SPRINGFIELD — Members of No One Leaves, one of the most active protest groups in these parts, were at it again Monday evening, taking to the streets of Springfield to rally support for a resident facing imminent eviction from her house in Pine Point. "I'm going to save my home," Deborah Graham told a group of about 40 people who turned up for a candlelight vigil and march against the bank that holds the mortgage for her Warrenton Street property. "We the people are going to stand up and tell these banks, 'Go to hell! You're not taking our homes!' " Graham said.
The Springfield mother and nurse is among the thousands of Massachusetts families who've lost homes to foreclosure as a result of the economic downturn. Graham fell behind on her mortgage in 2009 after being hospitalized for the first of many times, according to No One Leaves, the Springfield-based grassroots organization that advocates on behalf of homeowners in mortgage crisis.
The anti-foreclosure group claims Chase Bank officials have refused to work with Graham, who was pre-approved for a loan from a nonprofit bank to repurchase her home at the current market value. Chase officials couldn't be reached for comment Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday.
Hundreds of people have signed a petition demanding the bank to let Graham stay in her family's two-story, 1,500-square-foot home, which she watched get built "from the ground up," she said.
Many black and Latino families were victims of predatory lending practices that affected minorities more than white families, according to No One Leaves.
"This continued inequality in our society is a call for all of us to continue to organize and stand up for the racial, economic and social justice that Dr. King and so many others in the civil rights movement fought for," said Candejah Iyesi, a Pine Point resident and No One Leaves member.
"We're marching with thousands of other people across the country today because MLK Day is not just about remembering, it's about taking action," Ilyesi said.
The Massachusetts Legislature is expected to take up a bill that would prohibit banks from evicting former homeowners who are able and willing to pay rent after foreclosure.
"We're going to take this fight to the state and call for change at the state level," said Rose Webster Smith, another No One Leaves leader. "But in the meantime, we are going to follow Dr. King's lead and use civil disobedience to stop this eviction if necessary."