Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Coverage of City Attempts to Raid

Here is some local media coverage of the city of Miami's attempt to pass a law which will enable them to raid the Umoja Village Shantytown. The ordinance would declare that there can be no "assembly" on any public property, including vacant lots. That means that if you are going to the store with a friend, and you cut across a vacant lot, which is publicly owned, the police can declare your trip an "assembly" and arrest you for not having a permit.

Miami Herald


Friday, December 15, 2006

How to stop the raid

Here is what you can do to stop the raid:

The city of Miami commission will vote in January, at the second reading, on a new law to make it illegal for people to "assemble" on vacant lots without a permit from the police. There are already laws against tresspassing, etc. The ordinance is clearly and openly designed to set the stage for an attack on the shantytown.

Please call, fax and email city of Miami officials and tell them to vote against the anti-shantytown law. Tell them the shantytown is needed because there is no low income housing in Miami and the city should build some. Most of all, tell them not to raid the Umoja Village Shantytown.

Mayor Manny Diaz (tell him to veto the anti-shantytown law)
phone: 305-250-5300
fax: 305-854-4001
email: mannydiaz@ci.miami.fl.us

District 5 Commissioner Michelle Spence Jones
phone: 305-250-5390
fax: 305-250-5399
email: mspence@ci.miami.fl.us

District 1 Commissioner Angel Gonzalez
phone: 305-250-5430
email: agonzalez@ci.miami.fl.us

District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff
phone: 305-250-5333
email: msarnoff@miamigov.com

District 3 Commissioner Joe Sanchez
phone: 305-250-5380
fax: 305-250-5386
email: jsanchez@ci.miami.fl.us

District 4 Commissioner Tomas Regalado
phone: 305-250-5420
email: tr.ci.miami.fl.us

City Plans to Raid Umoja Village

The city of Miami laid bare its plan to raid the Umoja Village Shantytown during its commission meeting on Thursday, December 14, 2006. The city attorney introduced an "emergency ordinance"- which did not appear on the agenda, making it impossible for community residents to organize a response- to change the definition of public land, laying the groundwork for the future raid.

The passed ordinance essentially alters "exempt public property" definitions. Specifically, the public has a right to assemble or walk through public property, except for exempt property. Exempt property includes city hall, fire stations, police stations and hospitals. The new ordinance adds vacant lots owned by the city to that list. This is totally brainless.

Worse still, District 5 Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones is slandering the residents of Umoja Village. In spite of the fact that she has not even been to the shantytown in her district, she claims the place is full of drug users and potential child molesters. For the record, the homes and apartments around us send their children to the site virtually every afternoon for after school snacks and play time.

While Spence-Jones claims that Take Back the Land is "less concerned with solving homelessness than they are with making a political statement." For the record, Spence-Jones, a sitting elected official who oversees the poorest district in one of the poorest cities in the US, has so far proposed exactly ZERO dollars and ZERO cents in government subsidies for new homes for the poor or homeless.

Spence-Jones has, however, pushed and voted for millions in subsidies for the Crosswinds project, a multi-million dollar project which features one bedroom condos for $300,000 each. She has the nerve to say 'Please do not use the backs of my people and my community to make a point.'

Well, commissioner, we have a message for you: stop using the backs of our people to make a fortune from your rich developer friends. Here is another message: build housing for low income people. Here is a third: stop lying. Don't run for office saying you are going to vote against Crosswinds only to vote for it once you get in office.

The truth is, Manny Diaz is the commissioner for District 5, he just lets Michelle Spence-Jones vote once in a while. Diaz wants to move all of the poor out of Miami and provide subsidies for wealthy developers. That agenda is gentrifying the Black community and hurting the poor.

Take Back the Land is doing the city's job and the city hates it. Now they are planning to raid us.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Umoja Village on YouTube.com

Take Back the Land and Umoja Village are featured on several documentaries on YouTube.com. Here are a few:

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Umoja Village Full to Capacity


After just one month and four days, the Take Back the Land Umoja Village Shantytown is built and occupied to full capacity. We have no more land on which to build and we have already turned away no less than three (3) homeless people looking for permanent shelter.

