Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Shantytown Grand Welcoming

You are cordially invited to the Take Back the Land Grand Welcoming celebration.

The event will be held on Thursday, November 2, 2006 beginning at 6:00pm at the Take Back the Land Shantytown, on the corner of 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave. in Liberty City.

Come experience the Power of the People as we celebrate the liberation of public land for the public good.

In response to the severe housing crisis, and the active role played by government officials in exacerbating the crisis, several organizations, led by the Center for Pan-African Development, took control of publicly owned land on NW 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave. in the Liberty City section of Miami.

Since then, we have provided food for the hungry and housing for the homeless on a daily basis.

Come meet our hard working residents, our wonderful neighbors and our dedicated volunteers as we celebrate a new way to address social issues- by solving the problem ourselves.

We look forward to seeing you there. Donations are welcome.


Max Rameau
Center for Pan-African Development

blog, petition, pictures and donations:

media coverage

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Shantytown Pix


No, Take Back the Land and the Shantytown are not an elaborate internet hoax. To prove it, here are a few pictures from the liberated land. I hope you enjoy the pictures and support the cause.

You can keep up with the progress, sign our petition and make a donation from our blog at



Max Rameau
Center for Pan-African Development

Friday, October 27, 2006

Anti-War Rally at ShantyTown




Exit I-95 at NW 62 St Exit and travel 10 blocks west- NE corner

The South Florida Peace & Justice Network's "Peace SpeakingTour" will be stopping in Liberty City this Saturday afternoon at 4PM were Carlos and Melida Arredondo will join the "Take Back The Land" squatters and protesters to demand "Money For Housing Not For War!"

We will be focusing in on the corruption that is behind both the City of Miami housing crisis and the war in Iraq and on the need to build grassroots movements that put people before profits.

Please join us and take advantage of this unique opportunity to meet with both the organizers of the Liberty City protest and the Arredondos.

Carlos Arredondo became famous as the Hollywood father who, when advised of the death in Iraq of his son, Lcpl. Alexander Arredondo USMC, responded out of anguish and grief by setting fire to a US Marine van and to himself. Melida Arredondo is Carlos' wife and stepmother to Alexander. The Arredondos began speaking about the tragedy of becoming a Gold Star Family at the one-year anniversary of Alexander's death. They have traveled throughout the US speaking in both English and Spanish and have had numerous articles written chronicling their work.

A visit from the Miami CRB

The Miami Community Relations Board (CRB) paid a little visit to the shanty town on Thursday. They came in, sat down and wanted to talk about our concerns and problems.

Several of us, including me, had no interest what-so-ever in the conversation for at least a few reasons: first, we have nothing to discuss. They know our issues and the know our only demand (Leave us Alone), and if we discuss that demand, then they will not actually be leaving us alone, now would they? And second, if we were to negotiate, they do not have the power for us to negotiate with them.

In any event, several volunteers, activists, residents and neighbors were at the site talking, so they CRB talked to them. While we missed most of the conversation, this one snippet we caught was great:

A CRB member said she wanted to address the issues because the shanty town was unsafe for adults and children. One of our neighbors from the complex behind the lot got hot under the collar quick. She said: "Unsafe? My child has been bitten several times by rats right in our apartment! The shanty town is safer than my apartment. You (the City of Miami) should shut down my apartment complex and leave the shanty town alone."

Surely the CRB members were disgusted when all involved demanded they take a tour of the dilapidated apartment complex. Of course, we all know the CRB was not there to address the issues of poverty and housing, they were there to shut down the shanty town and reclaim government land.

Nice try!

Community Support

Community support for the Take Back the Land shanty town has been incredible.

First of all, immediately behind our lot is a dilapidated apartment complex. The residents are very unhappy with the conditions of the complex and fully support our mission. On the first day, they, without being asked, took up a collection and gave us our first donation. Since then, they have helped us cook and build our housing structures.

Several individuals have offered to provide food, including two ladies who cooked twice for us, so far, in four days. They drive from downtown, past our location during rush hour traffice, get home, cook for us, then go back home for the evening.

