November 15, 2021 Dena Jensen
Bellingham City Council held their November 15, 2021 Special Meeting – Public Comment session tonight. These sessions are not recorded. I have been trying to record each of them, myself, so I have a record of what our community members want their representatives to know. And I keep and submit a written copy of my comments via EngageBellingham, because over half of Council Members do not attend the public comment session each week that they occur, so they apparently never get to hear what has been said.
Below is my testimony from the public comment session that took place on the date after Whatcom County issued a proclamation of emergency due to flooding from the heavy and prolonged rains.
Dena Jensen, Birch Bay. Good evening Council Members and community members. Tonight I acknowledge that I am residing on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Lummi, Nooksack, Samish and Semiahmoo peoples. I acknowledge them as the original inhabitants of this land with which they have an ongoing relationship, and as those whose access to these lands we must work to return and nurture.
Related to this land acknowledgement, how can we begin to restore access and well-being for these lands to original peoples if we are making it impossible for some of them to have a strong chance at just surviving here?
November 10, 2021 marked the one-year anniversary of tents showing up on Bellingham City Hall lawn in 2020, launching the occupied protest against inadequate housing and sheltering options locally, which would become known as Camp 210. Just over a year later, on November 12, 2021 POOR Magazine’s poverty scholars [Poverty Skolaz] took on the struggle of journeying to lands in so-called Bellingham.
At a poetry event that night one of the scholars said: “Most of you know that we’re from occupied Huichin. That’s Oakland. It’s very hard for us poverty scholars to travel. We be hurtin’ each other and ourselves and our hurtin’ bodies all the time. We travel only and always to share medicine like this in a time where mama earth is under so much pain.”
The delegation of scholars headed out in the rain here in occupied Lummi and Nooksack lands, early in the day on the 12th. Videos were posted bearing witness to the voices of those trying to live out in the persistent rain, who wanted to talk.
Last Monday City of Bellingham staff took the position that no government-run shelters would be planned for or run, no matter how bad the weather. The County Health Department has echoed this position. You must work together to override this and stop discriminating against certain members of our houseless population that are disproportionately Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
I call on you to set up warming shelters that Bellingham residents can get to. When the Depot Market warming shelter was open last winter, during that stretch of below 25 degree nights, at least three people who were trespassed from Base Camp were taken or referred to the warming shelter and one person, intended to be trespassed, was retained there because staff feared they would not survive outside.
Please, welcome and work with your community members instead of discrediting them, resisting them, and discouraging against their help. Insist that CDC guidance in regard to encampments is followed and maintained until we all have provided shelter and housing. Thank you.
“Tiny (aka Lisa Gray-Garcia) is a formerly unhoused, incarcerated poverty scholar, revolutionary journalist, lecturer, poet, visionary, teacher and single mama of Tiburcio, daughter of a houseless, disabled mama Dee, and the co–founder of POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE/PoorNewsNetwork.”
Link to a Facebook video of the November 12, Po Poets Project performance and reading of Homefulness Handbook, The Sidewalk Motel, Making of Aunti and other new books from poorpress.net, at Flow Shala, 203 West Chestnut St. Bellingham, Washington: https://www.facebook.com/povertyskola/videos/577119493346413
Link to the POOR Magazine website: http://www.poormagazine.org
Link to the Homefullness Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Homefulness-120783441294193
Link to HOMEFULNESS – a poor people-led solution to Homelessness on the POOR Magazine website: http://www.poormagazine.org/homefulness
You can order an ebook copy of the Homefullness Handbook here: https://www.poorpress.net/product-page/ebook-the-homefulness-handbook
You can order a physical copy of the Homefullness Handbook here: https://www.poorpress.net/product-page/physical-the-homefulness-handbook
From the handbook description: “This book is the journey and the how-to of the powerFULL poverty skolaz and ancestors of POOR Magazine spiritually and legally unselling Mama Earth and building the vision that is Homefulness. This books takes you through the unfolding in real time, with all the hard parts, gray areas, and UnClarity that MamaFestation means in a stolen land of lies”