Rochester Black Land and Liberation Initiative

Written by the Rochester Black Land and Liberation Initiative

Liz McGriff of Rochester is taking the Black Land and Liberation Initiative national day of action local!

40 Acres. 40 Cities. One Day.


Support Liz McGriff as she takes part in a nation-wide day of action led by the Black Land and Liberation Initiative on June 19th (Juneteenth) 2017. This local peaceful action starts in the parking lot at East High on June 19th at 5:30 PM.  Liz will then lead a walk to her home (618 Cedarwood Terrace) in order to re-occupy her home.  The Black Land and Liberation national day of action is happening in 40 other cities across the nation.  The difference for Liz is that she already reoccupied her home after being evicted…twice!  She has the courage to fight for her home and has spent the last few years helping other local residents fight for their homes. She is calling on all her brothers and sister (especially her black brothers and sisters!) to walk alongside her as she continues the struggle to fight an eviction from MidFirst Bank, a bank based in Oklahoma City with no ties to the Rochester community.  Make our voices heard and meet her at 5:30 PM on Monday June 19th in the parking lot at East High School. 40 Acres. 40 Cities…including Rochester!

Liz’ Story: Liz McGriff purchased a three-bedroom colonial at 618 Cedarwood Terrace back in 2001. She paid $56,550 via a Federal Housing Authority mortgage loan. Her payments were $636 a month, payments she made diligently up until she hit financial troubles during the nation’s economic downturn in the late 2000s. And still, she made payments when she could while she sought a mortgage modification. In total, she estimates, she made more than 13 years of payments totaling nearly $100,000.

Liz’ requests for modifications were denied, and lender MidFirst Bank foreclosed for the first time in April 2014.  Liz was evicted in April, 2015. When authorities came unannounced to remover her they were met with resistance.  The police and the MidFirst Bank backed down because of public outrage.  According to bank documents supplied by Take Back the Land, the lender has told McGriff it is preparing to convey the property to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (and collect FHA mortgage insurance on the property). But, the lender offered McGriff the opportunity to buy back the house — assessed at $73,000 — for no less than $129,720.45.  The house was eventually conveyed back to HUD in June 2016 where they informed her she could stay in the house until they completed an investigation.  To date, Liz has not seen the results of their investigation.  In January 2017, HUD conveyed her home back to MidFirst.  MidFirst and the City Roots Community Land Trust of Rochester negotiated to purchase the home.  MidFirst denied both offers and has begun the process of evicting her. She is to appear in court on June 20, 2017 to fight for her home.

Questions for the Rochester Black Land and Liberation Initiative? or call (585) 653-8362

More about Black Land & Liberation!

The Black Land and Liberation Initiative is a vision, strategy and training program grounded in black liberation and anchored by black leadership. Our aim is to develop diverse and interdependent strategies that move us away from the current extractive economy which depends on the violent enclosure of land, labor, culture, power, wealth and spirit. We are asserting the fundamental right to the resources required to create our own productive, dignified and sustainable livelihoods through our own free labor and self-governance. Key among those resources is land. We will co-create strategies for transformation which are grounded in a long-term vision, guided in the resilience, culture, and creativity of our ancestry, rooted in our sovereignty, and which we can begin putting into place NOW.

The Black Land and Liberation Initiative is anchored by BlackOut Collective, Movement Generation and a diverse cohort of Black organizers from across the country. We are working with groups of folks across the country to launch a trans-local, Black-led land reclamation and reparations initiative co-created by us and the participants. We are guided by reverence for ancestral knowledge, black love, and collective responsibility.

A Call to Reclaim!

On Juneteenth 2017 (Monday, June 19th) Black people across the country will be taking back land and reclaiming space, from vacant lots to empty school buildings. We are taking back land that should be used for the good of the people; land that has historically been denied access to Black people. Through these actions, we will confront the institutions that have been built off the extracted wealth of Black bodies and Black land and the individuals who have profited from them.

Why Land?

Land is essential in the fight for self-determination and liberation for Black folks. The Call to Reclaim is an intervention to shift the national narrative to incorporate both reparations from a land-based lens as well as to make the connections between land and liberation for Black folks. We see Black folks collectively engaging in land reclamation with the goal of shifting our relationship to the land, engaging in healing while creating hubs for movement work to be housed, cultivated and birthed. We believe Black folks, in this moment, can call on our Maroonage legacy to support the creation of Black safe spaces.

We call for a return of accumulated wealth to black people in the US and black people across the diaspora. We call for a release of stolen land. We vow to work with integrity and build partnership with those whose lands were stolen and with the land itself. We vow to continue the struggle, to build black community, institutions, and power until we are returned what is rightfully ours.

For more information visit:

Juneteenth, A Short History: Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these version could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states was in question   For whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.