Total strangers drive by, pull over and help carry things, donate clothing, water, food or money and lend their emotional support. Small businesses donate some of their goods to us. And one contractor stopped by with roofing materials and four roofers to make our kitchen and housing units water proof.

Each stop is a huge moral boost for our volunteers and residents who see, in a concrete manner, that we are supported by the community around us. We would not be able to do this without their support and know we are doing the right thing as we continue to recieve it.

Take Back the Land Appeal for Support


In response to a critical crisis of affordable housing for low-income and the homeless, particularly in the Black community, On October 23, 2006 at 3:00pm, a group of organizations and individuals took control of city and county owned land for the benefit of the people.

The 'Take Back the Land' movement is appealing to all people of conscience for your direct support.

The group, convened by the Center for Pan-African Development, took control of vacant land on the corner of 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave. in the Liberty City section of Miami, FL, with no permits, permissions or agreements to use the land. After a brief standoff with Miami police, officials recognized our right to public land and left us alone.

Today, the land, which stood vacant for 9 years after the demolition of a low income apartment complex, feeds people every night and houses the homeless in tents and makeshift structures built from wood and by the hands of all volunteer labor. We took control of the land because the government has been actively making matters worse, not better. Therefore, we are forced to provide for our community in a way the government is unable or unwilling to do themselves.

The powers-that-be are not pleased that a bunch of poor people and activists have taken over the land they want to develop for the benefit of the rich. We know they are planning the best way to force us off the property. We, therefore, are asking for your support in two ways:

1.       Send a Letter of Support. Sign our online petition of support, or send one of your own, to the Center for Pan-African Development, Carlos Alvarez, Mayor of Miami-Dade County and Manny Diaz, Mayor of the City of Miami. We only have one demand: Leave us alone. The government has broken enough promises and stolen enough money that we do not want their "help," we only want them to leave us alone as we help our people.

2.       Make a Donation. We are building structures, providing food, some clothing and housing to people at no charge to them with an all volunteer workforce (including the homeless and local residents). There is no other way to put this: we need your financial contribution to continue. Please, make a Paypal contribution to the cause, or mail a check direct to us.

Social movements emerge, survive, thrive and advance through the work of the community and the support of people of good conscious. We need your help now. Thank you in advance.


Max Rameau
Center for Pan-African Development




To make a donation:


To sign onto our petition of support


To send your own message in support of the 'Take Back the Land' shanty town to:

City of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz
E-mail: mannydiaz@ci.miami.fl.us
Telephone: 305-250-5300

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez
E-mail: mayor@miamidade.gov
Telephone: 305-375-5071


Media coverage

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Take Back the Land Update


We did it!

Yesterday, a group of organizations and individuals, led by the Center for Pan-African Development, successfully took over land in Liberty City.

Fed up with broken government promises and stolen money, activists and residents took over the vacant publicly owned land on 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave. in the Liberty City section of Miami. Miami police tried to evict us, but, having done our research in advance, we had lawyers tne the law on our side.

We fed over 50 people and housed about 20. Today and through the week, we will continue to build our city. Our objective is not just to make a statement, it is to directly provide housing to poor Black people, to do for our community what the government and market are unwilling and uncapable of doing.

Please show your support by coming to our shanty town any evening you can. We are also in need of donations: wood, building material, blankets, tarps, tents, food, money and your time. We must show that the concept of direct people control over land is an idea with support.

Also, review two media pieces from yesterday at:



Max Rameau
Center for Pan-African Development

Monday, October 23, 2006

URGENT: Take Back the Land Needs Support


You have heard people say it and now it is being done: The Center for Pan-African Development, together with several other dedicated organizations and individuals, have taken over a vacant parcel of publicly owned land and will build a shanty town to house the homeless.

As you are aware, South Florida has suffered under a critical shortage of affordable housing. However, instead of creating more affordable housing, local government officials have been busy decreasing the number of affordable housing units, through bad public policy, such as the HOPE VI project, which destroyed 851 units of public housing, replacing it with 80 units; and the intentional vacancies in public housing. Following a series of media reports detailing practices of stealing from the poor to deliver to the rich, county officials have given virtually nothing to the community to compensate for the lost housing, stolen money or broken trust.

