Micaela Suminski: House The People

Last week I returned from spending 8 days in Kansas City, MO filming with KC Tenants. I was blown away by their work and approach. KC Tenants is energized, efficient, and inclusive in their organizing – while many leftist organizations strive to be intersectional, KC Tenants really is, organizing by and for the people most deeply affected by housing insecurity. Across my 8 days there, I interviewed upwards of 30 people for the documentary film. Each one shared their personal housing story, and the stories that I recorded ranged from extensive periods of housing precarity to intense bouts of inhumane housing conditions imposed by landlords – and everything in between. Most importantly, though, each individual’s housing story underscored the systemic conditions that create housing insecurity: a political economy that prioritizes profits over people; an austere governance system that refuses to fund social services; inadequate citywide transportation; a history of redlining, racism, white flight, and displacement; and more. However, KC Tenants remains wholeheartedly cooperative and devoted to fighting the profiteers and winning social housing for Kansas City.

I realized quickly that I wanted to spend a lot more time with KC Tenants, and that one week was far too short. The fights that KC Tenants are waging will extend for months and years to come. Their story is a crucial one to tell – so that other housing organizers can learn from and model their work in cities across the country, and so that the public can bear witness to their victories, no matter the scale. On my first day back in New York City, I was already texting with a few organizers about returning to KCMO – hopefully in September, if I can find any funding.

KC Tenants organizer “Mama Di,” aka Diane charity, a respected and hilarious woman, showing me the memorial for jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. Mama Di said Charlie would be rolling over in his grave if he knew there was a statue of him in Kansas City, because allegedly he hated it there.
Filming in the KC Tenants office.
Recording the camera settings to ensure consistent shots. Filming a whole documentary alone is really, really hard! But really, really fun – especially when you’re with a group like KC Tenants.

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