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VICTORY: With Support of Thousands, Occupy Nashville Saves 78-Year-Old Civil Rights Activist's Home

OccupyOurHomes on February 14, 2012

Buoyed by overwhelming support from the community of Middle Tennessee and around the world, Occupy Nashville has saved grandmother Helen Bailey’s home from foreclosure.

Now Bailey, 78, will be able to stay in her Nashville home until she dies.

Bailey wanted nothing more than to live out her years among her neighbors, just two doors down from the church she loves.

“I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders," Bailey said. "I love my home and my community and I am so blessed to be able to stay here. I am thankful for the support of my neighbors and the nation."

The terms of the agreement from her mortgage-holder, JPMorgan Chase, are sealed, but previous settlement attempts involved a reverse mortgage that would let the new lender sell her home when she dies.

Bailey’s situation became a national news story last week when Occupy Nashville and Change.org (a social petitioning website) issued a joint press release.

“Change.org recognized our petition as representative of a wider issue: in these cynical times, who is still naïve or belligerent enough to expect a corporation to walk its own talk?” said Johanne Greenwood, one of Occupy Nashville’s campaigners.

"It's incredibly exciting to see how Ms. Bailey has successfully saved her home. Over 79,000 people were moved by her story and showed their support by petitioning Chase," said Tim Newman, senior organizer at Change.org. "By connecting with other concerned individuals through Change.org, Ms. Bailey gained the support of prominent civil rights advocates like Cornel West. Her victory is a testament to how regular people can create change in their communities using the power of the internet."

Chase Exploits Memory of Martin Luther King

Chase’s website prominently featured their involvement with the King Center in Atlanta as an example of their commitment to social values. Chase provided a team to digitize King’s historic documents for online access.

Chase claimed “we try to help every community in every way possible” and "[we] support Dr. King's legacy… the values he espoused are the values that JPMorgan Chase also tries to stand for around the world."

Activists pointed to the travesty of Chase’s attempts to foreclose on Bailey, a former civil rights activist, while asserting the values of Martin Luther King. The occupiers argued that King would never have represented a bank playing in the “poverty industry” of payday loans at 400 percent interest, illegal foreclosure, fraud, and predatory lending to African American communities.

“It’s preposterous for Chase to dress in King’s clothes and lecture us on social justice,” Johanne Greenwood said in The Tennessean newspaper. “It’s one thing to say ‘business is business.’ It’s another entirely to buy an icon to camouflage predatory lending and community destruction.”

“We were criticized for our tactics,” Greenwood said later. “It’s been said that we should have been fundraising. But we’ve been clear from the beginning – this is activism, not charity.”

“In a world where the Mortgage Bankers Association can strategically default on their DC headquarters to the tune of $30 million; where Chase got $25 billion of bailout funds; where Helen paid over market rate; where she was so close to getting her reverse mortgage; the right thing to do in her case was to settle. Especially if you’re comparing yourself to Martin Luther King!”

More in Store

Even though they are planning a celebration at Ms. Bailey’s home, the occupiers aren’t resting on their laurels.

Occupy Nashville vowed to keep campaigning on housing-related issues. The group said it was exploring working with other groups to:

• Establish an affordable-housing trust;
• Provide meaningful housing to an estimated 4,000 unhoused people in Nashville;
• Educate tenants about their rights;
• Publicise the ongoing effects of the subprime lending fiasco and campaign for policy solutions;
• Empower individuals to organize themselves to prevent their own foreclosures and evictions;
• Continue to defend families against foreclosures.

 

Protesters Acknowledge the Thousands Who’ve Helped

Occupy Nashville thanks the thousands who helped propel Ms. Bailey’s story to the national spotlight by signing our petition, taking part in actions and writing about this case in newspapers, blogs and social media. They thank the many civil rights activists who took a stand for their sister in the struggle.

The protesters also thank Change.org for providing a platform to make social change possible.