Crystal Mayberry is an 18 year old black woman, recently freed of the foster care system after almost 13 years of bouncing from home to home. Crystal was born prematurely after her pregnant mother was stabbed in the back during a robbery, both the mother and daughter survived but Crystal grew up in a home full of drugs and domestic violence. Crystal bounced around foster homes for years, she began getting in fights and at the age of 16 dropped out of high school. Crystal was temporally barred from low-income housing due to her assault charges, however her caseworker arranged for her to move into an apartment subsidized by a child welfare agency. To keep the apartment, Crystal had to find a job and steady income however she was not interested and attempted to live off of $754 monthly SSI check for Bipolar Disorder, she had also been diagnosed with Postramautic Stress Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Borderline Intellectual Functioning, and Emerging Personality Disorder Dynamics with Borderline Features. After 8 months Crystal was told to leave the apartment, she stepped into homelessness, sleeping at shelters, on the street, and with anyone who would take her in. Desperate times called for desperate measures, before meeting Arleen, Crystal had stayed a month with a woman she met on the bus. found Sherrena’s property on Thirteenth Street, and took a tour planning to rent it out as her first apartment. Crystal met Arleen and her sons who were currently living in the apartment, but had been told by Sherrena that they had a pending eviction notice and 1 day to leave the property. Seeing Arleen and her children’s struggle, Crystal extended a hand and offered to allow the family to stay until they found a new home. Sherrena had no complaints with the agreement and Arleen was shocked but incredibly grateful. A week after Crystal had moved in, Arleen began to see traces of her manic behavior. While searching for apartments, Arleen received a call from a screaming Crystal demanding they they be out of her house by that night, she mentioned something about Jori, one of Arleens sons, being disrespectful. However Arleen knew that Crystal was acting out because she was hungry, and there was no food in the house. Crystal took advice from an older woman that she had met in a group home, who she referred to as her “spiritual mother”. After a long night of Crystal spewing profanities and religious talk, she ate the food that Arleen brought home, and concluded that she could not put the family out on the street. The day after the argument Crystal met Trisha, a tenant who lived upstairs, and the two became friends. Crystal knew that Trisha was being physically abused by her boyfriend, and after hours of hearing noise from upstairs, called Sherrena, who didn’t answer. Then she called 911 multiple times. When they left, Arleen looked at Crystal and said, “You must want to lose your house”. Sherrena was contacted by the police and recommended to remove both tenants, she decided to start with Arleen. She made an agreement with the two, Arleen could stay until Thursday if Crystal agreed to move into one of Sherrena’s other properties. If she said no, Arleen had to be out the next day. However, Sherrena later decided that she was done with both Arleen and Crystal, and faxed an eviction notice to the Milwaukee PD. On Crystals eviction court papers, Shereena had written “Causes substantial disturbances with upper and lower tenants (with police involvement) and unauthorized subleasing to an evicted tenant. At the end of February, she packed her things in two clear garbage bags and left without going to court, wrongly assuming that doing so would keep her name clean. She stayed at The Lodge where she hated the food, but had a warm, clean, and free room. At The Lodge, Crystal met Vanetta Evans, another woman to fill the role of a mother figure in her life and after a week they decided to look for housing together. After trying for seventy-three places, Vanetta and Crystal were approved for a $500-a-month two-bedroom apartment. Not long after moving in, a woman Crystal and Vanetta knew from The Lodge came over, and used up all of Crystals cell-phone minutes. So Crystal threw her phone through the window. After the cops left, Vanetta used what she had saved at the shelter to fix the broken window, and told Crystal not to come back. It was the only way the landlord would allow Vanetta and her children to stay. Nuisance activity is a leading cause in eviction. Landlords pay fines for every police call made, and if the calls continue, the landlord can be charged an extensive fee or face jail time. Because of this, landlords discourage police calls and will evict tenants for doing so. Tenants either must deal with the dangerous situation themselves, or risk eviction by calling the police. After Crystal left she called social services of Vanetta. Crystal got into several conflicts with congregants, bishops, and eventually her minister. She joined a new church and continued to live on the streets and in homeless shelters. Crystal lost her SSI when she was no longer a minor, and her only source of income became food stamps. She tried selling blood, asking family members for money, and eventually turned to prostitution.
99 Homes, directed by Ramin Bahrani is a film following the life of a desperate construction worker trying make ends meet for his son and mother after they are evicted from their family home. He accepts a job with the cold and ruthless real estate broker who originally evicted them. I really enjoyed this film and was surprised to see a familiar cast including Andrew Garfield and Laura Dern. I found it very interesting that the film was set in Florida in a predominately white area, which is a perspective of the eviction crisis that we haven’t explored as much in class readings. The emphasis on the corruption and inhumanity that authority figures often display in correlation with poverty and evictions felt brutally real and honest and the film as a whole had relatable aspects and definitely left a lasting impact.
