In 2019, Dominique Walker joined a group of homeless mothers as they occupied a vacant home in Oakland. The group– who called themselves Moms 4 Housing— made national headlines when sheriff’s deputies descended upon the mothers to evict and arrest them in January 2020, foreshadowing the eviction issues that dramatically surfaced during the pandemic just a few months later.
Many of these stories have sobering conclusions. Evictions affect Black women at a higher rate than any other demographic, often leaving them and their children homeless, in a dangerous, inadequate shelter system or on the streets.
But here’s how Walker, a single mother of two, defied that narrative, leading a movement for fair and affordable housing in California to make widespread, lasting change.
1. Dominique Walker began organizing at a young age
She co-founded a whole school– the School of Social Justice and Community Development– as a high school student in Oakland.
2. Walker felt the Oakland affordable housing crisis personally
The Moms 4 Housing leader graduated from Tougaloo College in Jackson, MS and then returned home to Oakland.
As she noted in a 2020 interview, “I returned home in April of 2019 to discover that in my absence my family had been displaced and, while I was college educated and fully employed, I could not find permanent housing for myself and two children. Together with several other Black mothers I co-founded Moms4housing to bring attention to the shocking number of homeless families while hundreds of corporate-owned homes lay empty.”
3. With other mothers, Walker pointed out the crisis of corporate housing
A corporate investor, Wedgewood, purchased foreclosed homes in Oakland. This was part of a growing trend of corporations buying out properties in predominantly Black neighborhoods. This activity drives up housing prices, making it harder for first-time, working-class Black buyers to afford a home.
Dominique Walker, pictured.
4. Moms 4 Housing occupied a Wedgewood-purchased home in 2019
Four mothers occupied a vacant home that Wedgewood later purchased. In an act of civil disobedience, the mothers stayed at the home despite demands from authorities to leave. The protest drew national attention to both their personal crises and the community crisis of homelessness and unaffordable housing throughout the nation.
5. Walker, along with Moms 4 Housing leader Carroll Fife, won elections…and managed to secure the home and save it for affordable housing
Through their tenacity and resistance, Moms 4 Housing pressured Wedgewood to sell the home to the Oakland Community Trust. The trust then gave the home to Moms 4 Housing. The group raised $400,000 in donations to renovate it, allowing it to serve as shelter for 5 people.
Walker ran to become a commissioner on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board in 2020…and won. She now sits on the board in a four-year term that ends in 2024.
A fellow Moms 4 Housing leader, Carroll Fife, also won a local election, becoming a Council Member for Oakland’s District 3 and authoring legislation “aimed at Oakland’s most pressing issues of stable housing, economic justice and adequate public funding.”