By: Peter Kraljev, Red Phoenix Correspondent Sacramento
On Wednesday December 16 2020, 20 people and a caravan of SUVs gathered in Sacramento, California to put on a posada, a theatrical tradition popular in Latin American and other Catholic majority nations that reenacts the biblical story of the birth of Jesus. Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary are seeking shelter but all the inns are full and their inability to find shelter results in Jesus being born in a stable. As many seek shelter and face homelessness due to the pandemic and loss of income, this posada took on a particularly political character, and was different than those often put on by churches in the area at this time of year.
This event was put on by ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment) who marched this posada to the house of California assembly member Kevin McCarty who represents district 7. The goal of this demonstration was to use the story of Christmas to pressure the law maker to do more to protect renters facing evictions because of COVID job loss.
The Red Phoenix spoke with the two who portrayed Joseph and Mary, César Julián Aguirre and Tia Kilpatrick respectively. César is the Chairperson of the Sacramento chapter of ACCE and was the organizer of the action, and Tia a self-described compromised tenant who has been laid off since March. César grew up doing posadas and saw how the symbolism of a family seeking shelter applies to the current evection crisis facing the nation and since it’s the Christmas season it seemed an appropriate theme for the demonstration. “The State told us to shelter in place to reduce the spread of COVID but now people are at risk of losing their shelter because of the mass layoffs due to the COVID shut down the don’t have any income and can’t pay rent or mortgage” said César, “how can people shelter in place without shelter?”
Tia Kilpatrick, before the pandemic, was the manager of the gym in the University River Village apartment complex where she also resides. When the pandemic hit, her gym was shut down and she was laid off. Tia has had difficulty finding work as her education and training is in physical education and with all the gyms and schools closed, she has few options. She said that she had not heard of “Zoom” before the pandemic, but now it was part of her daily life as she has started and online business “Versa Indoor Cycling,” offering exercise classes through zoom. It keeps her afloat but is not a reliable source of income and significantly less than she was making before. When current eviction protections expire, Tia said, she will face homelessness.
Tia admitted to not voting for Trump or Biden as she has lost trust in both Democratic and Republican parties over how this pandemic was handled by the government. When asked to elaborate why she decided to abstain from voting, she told the Red Phoenix: “they said we had to shelter in place and couldn’t go to work or see our families but they didn’t cancel rent or give us grocery money, we still had to pay but can’t make money, now congress is giving us this insulating “stimulus,” giving million dollar bailouts to Walmart and Nike and Amazon while small busines owners get nothing and working class individuals gets $600—it’s the Democrats and Republicans, are all in the pockets of big business and sold out the rest of us the only reason I oppose the guillotine is that its too good for them”.
During the posada, McCarty did come out of his house and spoke with the demonstrators briefly. César said he was annoyed but friendly, promising that he would take heed out their points, Tia claimed he danced around the issue but she kept asking him to give a clear yes or no if he supported the proposed measures to mitigate the housing crisis. McCarty reportedly said he supports AB 15 and will vote yes and leans in favor of AB16 but wants to do more research.
This demonstration in front of Kevin McCarty’s house is not the only thing Tia and César as well as other ACCE members have been doing as they have also been leafleting other Californian Assembly members such as Ken Coolie, Richard Pan and Jim Cooper to get them to support the assembly bills AB 15 and AB 16. AB 15 will expand the eviction moratorium of AB 3088 which expires January 30 2021 and AB 16 will forgive rent and mortgage debt until the end of the lockdown.
They are hopeful that their actions will have an effect, as for them, the federal government has failed to anything substantial to help, so their main hope lies in the actions of state governments. Across the country during this holiday season, millions continue to face severe financial stress and the threat of homelessness and hunger. Tia and César, and their local grassroots organizing with the ACCE, are examples of the ways we can begin to fight back by building local community power, in juxtaposition and contradiction with impotent and corporate-centered state and national government.