Commentator and community organizer Shamako Noble has lived all over the Bay Area. He sees an esculation in the number of people who no longer can afford to live in the cities they grew up in as corporations move in and increase the cost of living. He named this phenomenon “Silicon Valley Bay.”
On March 6th, 2014, Silicon Valley De-Bug, in association with SJ Zulu, CHAM (Christian Homeless Alliance Ministries), Working Partnerships and the South Bay Labor Council held an event that was centered around a music video. The video was called, “Gold Out West” by Andrew “Society” Bigelow. The song was inspired by the “March to Heal the Valley” an effort led by CHAM in late 2013 to address the growing disparity between the rich and the poor in Silicon Valley — one of the countries leaders in “economic recovery.”
Silicon Valley in itself is a telling case study. It is an orgy of monied interests represented by the negotiation taking place between technology giants, real estate moguls, speculative bankers and state interests. In many ways, it is an attempted reorganization of what we refer to as the Bay Area into a new symbolic location being referred to as the Silicon Valley Bay Area.
The struggle to hold technology companies accountable becomes clearer and clearer as organizations like CHAM and Silicon Valley De-Bug in the South Bay, and WEAP and SEIU 1021 in the East Bay and San Francisco, work to hold Goliath’s like Apple, Twitter and Goldman Sachs accountable for their tax revenue, debt schemes and direct thievery of public property. Meanwhile, San Jose, a place once known as the safest city in America is now home to the largest Tent City in the country, right up the street from Cisco and Ebay’s campuses. In a city swimming in the wealth and vision of programming moguls, people freeze to death in their cars.
In the East Bay, years of assault on the safety net and increased attacks on public workers continue to take their toll while unionized and non-unionized workers alike struggle to fight for their human rights. Last year, transportation workers took on management and money in a direct clash that resulted in the first transportation works strike in decades. And while the unfortunate and unnecessary death of two workers forced management to concede to demands, within a few weeks management was back up to their old tricks, trying to pull out of their agreement on a technicality. Meanwhile, the state legislature continues to shape a law that would not only contest transportation workers right to strike, but would make reporting “strike advocates” and trouble makers to state authorities. Meanwhile, in both Oakland and San Francisco Google, Twitter and Yahoo continue to take steps to separate their companies transportation programs from the rest of public transportation.
In San Francisco, the workers of SEIU 1021, the employees and residents of public housing, and the students, faculty and administration of community college all face the increasingly menacing and unrelenting face of the enemy of displacement. A city that used to represent the hopes and dreams of artists, students, families and immigrants alike is quickly becoming too expensive for even those making well above $100,000 a year. Over the course of this year, San Francisco will see struggles the likes of which it has never seen, and a city once held as a bastion of liberal thought and progressive politics could soon be the poster child for a West Coast city completed owned and operated by private interests.
The Bay Area, a place that gave birth to revolutionary justice movements like the Black Panthers and homes to such cultural landmarks of resistance as UC Berkley and the Mission in San Francisco, is rapidly and aggressively being transformed into the backyard and play ground of the ultra rich. And no corporate entity is innocent. Whether it is Chevron in Richmond or Twitter in San Francisco, Goldman Sachs in Oakland or Apple in the South Bay, or Google extended it’s tentacles into every corner of the “Silicon Valley Bay” — the one percent of this region have played their card. The call has been sounded, and the move towards the complete privatization of all public infrastructure has been taken.
But how will the people respond? What will be the demands of a populous watching all of what they have worked towards, or for young folks who’ve never had it, looking at a world they’ve never had access to. Do? At the forum for the release of the Gold Out West forum, Raj Jayadev of De-Bug commented, “The organizers, cultural workers, and leaders in this room are the change makers that can change the fate of Valley.” So what’s the next move?