The reality is this: far from providing a solution to the housing crisis, Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami officials are exacerbating the crisis. Poor Black people in need of housing are suffering disproportionately and unnecessarily, just so that a few officials and developers can line their own pockets. Therefore, the Black community can no longer depend on the government to provide basic human services for us. Consequently, we must provide it ourselves. We must 'Take Back the Land' so that we can circumvent the problem and implement our own solution.

As of 3:00pm today, Monday, October 23, 2006, we are attempting to liberate the land on the corner of 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave. in the Liberty City section of Miami, and build a shanty town to feed and house the homeless and those living in squalor.


Come out RIGHT NOW to support the drive for community control over community land. Your support could be the difference between success and failure. We need people there now to show support for this important and historic effort. Do your part to ensure this land belongs to the community, and is not given away to wealthy developers. With your support, we will be there all night, all week, all year, providing basic food and shelter for the homeless.

We need your help. Come to 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave. in Liberty City now and all of this week.


Max Rameau
Center for Pan-African Development

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Pan-African Perspective: The Housing Crisis: What Next?

The Pan-African Perspective
The Housing Crisis: What Next?

In South Florida and across the country, poor people suffer under a crisis of affordable housing. The shrinking housing stock forces people to commit desperate acts just to access decent and safe housing they can afford. The impact on the Black community is devastating, as gentrification moves us out of our long time neighborhoods to make room for wealthier, lighter people.
As the crisis worsened, instead of increasing the amount of affordable housing, local governments worked hard to decrease the number of units, directly, and intentionally, contributing to the crisis in the process. Far from being an ally in the fight for decent human housing, the government, in the pockets of wealthy developers looking to become even wealthier, made the crisis worse.

In response to the crisis, community organizations and individuals tried in vain to meaningfully impact public policy through engagement. At least since 1998, we organized residents, met with commissioners, developed alternative policies and plans, attended meetings, supported initiatives of elected officials and even protested. We addressed HOPE VI, vacancies in public housing, the destruction of rental units by the city of Miami in Liberty City, improving conditions in public and low income private housing, increasing Section 8 vouchers, increasing affordable housing, supporting small locally owned businesses and other measures designed to increase the housing stock and stop gentrification.

The activists did everything "responsible" people should: engaged decision makers with a combination of sweet talk and pressure, relying on logic, statistics and appeals of conscious, urging a public policy which benefits the common good. Running up against the interests of developers and the power of their lobbyists, the community stood no chance.

Elected officials dissed us, the media ignored us and the people suffered. Nonetheless, it cannot be said that the community did not work within the system to seek meaningful change. We tried that route, in good faith and over time. The system failed us, and, therefore, we can not rely on it to solve our most fundamental problems.

As gentrification and the housing crisis have re-emerged in public discourse, spurred by the exposure of scandal inside Miami-Dade County government, it is clear that three distinct issue areas exist:

         Corruption. Government officials and developers engage each other in immoral, unethical and illegal ways. Corruption prevents the public from getting the most for their tax money and officials from making decisions with the best interest of the people at heart. Corruption is a severe and pervasive problem in South Florida government and business life. However, it is important to recognize that corruption did not cause the shortage of affordable housing, it only exacerbated an existing crisis.

         Public Policy. Even without an ounce of corruption, there would still be a housing crisis. Government policies on affordable housing promote the interests of developers at the expense of the poor, thus advancing the crisis. For example, during the crisis, officials voted to raze 851 units of public housing, and replace it with 80 new public housing units and 450 units total, all against the wishes of the impacted community. The HOPE VI plan deliberately reduced the number of affordable housing units, granting developers millions in contracts and empowering landlords to raise rents on the shrinking affordable renting stock. This and other government policies intentionally promote the housing crisis.

         Economic and Social System. Corruption and public policy aside, the real question is this: does the economic and social system directly benefit from maintaining a permanent underclass? If so, is the system itself capable of providing that class with housing and social services? The structural issue of the relationship between poor Black people and the land they occupy, but do not own or control, is at the heart of segregation and gentrification.

