Queering the Land: How Queer and Trans Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color Are Fundraising for Land Justice

Large group of QTPOC gathered in front of an Oakland building

Some of the residents and members of the groups housed at the 23rd Ave Community Building. When the landlord told them she would put the building on the real estate market in 90 days unless they made an offer first, they rolled up their sleeves and raised $90,000 from 600 people to #Liberate23rdAve—as a queer and trans people of color-centered hybrid residential commercial land trust. Photo by Luba Yusim

March 21, 2018

23rd Ave Community Building, Oakland, Calif.
For two decades, the 23rd Ave Community Building in East Oak-land’s Lower San Antonio district has been a haven for low-income and immigrant trans, NB, and queer POC. Shortly before Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, the building’s commercial and residential tenants got an alarming email from the landlord: Their building would be put up for sale if the current renters couldn’t put in a high enough bid.

The sale of the 23rd Ave Building stood to displace grassroots POC and QTPOC-led organizations, including a community bike shop run by Cycles of Change; Liberating Ourselves Locally, a POC-led maker/hacker space; Peacock Rebellion, a QTPOC arts and healing institute; Shaolin Life, a martial arts and self-defense studio; and Sustaining Ourselves Locally, a QTPOC collectively-run house and community garden.

These tenants immediately jumped into action upon receiving their landlord’s email. With buy-in from the rest of the building, a core group of six organizers started a YouCaring crowdfunding page entitled “Liberate the 23rd Ave Community Building” with the goal of raising $75,000 by May 1 to put down an offer on the building. Their fundraising video ended up going viral, garnering them donations from around the world.

The group exceeded their goal, purchasing the building in partnership with the Oakland Community Land Trust (CLT) this past November. The land underneath the building will be owned by the CLT in perpetuity, with the goal of tenants buying the building from the trust within the next 15 years.

In the meantime, they’ve negotiated five-year leases with the CLT, with options to renew for up to two more five-year terms, all with stabilized rents. Their ultimate objective is for the 23rd Ave Building to be in the hands of POC and QTBIPOC individuals and organizations forever.

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