‘We Shall Not Be Moved': Stories Of Fighting Eviction In Boston

In 2004, Ken Tilton and his partner Frank purchased a home in Roxbury. When Frank was diagnosed two years later with stage four colon cancer, Ken couldn't keep up with the mortgage payments. (Courtesy of Kelly Creedon)

“I want you all to listen to what I’m going to say: If I don’t be able to keep this house, it’s not that I didn’t try.”

BOSTON — These are the words of 75-year-old Marshall Cooper of Dorchester.

His story of foreclosure, and his fight against eviction, is part of “We Shall Not Be Moved,” a multimedia documentary project that opens this weekend in Boston.

The project profiles six individuals or families who have gone to battle over their foreclosed homes with the help of City Life/Vida Urbana, a local housing advocacy group.

In another profile, Ken Tilton tells the story of how he came to buy a house in Roxbury in 2004, with his partner Frank:

Frank and I met probably 30 years ago, but officially got together maybe 27 years ago. We were living on Warren Square in Jamaica Plain and we decided to start looking for a house to buy. And then Frank heard about this one, in Eggleston Square, and we pulled up and I’m like, “I’m not going in,” because I hated the neighborhood.

So Frank went in and came running out — he said, “It’s perfect.” And then I kept coming back and I thought, “yeah, it is a nice house.” And then we bought it. We had two retail stores, one in Davis Square, one in Jamaica Plain on Centre Street called Pluto and then we owned a restaurant called Zon’s, which was in Hyde Square.

We had good stuff going. But it was when Frank got sick that everything changed. Like everything in my whole life went “pow.” He had colon cancer that had spread to his liver and was stage four. And at first they had told him just, you know, three months to live. But we did 15 months of chemo, trying every Monday.

That was my main concern so everything else went by the, like, wayside, I guess. It was very quick at the end, and it was over and I just had nothing. Closed both stores, I couldn’t afford this mortgage anymore. And then City Life came and they told me that my house was in foreclosure and I said, “I knew it.”

Like all of the men and women profiled in “We Shall Not Be Moved,” Tilton’s experience with foreclosure led him to get involved with City Life/Vida Urbana and help others in their battles to save their homes.

On Friday’s Morning Edition, WBUR’s Bob Oakes spoke to Kelly Creedon, the local documentarian behind the project.

“One thing that I found really interesting in recording these stories and in talking to people in the movement is how that process of telling their story publicly has become something that has allowed them to feel more empowered in their situation,” Creedon said. “And that finding their voice and telling their story publicly has allowed them to become community activists and to become people who have taken control of their situation and stood up for themselves.”

City Life/Vida Urbana supports families after foreclosure and fights displacement so that families facing eviction can stay in their homes. CL/VU’s partner organization Boston Community Capital says it has now helped about 70 families repurchase their homes and currently has offers on another 38 properties.

The opening reception for “We Shall Not Be Moved” is Saturday, Feb. 19, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Great Hall in Codman Square. The project will remain there through Feb. 26. On March 3, it will reopen at the Washington Street Art Center in Somerville.

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