Outside of the Dime Building, about two dozen people stood shivering and holding signs reading, STOP THE EVICTION OF THE GARRETT FAMILY. Inside, Bertha was camped out on the ninth floor, waiting to speak to a representative about her mortgage contract. She had leverage now; a crowd of protesters had just turned away the city’s dumpster and halted the bank’s intended eviction. Yet the secretary informed Bertha that she would not be allowed in. No one was available to see her today. From the hallway, the little office looked about as far away from the center of global capital as one could get, but Bertha realized that it still operated under the same rules of exclusion and faceless bureaucracy.
“I watched the men go in and out, and I just thought: Well, if I can’t go in, then they can’t come out,” she said.
With that thought in her mind, sixty-five-year-old Bertha Garrett, decked out in her elegant winter coat and cream-colored fur hat, lay down in front of the door to the office of the Bank of New York Mellon Corporation in the Financial District of Detroit, and she refused to move.The selection is excerpted from Laura Gottesdiener's "A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home," published tomorrow. The book follows four individual households, including Mrs. Garrett's on the East Side of Detroit, as they fought to keep their homes through the economic crisis.