An American dream denied

November 7, 2008

JOCELYN VOLTAIRE has been through an economic and emotional roller coaster over the past year.

After emigrating from Haiti with her family 45 years ago, Jocelyn came to the United States looking for a better life. She worked three jobs to put herself through college and, in 1987, was able to put $55,000 down on a house. For her, it was the American dream, raising her three children in her own home.

But recently, this dream became a nightmare. Earlier this year, Jocelyn found out her home would be foreclosed on, as she was unable to pay the skyrocketing mortgage payments. She was a victim of a predatory lending scam (by an affiliate of Goldman Sachs) that has affected millions of homeowners, especially poor people of color.

Just weeks after she received news of her foreclosure, she was informed that her oldest son, serving in the Navy, was killed in Iraq. As Jocelyn had depended on her son's income contribution to make her house payments, her situation appeared dire. October 17, the date that her home was to go on the auction block, loomed, and Jocelyn felt helpless about her ability to keep the home she had lived in for over 20 years.

While the corporate media was too busy camped out at the home of "Joe the Plumber" to pay Jocelyn Voltaire any mind, the American News Project (ANP) was one of the only media outlets to break open her story, posting a heart-wrenching video exposé on its Web site.

Two days later, a grassroots effort sprang up to help Jocelyn save her home, spearheaded by the antiwar coalition Code Pink. They were able to raise $30,000 in donations, which removed Voltaire's home off the auction block and kept Jocelyn in her home.

At a press conference on the Queens courthouse steps where the auction was to have taken place, Jocelyn said: "To all of you facing similar disaster, don't be silent, don't be ashamed. Step forward and call out for help. That's what I did, and a miracle happened. These angels came to help me. We all have to pull together and help each other."

While Jocelyn's fight to keep her home is far from over, her story should provide inspiration for working people all over who are sharing her struggle. Hers is a story that highlights the power of the people when they come together in solidarity. It is also a fierce indictment of a government that can find over $700 billion on a bailout to Wall Street, but can't find the heart to help out a hard-working woman, whose son died serving his country.

Jocelyn's story is tragic, yet not singular. She is merely a victim twice over of an economic system that cares more about the rich bankers than poor mothers. What we need is to build a movement to demand a moratorium on home foreclosures, and reparations for the victims of the housing crisis.
Jessica Hansen-Weaver, San Francisco

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