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Zora Zambezi Williams

Zora Zambezi Williams, '19

When a house can't be a home

Zora with her supervisor, Ana Granados
Zora (left) with her supervisor, Ana Granados, a fair housing advocate at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation

No water. No gas. No heat. Bedbugs. Mold. And more. When someone prevents a house from being a home, that is when the Fair Housing Advocates step in. This summer I got to play that role in the fight to preserve the sanctity of home at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A (BKA) for tenants in Brooklyn, NY.

I worked on buildings where landlords would offer buyouts to long-term residents in order to renovate and revalue old apartments to market rate tenants. People were harassed out of their homes by landlords with bogus non-payment cases, utility shut offs and refusals to address repair concerns. In one case, a tenant was harassed by the super of her building when he climbed her fire escape and tapped on her window unannounced.

Since these tenants were denied a safe home we, BKA, demonstrated on the steps of City Hall, brought cases to state court, and ultimately galvanized the tenants to organize themselves to take action against their disparate treatment. We reminded them of the power and rights that they have to keep their superiors accountable, because when a house can't be a home, there are no roots from which a seed can be grown.

Zora Williams, '19, was a 2016-17 fellowships peer advisor.
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