breaking another one’s leg in the process, requiring an ambulance call and emergency surgery.
The police let this driver go while threatening protesters with arrest and handing out parking tickets to people who used their cars to block the street.
The only thing that allowed a team of some 15 thugs to evict Jennette from her home was the threat of physical or gun violence if we obstructed or resisted her eviction. And it is only through physical and gun violence that the state, the real estate company, and the police have any jurisdiction over the indigenous Anishinaabe land that Jennette was being evicted from. Police and the state quite literally hold up a violent order that places property that is illegitimately held on stolen land over the basic dignity of human lives–and specifically Black lives in Detroit.
The police and workers smiled, laughed, and joked while we watched them throw a Black woman and her son out of her home. One of the movers, when asked if he felt bad about what he was doing, said “I got me a Louis [Vuitton] belt.” Jennette’s white neighbor looked on at the whole ordeal from his front porch and offered no support. He was passed out on his rocking chair by the time the police left and the house was boarded up.
The dynamics of Jennette’s eviction helped me see even more clearly the ways in which the state, the police and capitalism are fundamentally violent, colonial, and anti-Black. The eviction also heightened the contradiction that Black people are also part of repressive power systems.
As a young, Black organizer, it’s really important for me to stress one final time that almost everyone involved in evicting Jennette was Black–from the bailiff to the police to the two dump truck drivers. I write almost because the biggest culprit is Thor Real Estate LLC, whom Jennette bought her home from and whose predatory practices have now evicted her. All of the Black people used to evict Jennette worked in the service of a global real estate company that “owns property in key urban markets throughout the United States, Europe, Canada and Latin America.”
So as evictions continue in Detroit, and as Black women continue to be at the highest risk of eviction nationwide (with eviction rates for Black women on par with incarceration rates for Black men), we must understand the centrality of fighting for Black women to our liberation.