Fight From Home by Justin Ricafort

The day the pandemic became mainstream, we also got a new vocabulary. Phrases like “Social distancing”, “non-essential businesses”, “flatten the curve”, “pandemic unemployment assistance” all filled our virtual town halls. But the one that hit our house of four post-grad Asian-Americans hardest was “shelter-in-place.”
As Los Angeles’ entertainment industry shuttered overnight, our household’s collective income disappeared. How could we shelter-in-place if we didn’t know if we could even stay in our home? As content creators without massive safety nets, what could we do?


Car_Caravan_1080.jpg – A car caravan in Boyle Heights was organized to build pressure and attention for the rent crisis. Photo Credit: Timo Saarelma
Like many other twenty year old freelancers without therapists, we turned to Instagram for emotional support and found out that we weren’t alone. Unión de Vecinos, a chapter of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, was broadcasting live, doing a socially-distanced demonstration at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights right down the street. Tenants have unions? We threw a case of bottled water in the car and joined the demonstration. Soon enough we were signed up on the newsletter, group text, and sat in on the next online meeting.


City_Hall_1080.jpg – Hundreds of Los Angeles Tenants Union members converged at City Hall on April 30th for a demonstration demanding rent cancellation under the #FoodNotRent campaign. Photo Credit: Justin Ricafort
By the next week, I was scouring the internet about the city’s eviction moratorium, sitting in on Zoom calls being translated from Spanish to English, joining several committees under the #FoodNotRent campaign, motivating neighbors to keep their rent money to demand rent forgiveness, and prepared our own letter to our landlord. As a household, we were emboldened to join the fight for housing justice in our own backyard. We recognized that others’ needs for affordable housing and services are much more dire than our own.


Banner_Making_1080.jpg – The Union de Vecinos chapter’s Street Team creates banners reading ‘Comida Si, Renta No!’ (In English: ‘Food Yes, Rent No!’) Photo Caption: Justin Ricafort
Boyle Heights’ predominantly Latinx community has been fighting this fight for generations. Our household’s alliance with our neighborhood reminds me of the United Farm Workers in the 1960s and the interracial coalition between Filipinos and Mexican laborers in Delano. This struggle is interracial, long term, and worth fighting for. When we do our biweekly outreaches, flyering, and banner drops, we honor those ancestors. 
Union_de_Vecinos_1080.jpg – Union de Vecinos members organize outside the chapter’s office in Boyle Heights, lending a hand and brainstorming the next action. Photo Credit: Justin Ricafort
It feels strange to say that I’ve never felt more at home than when we could lose our own. We know we are not alone. Organizations like CCED (Chinatown Community for Equitable Development), KTownForAll, and tenants union chapters in South Central, VyBe (Vermont y Beverly), and Hollywood allowed us to get to know Los Angeles in the most important way: people fighting for the places they love and where they deserve to feel safe.
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