Rev. Jesse Jackson Puts Face on Foreclosures

Denise Rolark-Barnes | 1/20/2010, 12:25 p.m.

Calls for Mass Action in County Hit the Hardest

Angela Walker is about to lose her home. A job-related injury she suffered in 2006 ignited a firestorm of legal battles and growing debt that now has the Prince George€s County resident facing a €giant€ she never expected, the imminent threat of losing her home to foreclosure.

Walker, 49, is a single mother, who lives with her daughter, Nazarin, 11, in a three-bedroom townhouse in Suitland, Md. Before her injury, Walker worked as a corrections officer with the Prince George€s Department of Corrections. Litigation involving her eligibility for disability insurance has dragged on for so long that she now joins hundreds of residents in Prince George€s County who face the highest foreclosure rate than any other county in Maryland. Yet, Walker represents the lone face of those who, for a host of reasons, remain silent and fail to seek help until it is too late.

€We have to put a face to this crisis,€ said Rev. Jesse Jackson, chairman of Rainbow Push Coalition. Jackson held a press conference recently in front of Walker€s home to bring attention to banking institutions that benefited from the Wall Street bailouts but aren€t moving quickly enough to bailout homeowners who are at-risk of losing their homes.

€This is the new face of poverty,€ Jackson said. €We€re seeing people in the food lines who had a job and a home three months ago. We need to call for a moratorium on foreclosures and demand the banks begin to restructure these loans.€

Jackson and Walker were joined by state and county elected officials, along with Rev. Grainger Browning, pastor of Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington, Md. In December, Jackson met at Ebenezer with homeowners and ministers of churches that are also being affected by the financial crisis.

Browning said while his church had never missed a mortgage payment, the lender issued a demand to place $750,000 in reserve, which placed an enormous hardship on his 10,000-member congregation.

€We were able to raise $500,000 in three months,€ Browning said, but he also gave credit to Jackson who helped the situation by acquiring some leniency from the bank.

The Maryland Black Mayors organization has reached out for help for families whose homes are at-risk of foreclosure. Colmar Manor Mayor Diana Ferrell, who chairs a committee to address the foreclosure crisis, said the organization signed a memorandum of understanding with Homefree USA that has resulted in saving nearly 250 homes.

Marcie Griffith, of Homefree USA, also joined Jackson and others who later sat in Walker€s dining room to outline approaches to the problem. Griffith said it can take up to nine month to have a loan restructured and that the process is a difficult one for a homeowner to undergo alone.

€It€s a frustrating situation,€ Griffith said. €Hold on. Things are much better than they were last year. But, don€t walk away from your home. Please don€t do that!€
Jackson is calling for mass demonstrations to help bring those who are €too embarrassed€ to ask for help.

€Many of these are working people who are caught up in this problem through no fault of their own. We are going to organize because it is now time to fight back,€ he said.
Walker said her home was on the brink of foreclosure last May, but a tax payment allowed her to pay enough to avoid losing her home. She has since received another letter from her lender, but this time she is getting an assist from Jackson. Soon she will fill out papers to modify her loan which requires a decision from Prince George€s County on her appeal for disability compensation, her pension or a job.

€I have gone through slaying many a giant,€ Walker said.

€God has kept me in his hands and sustained me through these times. Until they lower the mortgage and I get some closure in my financial situation, I€m doing what I need to do and being patient. I€m believing that God is going to work this out for my good,€ she said.