February 2001 issue of street roots

Who We Are

by Jack Tafari

We are a little village named Dignity. We are Jamie, who at 75 years old is our elder, who formerly lived in a "cardboard condo" on Morrison Street and who now lives in the Nylon Hilton. We are John Reese, a Vietnam veteran who formerly lived under the Broadway Bridge. John lost his other leg to diabetes in October and four days later was back under the Broadway Bridge. John now lives in a comfortable nylon tent. John is our number one soldier. John has led and marshaled every one of our now world famous parades. We are mainly working homeless people, mainly of the 31% of homeless people who do not have drug and alcohol problems. We are all working for dignity. We do not allow drugs or alcohol in our camp. We look after each other. We look after ourselves. What we do is based on love and respect for ourselves and each other. We have a Port-O-Let which improves sanitation for ourselves, for other homeless people in the community and for the community as a whole. We are getting a second wheelchair-accessible Port-O-Let soon. We keep Dignity village as neat and clean as we can. When problems come up, we deal with them as best we can. We are solving our lack of housing ourselves. Our solution for the moment is called nylon and it comes in the form of tents. We are Mike Broderick who formerly lived in a doorway on Morrison Street. We are men and women, young and old, black, white, and native American. We are Jada Mae, our provisional mayor, who formerly slept on a hard mission floor but who now sleeps on a soft foamy in a tent. We are Lee and Jennifer, a family who work every day. We are Gene, who formerly lived under a tree on a freeway ramp but who now lives in a tent. We are many different creeds. We are Muslim, Rasta, Christian and atheist. We want a place in this world. We want sanction. We want a piece of land where we can build and create something truly beautiful. We have a brilliant architect. We are poor but no longer powerless. Our strength is in our unity. Our strategic and tactical brilliance is well known. We are all sons and daughters of God. We have Father God's guidancy and protection. We are Ibrahim, Lee, Tim, Jack, Virus, JP, Doug, Jennifer, Jim, Kitchen Dave, Midnight Dave, Cool T, Chocolate, Laura, Sheri, Victoria, and many more. Together we are Dignity.

We thank the stream of well-wishers who constantly drop off food and other donations at Dignity Village. We are subject to 24 hour notices asking us to leave the public land we presently live on. We travel in our famous shopping cart parades from place to place until victory comes. We have pitched the tents of Joshua and now we circle Jericho. We live lightly on the land and must be able to move quickly. We need a few more white gas lanterns, we are always trying to upgrade our tents. Coffee, sugar, a little food is always nice. We need another fire extinguisher or two. Heavy things like mattresses we politely decline. Much thanks and love to you all. Give thanks and praise to God. Selah.