The Umoja Village Shantytown houses approximately 35 full time residents who, otherwise, would have no where to live. These are people who CHOOSE to live in a wooden structure and work for free building and maintaining a shantytown in the United States. We have no more land onto which we can safely build on our side of the lot.

This turn of events is important because it shows the critical need in South Florida for low-income housing and the extent to which local governments are unresponsive to the needs of the people. The needs of each and every developer are met upon arrival, yet the needs of the poor- especially in the Black community- languish.

This does not mean we do not need your support- in fact, quite the opposite. We ask people of good conscience to do one or more of the following:

VISIT THE UMOJA VILLAGE SHANTYTOWN. Come see what has been built and feel the love and buy in of the residents. Make the Umoja Village a permanent part of Miami by visiting and granting us legitimacy.

MAKE A CASH DONATION. We have several things we need to build and purchase on the lot besides additional units. You can make that happen by making a cash donation. Donate via PayPal on our blog (takebacktheland.blogspot.com) or by following this link:
Take Back the Land PayPal Donation

DONATE STAPLE GOODS. We are always in need of the basics: fresh food; canned food; water; ice; hand soap; forks and knives; clothing; shoes; large garbage bags; plastic tarps; plywood and 2x4s; and anything else needed to run a city.

DONATE A BIG TICKET ITEM: We need some other items, including: twin sized mattresses; a metal shed; carpet; wooden doors; two 150 gallon water containers with spouts; a 55 gallon drum; four pop-up canopies;

TELL THE GOVERNMENT: HANDS OFF UMOJA VILLAGE. In spite of doing the government’s job for free, the city of Miami continues to send agencies and provocateurs to the shantytown in an effort to disrupt us and our neighbors. WE HAVE REASON TO BELIEVE THEY WILL RAID AND DESTROY UMOJA VILLAGE. You can stop them. Contact Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and tell him to keep his hands off of Umoja Village. You can help by:
1. Visiting Umoja Village and signing our petition.
2. Sign our on-line petition (www.ipetitions.com/petition/TakeBacktheLand/index.html).
3. Email and call Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and tell him to keep his Hands Off Umoja Village (email: mannydiaz@ci.miami.fl.us; phone: 305-250-5300).
4. Email and call Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez and tell him to keep his Hands Off Umoja Village (email: mayor@miamidade.gov; phone: 305-375-5071).
Let them know we are providing a needed service and should be left alone. If they know we have support, it decreases the chances of them attacking us.

Thank you in advance for your support.


Max Rameau
Center for Pan-African Development
Take Back the Land

Monday, November 27, 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thankstaking, er, Thanksgiving Dinner

It is that time of year again: the time to celebrate made up stories of imperialist settlers offering food to the Natives they had not yet killed. We call it Thanksgiving, but it was Thanks-taking for the pilgrims.

In spite of the shady pedigree, the Umoja Village Shantytown is planning a full dinner for our residents and neighbors on land we took over ourselves. We have turkeys out of our collective wazoo, however, we are in need of some contributions from you.

If the spirit moves you, we need the following items for Thursday, November 23, 2006:

- Money. Cash, check and paypal contributions are needed to complete our meals.
- Side items (cranberry sauce; mashed potatoes; potato salad; macaroni and cheese; dessert; fresh fruits and vegetables; any side item you and your family would enjoy. Store bought items are welcome)
- Blankets. It is still very cold and we are still picking up additional guests. We need blankets.
- Drinks. Water, juice, soda and any other non-alcoholic drinks are needed.
- Paper plates, paper cups and napkins.
- Time. Spend some time serving and cleaning up.

We are eating at 3:00pm on Thursday, so drop your contribution anytime on Tuesday or before 3:00pm on Thursday. Thank you!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

UMOJA (unity) Village!

After much anticipation and debate, the Liberty City shantytown has a name: the Umoja Village.

