Thursday, August 07, 2008

Detroit Struggle Stops Eviction of Rubi Curl-Pinkins--Report From L.A. Struggle

Detroit struggle stops eviction of Rubie Curl-Pinkins

By Kris Hamel
Published Aug 3, 2008 8:15 PM

Countrywide and its parent corporation, Bank of America, were forced to back down and stop foreclosure proceedings against Detroit resident Rubie Curl-Pinkins due to a mass outcry and militant struggle.

During a July 18 demonstration outside Pinkins’ home, Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions activists, along with community members and others, stepped up the struggle to stop her eviction July 25 from the home she has owned for 45 years. This demonstration was covered widely by local media.

Pinkins, a disabled African-American senior, had her home paid off but was lured into a predatory loan from Countrywide. When her medical bills became overwhelming, she was unable to keep up with the mortgage payments, which had an interest rate of over 10 percent.

Pinkins successfully obtained a reverse mortgage to pay off the subprime loan in full, but Countrywide refused to accept payment. Her attorney, Vanessa Fluker, was able to get a court order extending the eviction date to July 25.

On July 22 the Moratorium NOW! Coalition and outraged community members took their protest to Bank of America in downtown Detroit. They refused to back down after the bank called the police, who demanded they move away from the building entrance. They chanted, “The police don’t know the law!” and “Justice for Rubie Curl-Pinkins!” as they kept up the demonstration.

During the protest, attorney Fluker and Nikki Curl, Pinkins’ daughter, went inside and demanded to speak to a Bank of America vice-president. They were immediately granted a meeting. Obviously, the vice-president was well aware of the demonstration and the bad publicity it was generating. Curl said, “I was treated like a queen” at the meeting. The vice-president promised Fluker and Curl that no eviction would take place July 25, nor the following week.

That same day, the Bank of America vice-president and the bank’s general counsel in North Carolina were bombarded with phone calls from Detroit-area attorneys demanding to know why Pinkins was being evicted.

Later that afternoon, attorneys from Trott & Trott, which represent Countrywide, called Fluker to begin negotiating a resolution. On July 25, a Wayne County Circuit Court judge entered an order to extend the redemption period and dismiss the case against Pinkins. Fluker was able to work out a settlement agreement that will allow Pinkins to pay off her loan to Countrywide.

Buoyed by this victory won from struggle, activists are planning a press conference, victory rally and celebration at the Pinkins home when the Countrywide loan is extinguished in early August.

Organizers are doubling their efforts for a moratorium to stop all foreclosures and evictions in Michigan and to keep pressure on the banks to reopen and renegotiate all predatory loans. They continue to build for the Sept. 17 march on Lansing to press for passage of SB 1306, a two-year moratorium law introduced byState Senator Hansen Clarke.

Nationwide, over two million homeowners are facing foreclosure over the next year alone.

Donations to help this struggle can be sent to Moratorium NOW! Coalition, 23 E. Adams, 4th Floor, Detroit, MI 48226. Go the coalition’s website at for more information.

Mint farmer joins moratorium struggle

At the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions meeting held on July 26 in Detroit, Linette Crosby, owner of an historic mint farm in St. Johns, Mich., came to tell her story and get involved in the struggle. St. Johns, known as “Mint City USA,” is a rural farming community 20 miles north of Lansing, the state capital.

Crosby and her brothers own a spearmint and peppermint farm that was started by their great-grandfather 95 years ago. Now the farm and their family home are in foreclosure. Their lender, Greenstone Farm Credit, has attached $30,000 in attorney fees to their mortgage.

Crosby reported that there used to be 60 mint farms in the St. Johns area, but now there are only four. Development by real estate interests is rampant in the area, including property bought by anti-union conglomerate Wal-Mart.

Ironically, the Crosby farm donates free mint compost that is used on the grounds of the state capitol building.

Crosby said she has the support of the community and plans to do outreach at the 20th Annual St. Johns Mint Festival on Aug. 8-10 to garner support for her family’s struggle against foreclosure and to popularize the growing movement in Michigan for a moratorium to stop all foreclosures and evictions. Mark Crosby, Linnette's brother is the Grand Marshall of this year’s festival. Coalition activists will join her in St. Johns for these efforts during the Mint Festival, which usually draws about 60,000 people.

—Kris Hamel
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Foreclosures, economic crisis are hot issues at forum in L.A.

By John Parker
Los Angeles
Published Aug 3, 2008 8:11 PM

An important labor-community fightback forum was held July 26 at the office of Service Employees’ Local 721 in Los Angeles. More than 150 people of many nationalities attended the forum for various reasons. Some came for information needed to immediately address their personal foreclosure crisis; others came for the free legal consultation. But what drew the biggest portion of the audience was the thirst for a fightback strategy.

The forum was organized by the Harvard Boulevard Block Association, the International Action Center and Local 721. Given the deepening economic hardships, it was not surprising that the SEIU hall was packed. On July 24, the front-page headline in the Los Angeles Times pointed to record home foreclosures and defaults–a record that had never been surpassed since those statistics had been recorded—until now.

“We’re going to build a million-person march to stop foreclosures,” said Rosie Martinez, chair of the Latino Caucus of Local 721, an 85,000-member local. Martinez also motivated a proposed Sept. 17th march on the City Council, which was part of the plan laid out by Evelyn Levings of the Harvard Boulevard Block Club. Levings read the Club’s resolution to be presented to the City Council demanding a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.

BAYAN-USA speakers Kuusela Hilo and Terrie Cervas explained how the suffering of Filipino workers, forced to migrate to the U.S. due to its neocolonialist economic policies in the Philippines, was similar to the suffering of native-born workers here. A nonprofit housing organization provided useful information on the foreclosure crisis’s effects on Los Angeles County.

Activist Jerry Goldberg of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions based in Michigan had the crowded auditorium cheering and “heated up.”

He explained how, as a lawyer, even if he won a foreclosure case every day, it would amount to only 365 saved homes a year, while the number of foreclosures in Michigan in one month alone can reach 12,000. “My individual effort is like putting my thumb in the hole of a dam to hold back the water. This is not an individual problem. It’s a social one,” Goldberg stated.

A representative from the IAC spoke on the empty solutions offered by the politicians to this economic crisis: “Governor Schwarzenegger wants to roll back all city employees’ wages—about 200,000 people—back to the minimum wage of $6.55 per hour, while gas prices soar and people already can’t pay their mortgages. It’s as if this was a Hollywood spoof about his political career, but it’s not. It’s what they have to offer as a solution–one made on our backs. Well, we’ve got another solution–that’s a moratorium—and we won’t allow business as usual until we get it.”

State Assemblypersons Mike Eng and Mike Davis both came and spoke in support of a moratorium.

Television coverage of the forum included Telemundo and Channel 4, a NBC affiliate (KNBC), along with national and local radio stations which conducted numerous interviews.

KNBC interviewed Bernice Hunt, a 48-year resident in South Central Los Angeles, who expressed the unimaginable reality of having to leave a home which held all the experiences of her family’s entire life.

Suggestions were taken from forum attendees about what demands should be made to the governor, mayor and city council. This information will be used to begin the first meeting of the newly established Labor-Community Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions that will meet at the union office.

John Parker spoke at the July 26th forum representing the International Action Center.

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