So far, I have spent around 5 hours outside of class on the writing process of this essay, however the material has never left my mind. Every homeless person and eviction notice I observe brings me back to the content of the text. If I had more time I would re-read evicted to be able to refine my acknowledgements to the text in my essay. I would also like to speak with people who have been personally effected by these issues to gain a deeper understanding of the things that I cannot relate to. A few global aspects of the text that I would like to receive feedback on are the overall organization of my thoughts and development of the ideas that I am trying to get across. A global aspect about the essay that I am confident with is my ability to think in a critical and unbiased way.
As humans we are inherently judgmental and biased, this can be related to personal choice or simply lack of education on certain topics. As I began to read the first article, “Stupid Rich Bastards” by Laurel Johnson Black, I knew that I would not be able to completely identify with the narrators perspective. By acknowledging this, I was able to make a conscious effort to be uninfluenced by my own assumptions and opinions while reading. The explanation and evidence that Black provided gave me the ability to comprehend the struggle that she was going through, and I used this comprehension in my response. While explaining her own point of view, the author simultaneously explores the views of the teachers attempting to “bridge the gap with language, and even the “stupid rich bastards” who have caused her and her family so much pain. I think that the way Black narrated her story was very interesting and I attempted to mirror the style in my response. These presumed beliefs that we all have contribute heavily to our responses and interactions with people and the world around us, one could argue that the difference between us and the “stupid rich bastards” is that they simply choose to be oblivious rather than consciously look around and attempt to make a difference in the well being of other lives. Again, this relates to our ability to process data with no biases or presumptions. I think this is particularly important when reading a narrative of someone with a life much different that your own. Sometimes you just need to listen.
In this short essay, Beverly Daniel Tatum explores the concept of identity, she supports her claims with personal experience as well as textual evidence. Tatum explains the deep connection between our internal concept of “self” and the external factors such as, people, culture, media, language, location, income, and social status. Tatum quotes psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, “the individual judges himself in the light of what he perceives to be the way in which others judge him in comparison to themselves and to a typology significant to them.” I think that this idea is still relevant today with our generations desire for instant gratification (or criticism) through social media. Another interesting point that the author brings up is the concept of dominant and subordinate groups, Dominant being the groups holding the most power and authority in society; upper class white males. Subordinate groups being categorized mostly as homeless, working class, or impoverished areas. This point brought me back to a point that author Laurel Johnson Black made in her essay, “Stupid Rich Bastards”. Black is the first in her family to leave a life of poverty and go to college; Moving into the life of the dominant groups the author expresses the way she felt ostracized from her teachers and peers. She feels guilty and embarrassed of her past, “In my conferences with teachers I sat mute, nodding weakly when it seemed called for, when their voices rose as if in a question. Whatever they suggested was right. In lectures I took notes furiously, narrative notes, full sentences, trying to get the exact words spoken by the teacher. I knew if i took down a word here and there i would have to fill in the gaps with my own words, and those words were horribly wrong. I was horribly wrong.”
In this personal essay,”Stupid Rich Bastards”, Laurel Johnson Black gives a raw and honest testimony of her life. Black is a first generation college student, leaving a life of poverty behind to pursue law. She weaves detailed wording with vivid imagery to create a truly impactful work and unique perspective of social classes on a larger scale. The author feels a sense of uselessness in being unable to help her own family climb from poverty, and I think this emotion relays to the reader. Just reading this essay, I feel disheartened at the thought of the millions of struggling families, and Black’s mother, father, sisters, and brothers. I think that one particularly interesting point that the author made was her admiration of teachers, she described them as being able to “move, with ease between my world and this other world” and “hoped they would help me do the same.” (p.55). Black expresses that in a way, the teachers attempted to bridge the gap with speech and language; to provide education and opportunity. I think that the inner turmoil in Blacks writing is another powerful asset. She finds herself questioning if she has made the right choices, feeling guilty for leaving her family behind, and an overwhelming sense of feeling “horribly wrong” (p.58). Multiple times throughout the essay, Black refers to the upper class or white collar simply as “stupid rich bastards”, I think this is a reflection of the way Black sees the world, by grouping and dehumanizing the upper class, she is able to portray the perception that she has of the people who exist outside of, and are often oblivious to the poverty and suffering in her, and so many others, lives.