Representatives from Poor Magazine along with student allies rallied at the entrance of Broadway Hall Saturday afternoon.
With drums, incense, and calling cards in hand, members and allies of Poor Magazine, an Indigenous and working class-focused media organization based in Oakland, CA, approached the check-in desk at Broadway Residence Hall with a bold demand: the return of at least one Columbia residence hall to Morningside Heights tenants who have been displaced by University construction.
The expansion of Columbia-affiliated residential facilities into the surrounding Harlem community has invited vigorous opposition over the last several decades, most recently with the University’s choice to construct a 34-floor residence hall at a site once intended for the Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science, & Engineering, a public high school. A primary focus of the 1968 protests on campus, meanwhile, was a plan to construct a University-affiliated gymnasium in Morningside Park.
Poor Magazine co-founder Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia told Bwog that the demonstration was “not a protest” but rather “a proposal” and “a prayer,” seeking an audience with a Columbia Housing representative. Garcia described the process of displacement through University dorm construction as a “dorm industrial complex.”
The stop at Broadway Hall was part of a larger “Stolen Land Untour” around Columbia’s campus, beginning at the gates at 116th and Broadway and passing Broadway Hall before making its way to the President’s House and Wien Hall via 114th Street. Announcing the event on Twitter, Garcia wrote, “Today us poor/Houseless/swept/evicted & removed Black/Brown /Indigenous/disabled land liberators walk/pray /speak for removed /swept & stolen ancestors of eviction /politricks & homelessness & colonization.”
The “Untour” took place during the 11th annual People’s Film Festival, which opened Thursday night in Harlem and featured a short film based on Garcia’s book, When Mama and Me Lived Outside: One Family’s Journey through Homelessness.
Frances Moore, another Poor Magazine member, told Bwog that the group seeks “radical redistribution of land” and wants the University to acknowledge that “building dorms displaces people in the community.” “Wealth hoarding is a crime and causes a large amount of pain,” Moore stated. Moore and Garcia both described themselves as “poverty scholars” and have each experienced homelessness in the past.
Demonstrators also took aim at Mayor Eric Adams’ policy of clearing homeless encampments, which began earlier this year. One demonstrator remarked that the University must renegotiate its relationship with the Indigenous Lenape people. A Columbia student affiliated with the Housing Equity Project was also present in support of Poor Magazine.
Minutes after the demonstrators first appeared at Broadway, two uniformed Columbia Public Safety officers arrived on scene. After Moore reiterated the goals of the “Untour” to the officers, a sergeant, who asked not to be named, recommended that they go instead to Lerner Hall to locate a relevant University representative. The conversation was cordial and ended without escalation as the demonstrators proceeded to the next stop of the “Untour.”
Frances Moore speaking with a Public Safety officer in the Broadway Hall lobby via Author