Marcus Moore Oral History Interview

Picture the Homeless Oral History Project


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00:00:02 - Sound check, location, date, introductions, Marcus Moore, a long time leader of Picture the Homeless. 00:01:01 - From Brooklyn and raised in Bergen County, NJ. Returned to NY after attending 1 year of college. The only son, has a lot of sisters. Close with sisters, mom and large extended family. Major influence was his mother. When young lived in a Brooklyn brownstone with mother, sisters and uncle. His mother was always angry about vacant buildings because people should have been able to live there. Bedford Stuyvesant, people sat on stoop, neighbors knew one another.

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Segment Synopsis: Still feels connected to Brooklyn, also had family in Flatbush, Bushwick, Crown Heights and some are still there. Changes in Brooklyn include outdoor cafes and bars, a different crowd of people in Bed Stuy that he never would have seen growing up. Brownstones being named townhouses, brownstones emblematic of Brooklyn. Moved to NJ in early 1980's. Glad that he was exposed to Brooklyn and suburban New Jersey.

Subjects: Gentrification; Justice; Political Influences; Vacant Buildings

00:09:13 - Favorite childhood hobbies: he was very active in school sports and modelling, kept his grades up. 00:11:20 - Moved back to NY with uncle in Flatbush in the late '90's. His mother "cut the umbilical cord", over 21, had to learn how to be a man. In New Jersey it was hard for him to find an apartment, even with two jobs. Adjusting to living in NYC. Compares racism in New Jersey with racism in New York coming back as an adult. Suburban life impact on him. Majored in Sociology in college.

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Segment Synopsis: In NYC, able to live around people of difference cultures, get life experience and not just learn about things in books.

Subjects: Education; Police violence; Political Influences; Poverty; Racism

00:21:04 - He first heard about Picture the Homeless through a flyer in the Wards Island Men's shelter. The flyer said fight for housing and civil rights and he knew he had to check this out. The other men at the shelter didn't want to go, their only concern was getting a job. Marcus was interested in getting help to get housing. 00:23:30 - First trip to Picture the Homeless, an amazing experience, he has a job as a security guard so didn't depend on anyone to get there. Had to take a bus from Wards Island shelter to 125th, the subway to Fordham. It was a place that you really looked forward to going. 00:25:44 - Description of Picture the Homeless office when he first went. Office was in a house, had a big sign. People were there, computers and free coffee. He was working two jobs and couldn't find a decent apartment. Tired of renting rooms, an apartment for himself. He attended his first meeting and will never forget it: homeless and formerly homeless people, with pens and pads, taking notes. Impressed with their knowledge and the diversity among participants. He took to it right away.

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Segment Synopsis: He attended the housing meeting on his day off. The other shelter residents weren't interested if it didn't involve a paycheck. It was something to do besides going to work and the shelter.

Subjects: Education; Homeless stereotypes; Leadership; Organizing; Poverty; Race; The Meaning of Picture the Homeless

00:31:22 - Frank Morales, a Pastor, talking about housing meetings with local officials. The first time that he heard of people talking to politicians, they didn't even have suits, then he was also going to places and having these meetings. He was accepted, not because of what he had on, but what was coming out of his mouth, felt very comfortable on Thursdays in housing meetings, talking about imbalance and why so much vacancy, found something that he could be part of and learning at the same time.

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Subjects: Education; Leadership; Organizing; Resistance; Resistance/ Collective; The Meaning of Picture the Homeless

00:34:53 - Before Picture the Homeless, he was already videotaping at the Wards Island shelter, interviewed men at Wards Island who were experiencing hardships in shelter system at that time, felt that he had to do something, discussed length of time in the shelter system, food was sickening, showers were unsanitary, people were being neglected. He got people to talk about that, it helped him get through all of this. People coming home from prison, frustrated and mad. Parole officers dropping people off.

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Subjects: Homeless folks have skills; Leadership; Resistance; Shelter Conditions

00:39:35 - He was frustrated to hear this. Shelter residents taking pills to get housing fast, to get a diagnosis, to get a place faster. People were endangering their health to get housing. He had to be cool to analyze and watch people, and pick and choose who to conversate with. 00:43:04 - What he's learned at Picture the Homeless and what he's taught as well. Community Land Trusts, giving workshops, learned how to lobby in Albany, history of organization, public speaking, challenging stereotypes. Picture the Homeless like night school, a positive way to occupy his time. He went from sleeping on the streets to being on the Board of Directors of Picture the homeless. He's never going to stop learning.

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Keywords: Board of Directors

Subjects: Education; Leadership; Organizing; Stereotypes; The Meaning of Picture the Homeless

00:48:31 - What keeps him involved with Picture the Homeless. Devotion. People are embarrassed to be considered homeless, undomiciled. Not enough orgs that focus on homeless issues, homeless neglected all over the country. People can become homeless just like that. When you're homeless it's hard to do anything, can't concentrate on work, or concentrate on your family. Homelessness is something that people act like it doesn't exist. People are scared, but it's a reality.

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Segment Synopsis: We can talk about it and come up with solutions. That keeps me connected.

Subjects: Organizing; Stereotypes; The Meaning of Picture the Homeless

00:51:25 - How the homeless poet came into existence. Writing instructor Not for Prophet. He organized his day and week around the writing class. Each one Teach one award. The types of venues where he's performing his poetry. Uses his life experience to educate the public. Churches especially like the poem Do or Die! Poetry to fight stereotypes.

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Subjects: Art and resistance; Education; Faith Communities; Leadership; Resistance/ Individual; Self-sufficiency; Squatting/ Homesteading; Stereotypes; The Meaning of Picture the Homeless; Vacant buildings

01:07:11 - How his life experiences keeps him in the struggle. People’s stories inform his art. He stays connected so that he can keep writing new material. Things that mainstream media don't talk about. Capitalism.

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Subjects: Art and Resistance; Education; Leadership; Organizing; Stereotypes

01:10:56 - Homeless folks are his teachers, whole career influenced by homeless folks. Homeless folks getting food out of the garbage, wasteful stores throwing it away. Homeless people have always been sustainable, genius. People are starving here in your own backyard, he’s learned how to sustain himself. Homesteading, community land trusts. Being a steward. Live guerilla. Recycling, ecological engineer, he's learned to build his own economy. Maintaining himself off of the land as his ancestors did.

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Subjects: Education; Political Analysis; Poverty; Power; Resistance/ Collective; Resourcefulness; Self-Sufficiency; Solutions; Sustainablity

01:20:46 - Rome don't last forever, things got to change. He no longer has a canning route but always has his cart with him, he's always in survival mode. Today he's brought his big water jug, in his place he doesn't have running water. Canning equipment and the beauty of recycling. The economy isn't working for people like him in survival work mode, who are trying not to be the new face of homelessness.

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Subjects: Political Analysis; Poverty; Resourcefulness; Self-Sufficiency; Solutions; Survival

01:24:51 - Homesteading, and the relationship between homesteading and community land trusts, importance of cooperative living and people developing resources for themselves and their community, stewarding the land, improving the maintenance, property and the land, bringing life back into the property. Live your life in a way that isn't hurting anybody. He's been able to be sustainable occupying homes through the years while some of his peers have lived and died in institutions.

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Segment Synopsis: He's more stable that a lot of over folks in the system.

Subjects: Political analysis; Resistance/ Individual; Self-Sufficiency; Shelter Conditions; Sustainability