Farewell Denalda

denalda-at-home

I have been at a loss for words to express my feelings about the loss from the Ghost Ship fire. Many people in our community were lost, and many of those people are friends within the artists and organizing circles that I have been involved with for many years.

I have been particularly distraught by the loss of Denalda. (https://www.facebook.com/denaldarenalda).

Denalda was a housemate, an organizer, an artist, and a friend.

When I first met Denalda she didn’t have housing. My bandmate Timm introduced me to her, and we welcomed her into our home which was a squat lacking electricity. We were basically camping together in a run-down formerly abandoned house. After looking at her Instagram I was reminded of how we used to wash clothes by hand in a wash tub basin. (https://www.instagram.com/heydenalda/) I was also reminded by our constant battle with ants invading our food supplies. I also realized that despite the adversity she was always able to find the beauty and humor that surrounded her. It made me remember her nervous smile and odd ramblings.

I remember talking to Denalda about her mysterious alter ego. I can’t remember when or if she stopped using the name Nicole during that time. However, it was clear that she was grappling with the concept of identity. She would put on a wig and embrace her alter ego. I am not sure if this alter ego was who she became as Denalda or if it was something else entirely.

Denalda blurred the lines between life and art. Her way of being, challenged ideas of social norms and the roles we are expected to fulfill in our society. There was a subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, subversiveness to her approach to life and art. I loved that about her.

After moving out Denalda moved into a squat founded during Occupy Oakland. I remember discussing with Denalda an incident where she was being harassed by partygoers in her home. Her answer to the problem was to get partially undressed, bang on pots in the kitchen, and turn the situation into a performance piece. There was a method to her madness. The unwanted guests left her home, and she was able to reclaim security for herself and others.

She fought the eviction of that space to the very end, and was the last person doing legal work and going to court.

denalda-copwatch
Denalda Observing Sheriff Posting Eviction Notice

Ultimately, the squat was evicted and at some point thereafter she became homeless. (https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/08/22/18741927.php)

Land Action had been occupying a house in West Oakland and I invited her to move in. She joined the collective with Kelly, Mikey, and Jenn. The title to the house was given to a speculator posing as a non-profit. He refused to negotiate with us to convert the house into a cooperative for the residents, and Denalda and everyone else were eventually evicted. (http://patchesoakland-blog.tumblr.com/image/53063821853) All of the members of the household struggled after that with homelessness and housing insecurity.

Before the eviction I remember Denalda showing up late to a meeting. Denalda was juggling the eviction defense with work and her music. Her life was chaotic, and rather than fight the chaos she seemed to embrace it. Everyone accepted that about her.

Eventually, Denalda found some relative housing stability by moving into a yert in the back yard of a well established communal house of artists in Oakland. Although she only lived a few blocks away we rarely spoke or saw each other after that. She reconnected with me at one point to discuss housing rights organizing she was involved with. I saw her at a house party and we discussed strategies for stabilizing housing for folks in our community. I can still see that same nervous smile. I wish I could go back to that moment and embrace her.

I never saw her perform. (http://www.introflirtmusic.com/) I will always regret that. I wanted to see that alter ego and possibly gain greater insight into her true self.

I know that recently there are many who have come to know and love Denalda. Many of you are people I don’t know or don’t know well. I would love to hear other people’s stories about Denalda.

Farewell Denalda.

Sincerely,

Steven DeCaprio

Land Action assists social justice and environmental organizers in acquiring land for the purpose of inclusive development through affordable housing, sustainable land use, and community building.

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  • Land Action is not charity.
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  • Land Action facilitates access to land resources for environmental and social justice organizers.
  • Land Action facilitates leadership among those who lack resources so that the mantle of leadership does not pass to those who benefit from inequity but rather those who struggle to overcome it.
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