- Justin Ricafort
Fight From Home
Reposted from A-Doc
The day the pandemic became mainstream, we also got a new vocabulary. Phrases like “social distancing,” “non-essential businesses,” “flatten the curve,” “pandemic unemployment assistance” all filled our virtual town halls. But the one that hit our house of four post-grad Asian-Americans hardest was “shelter-in-place.”
As Los Angeles’ entertainment industry shuttered overnight, our household’s collective income disappeared. How could we shelter-in-place if we didn’t know if we could even stay in our home? As content creators without massive safety nets, what could we do?
Like many other twenty year old freelancers without therapists, we turned to Instagram for emotional support and found out that we weren’t alone. Unión de Vecinos, a chapter of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, was broadcasting live, doing a socially-distanced demonstration at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights right down the street. Tenants have unions? We threw a case of bottled water in the car and joined the demonstration. Soon enough we were signed up on the newsletter, group text, and sat in on the next online meeting.
By the next week, I was scouring the internet about the city’s eviction moratorium, sitting in on Zoom calls being translated from Spanish to English, joining several committees under the #FoodNotRent campaign, motivating neighbors to keep their rent money to demand rent forgiveness, and prepared our own letter to our landlord. As a household, we were emboldened to join the fight for housing justice in our own backyard. We recognized that others’ needs for affordable housing and services are much more dire than our own.
Boyle Heights’ predominantly Latinx community has been fighting this fight for generations. Our household’s alliance with our neighborhood reminds me of the United Farm Workers in the 1960s and the interracial coalition between Filipinos and Mexican laborers in Delano. This struggle is interracial, long term, and worth fighting for. When we do our biweekly outreaches, flyering, and banner drops, we honor those ancestors.
It feels strange to say that I’ve never felt more at home than when we could lose our own. We know we are not alone. Organizations like CCED (Chinatown Community for Equitable Development), KTownForAll, and tenants union chapters in South Central, VyBe (Vermont y Beverly), and Hollywood allowed us to get to know Los Angeles in the most important way: people fighting for the places they love and where they deserve to feel safe.
My household was on rent strike for months this year. I don’t think that the conversation of housing insecurity is talked about nearly as much as it should be. I wrote this story because opportunities to learn and uplift our communities don’t have obvious borders, and it’s difficult to be aware of these things if you don’t feel safe or supported. Going through what I did and writing this piece was a statement to myself that my community is my home, and it’s worth fighting for.
Justin Ricafort is a Filipino-American writer, filmmaker, and game designer whose work bridges community, advocacy, and modern myth making. Justin graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a Film/Media major and an Ethnic Studies minor in 2018. During college, he was a Programming Intern at Pacific Arts Movement’s San Diego Asian Film Festival and was promoted to Guest Services Assistant Coordinator. After college, Justin worked as a Production Assistant on a variety of film, television, and media productions including Disneyland’s inaugural Galaxy’s Edge launch, the Amazon web series Bulge Bracket, and several independent features in post-production. Justin is also an avid game designer, actively exploring the indie game space and lead designing "The Everyone Shares One Butt Game" board game which was nominated for IndieCade’s 2020 Virtual Anywhere and Everywhere Festival. He is also a contributing film, games, and culture writer at From the Intercom, a website covering a variety of Anglo-Asian media. In 2019, Justin was selected as part of Visual Communications’ 2020 Armed with a Camera Fellowship as one of ten Asian-American fellows set to write and direct their own short film projects.