The surface issues we confront are gentrification and housing, however, as the system and structural questions imply, the fundamental issues are really land and power. We must fundamentally change the power relationship between people and land in order to avoid being segregated into and gentrified out of our land, at the whim of those who benefit from our misery and the officials who do their bidding.
So, what is the next step in the fight? Historic and recent experience demonstrate that defending our community against gentrification and ensuring housing for all, demands we circumvent the powers that be and exercise direct control over land. That is the only viable option remaining.

Max Rameau
The Center for Pan-African Development

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Miami's CRA: Steal from the Poor, Give to the Rich

Miami's CRA: Steal from the Poor, Give to the Rich

It's happening again. Poor people are in need and South Florida officials are jumping into action to fund yet another public boondoggle which will do absolutely nothing to address the problem.

In the midst of a housing crisis and scandal, Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami, who both failed to find money for affordable housing, are breaking their necks to fund two big projects: parking for the performing arts center and an underground tunnel leading from I-395 directly to the Port of Miami.

The arts center, renamed the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts (CCPA), opened 20 months behind schedule and almost $200 million over budget. If that makes you happy, you will be thrilled to learn that the CCPA was built without any parking spaces. The local powers and media are so eager to open the world class arts center, that they won't even investigate an obvious scam (suggested title: 'Opera House of Lies'). After $446 million, there are no arrests, no investigations and no parking.

Separately, in 1981, Congressman Claude Pepper proposed an underground tunnel connecting the Port of Miami directly to I-395, allowing cargo trucks to avoid downtown traffic altogether. The project is now in the final planning stages, with a preliminary price tag of $1 billion. We can only hold hands and pray that this project is not managed by the same people who built the CCPA.

In spite of the County housing agency scandals and the demands of community groups for more low income housing, County Commissioners displayed no sense of shame, declining to even replace the money stolen from the affordable housing programs. In Miami, Manny Diaz trudges forth in his quest to reduce poverty by removing all poor people from the City limits, replacing them with yuppie condo dwellers.

It is in this context that Miami's Omni Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is poised to divert millions of dollars from the poor, to fund parking for wealthy patrons of the CCPA and a tunnel for the Port of Miami.

Chapter 163 of the Florida Statutes allow the creation of CRAs to alleviate "blight" and "slum" areas by redistributing property and reinvesting captured property tax increments. The law allows great flexibility, but does require the production of a Community Redevelopment Plan, whose only tangible objective is to "Provide for the development of affordable housing in the area," or "state the reason" for not doing so (F.S. 163.360 S. 2(c)).

The proposed amendment to the Omni CRA Plan describes Central Miami, identifying East Omni as one of it's wealthiest areas, with average household income at $36,547, raising obvious questions regarding its inclusion in the CRA in the first place. Just across Biscayne Blvd., the West Omni is it's second poorest community, at $14,560 per household.

Naturally, the amended plan urges building over 2,000 "moderate and upper middle" income housing units for the wealthy East Omni. However, because the poorer East Omni "shows a very low demand for new units," urges a mere 394 units there. Evidently, the East Omni is the only low income area in Miami against more affordable housing.

What planet are these people from?

Because they are not spending it on affordable housing, the CRA is being tapped for $50 million to pay for Miami's share of the Port Tunnel. Because the Port is not, technically, in the CRA district, City Commissioners, who head the agency, will redraw the CRA boundaries in order to make sure the cash grab is legal, even if not moral.

Best of all, while local governments are crying broke when asked to fund housing, the $50 million tunnel contribution is not even in the CRA Plan. Commissioners will ignore both the plan and the CRA boundaries in order to creatively finance emergency funding for a proposal which has been on the table since 1981. On a legal note, while the Statute requires a Plan, there is no language obliging the CRA to actually adhere to the plan.

The lesson here is that when politicians want to fund a project, they will find the money. Politically connected developers will get their share, a portion of which they will gladly reinvest in the elected officials who approved the expenditure in the first place.

Today, the CRA has more than $50 million earmarked for the poor, which can be used to build affordable housing. But elected officials simply do not want to build homes for poor Black people. These officials, whether through the CRA or other government agency, take money from the poor, drive it through the underground tunnel, and deliver it to the center for the performing rich.

Max Rameau
Center for Pan-African Development