Umoja is the Swahili word for "unity" and one of the principles of Kwanzaa. It is also the name of the Shantytown built in Liberty City.

The naming ceremony was attended by about 50 people, followed by a catered dinner. After the celebration and cleanup, residents are getting ready for bed and another potential rainstorm.

Thank you to everyone who attended the naming ceremony and to all else who sent their well wishes.

Forward from the Umoja Village.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Shanytown Naming Ceremony

Fed up with the government corruption, housing crisis and gentrification, a group of organizations and individuals took control over public land on Monday, October 23, 2006. Today, the lot on the corner of 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave. in the Liberty City Section of Miami is full of life and providing housing and food for the homeless.

Take Back the Land invites all to the Shantytown Naming Ceremony on Thursday, November 16, 2006 at 6:00PM, at the Shantytown on 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave. There will be free food and fun as we give name to the land we liberated.

Please make plans to attend.


Max Rameau

Monday, November 13, 2006

What we need- Donations List

In order to move our shantytown to the next level, there are a number of big ticket items we need to get a hold of. We will ALWAYS need the following:

- Money
- food (canned and fresh)
- dinner (cooked dinner for 25 people)
- water
- blankets
- firewood

However, there are some bigger items that we need to get out hands on, including:

- two (2) 150 gallon water containers with spouts. They cost $150 each.
- two (2) 55 gallon oil drums
- large tarps
- four (4) pop up canopies
- small metal shed for storage
- twenty (24) single sized mattresses (no boxspring, just the mattress)
- tons of nails
- plywood sheets 8 feet long
- 2 x 4 wood planks

Thank you for your donations.


We have made a great deal of progress at the shantytown. Thanks to ten (10!) volunteers from University of Miami who stayed several hours on Saturday and three who drove down from University of Florida in Gainesville (!) for the entire weekend, we were able to build out and clean up quite a bit.

As it stands, we have 12 shanties built, for a total of 23 living units, and one shanty still under construction. We also have three tents.

We have been quoting 9 - 15 residents staying per night, however, over the past four nights, we have not had less than 13 residents, and we may have risen above 15 last night, so we have to rethink our numbers.

In addition, we are almost done with our shower, the kitchen is fully functional and we have a full purpose storage room.

Thank everyone for the gifts of money, time and goods. Keep it coming because more people need shelter and food.

More pictures are coming soon!

Media Coverage

Here are links to media coverage of the Take Back the Land effort

Indy Media

Orlando Sentinel

Biscayne Boulevard Times


Max Rameau

Friday, November 03, 2006

Grand Welcoming Report

We were all concerned about the turnout for our official Grand Welcoming because it rained all day long. On top of that, we recieved a donation of a dumptruck full of mulch just a few hours before the event. So, we had to spread it all out before the event and during the rain.

All our worries were baseless. The community turned out for our Grand Welcoming. We had over 100 people show up to celebrate taking back the land and our shantytown. The residents worked hard all day long preparing the ground for guests.

The evening saw inspiring presentations by supporters, neighbors and shantytown residents alike. It was a heartwarming night.

Because we recieved support from local radio (thank you WTPS! thank you HOT105!), we attracted two more residents last night. As such, we have more residents than we have structures built. We must get more structures up quick, fast and in a hurry to keep up with the demand. The donations we have collected thus far will allow us to keep up with the demand.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Media Coverage


CBS 4 Miami Video

Miami Herald


Grand Welcoming- Everyone Invited

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:

Article and more pictures


Category305.com did a piece on the Shantytown, including some wonderful pictures. Take a look at




Sunday, October 29, 2006

Shantytown Pictures

No, Take Back the Land and the Shantytown are not some elaborate internet hoax. To prove it, and in response to overwhelming requests, here are pictures of the Liberated land. I hope you enjoy the pictures and support the cause.


Max Rameau

Saturday, October 28, 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.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006



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

Take Back the Land Announcement

The Pan-African Perspective: Take Back the Land

URGENT: Take Back the Land Needs Help


You have heard people say it and now it is being done: The Center for Pan-African Development, along 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

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