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Living in a strange time

November 2, 2021

“We’re living in a strange time / working for a strange goal / we’re turning flesh and body / into soul.” – The Waterboys

Perhaps I have different attachment to home than others, perhaps because I grew up on a farm, deeply connected to a piece of land, that shaped how I see the world: in our lives, in our struggles and our loves, in our kitchens and in our bedrooms, in our streets and our parks, in our cities and our neighborhoods, we are cultivating, we are building culture, we are filling place with spirit – and that is not something to be bought off.

For artists, our homes are often our work, our manifestation of spirit in concrete reality. It’s not surprising that we are often the ones who throw ourselves into the fight, into protecting this manifestation of soul, our homes.

My family is facing an “Owner Move-In Eviction,” after twenty-three years living in my home. The new owners, Peter Omran, Tanya Omran and Tatiana Omran saw our home and purchased it for Tatiana to live in.

Photograph of eviction notices tapes to front door of Fernando Martí's apartment
What I saw when I got home: 60-day eviction notices taped to the front door of my apartment

To protest is to perform presence and resistance: intentional, meant to be seen by the world, an extension of our daily rituals and collective rites into the public sphere of the political. It is what we do as artists, turn our sufferings and oppressions into performance, in the hope of connecting, perhaps with our oppressors as much as with our allies, on a ground of commonality. Or, if not, to at least bear witness, that some do not go silently, that these daily acts of internal colonialism must be exposed, laid bare, and challenged.

Our fight isn’t just about the spirit of this particular apartment (though it is that, too). It is about the work of laying roots, of building community. Whatever success I have had so far as an artist and writer and activist, beyond what skills and intention I’ve brought to the work, has been from the years of building relationships, of friendships and community, opening spaces and spoken word events, galleries and cafés, the people you run into on the street, the sunrise ceremonies at Hummingbird Farm, the installations at Acción Latina, pulling prints at Mission Gráfica. Those relationships exist not just in abstractions, but in concrete, lived space. That is what they want to take away.

Perhaps someday I’ll be ready to leave all this, start fresh somewhere else. But not yet. I haven’t given this city all I’ve got to give it, and it still has much to give me. That is why we fight.

For our right to the city. For our work, of turning matter into spirit.

Photograph of living room with home altar, art, and books

Housing & Cities

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