In West Baltimore, a funeral for “The American Dream”

american dream 4

Predatory lenders killed the American Dream, said the labor union and Occupy Baltimore protesters who “buried” it outside a West Baltimore Wells Fargo branch.

Photo by: Fern Shen

Carrying caskets filled with American flags and small houses, activists decrying banks’ predatory lending practices yesterday held a mock funeral in West Baltimore for “the American Dream of home ownership.”

In front of a Wells Fargo Bank branch on a stretch of North Ave. pockmarked with vacant row-homes and signs advertising foreclosure auctions, about 75 people gathered for a ceremony at times solemn and at other moments angry.

“Make Wall Street pay – move your money to a credit union,” said Mary Hill, of, one of the organizers of the protest along with Good Jobs, Better Baltimore, 1199 SEIU, 32BJ SEIU and Occupy Baltimore.

“Hey, hey, ho ho, Too Big To Fail has got to go,” they chanted. A trumpeter played “Taps” and participants threw white roses into the coffins.

“Bank of America and Wells Fargo, these businesses seemingly screw people over and get them into shady loans they can’t afford,” said Kristerfer Burnett, a community organizer for Good Jobs Better Baltimore.

Burnett said the “funeral” was the beginning of a campaign by the coalition of community organizations, unions and religious groups to persuade people to move their money  out of banks to protest the lending practices that led to the wave of foreclosures that has rocked the U. S. economy and spread misery to many home buyers.

“We want people to think when they do business with a big bank, ‘Where is that money going?'” Burnett said. “You have a checking account, you pay fees. But is that money going to finance a sub-prime loan? And a family is now homeless?”

One of those people who see themselves as foreclosure victims was on hand to talk about her experience.

Lavern Myrie said her family was convinced by a lender to buy a house in Florida with a jumbo mortgage “we were not prepared for and didn’t want. They told us we could afford more house than we knew we could.”

Lavern Myrie said she and her husband lost their Florida home to foreclosure and blames a deceptive lender. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Lavern Myrie said she and her husband lost their Florida home to foreclosure and blames a deceptive lender. (Photo by Fern Shen)

After their lender’s reassurances, they ended up with an adjustable mortgage and, after a year, their monthly mortgage payments went from $2,500 to $5,000, Myrie said. Unable to pay, the lost their house in a 2007 foreclosure and experienced the humiliation of having their belongings put out on the street. In 2010 they moved to the Baltimore area where she lives with her husband and children in a three bedroom apartment. She calls herself  “cash-poor.”

Asked what she would say to someone who asked why she didn’t see it coming, Myrie said they were not dumb, they “were deceived.” And when they asked the bank to work with them and reduce their payments, she said,they refused.

“I’m a nurse, my husband is a trauma surgeon. They mislead us,” she said. “It was a scam.”





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  • Ktrueheart

    If you have NOT taken your money out of the banks …. you’re part of the problem!  Props to Pastor Dave O. for officiating at the funeral.

    • Freddie

      What are you supposed to do with it once you withdraw it?

      • Karen Brown

        Put it in a Credit Union or a local (not ‘big’ ) Bank. It isn’t that hard to figure out which is which. Starting with when Reagan started deregulating the lending, banking, and real estate laws, and capped off by Glass-Steagall, the big banks merged and, honestly, there’s only 4 of them (Was 5 until Wachovia was consumed).  If it isn’t BoA, Chase, Wells-Fargo or Citicorp, then you’re good.

      • Keepn it Real

        Moving money can be complicated these days.  I am attaching a link to a website that offers step by step advice on how to move your money.  You can also enter your zip code to find worthy banks near you.

      • Esther

        Put the money in a credit union

  • John Stechschulte

    Heh. I used to use that bank, when it was a Wachovia, and I worked at Walbrook High School.

    At least I walked to it.

  • Unellu


    When you dream of what cannot be–
    and are convinced it can be–
    by those who know–
    what you should know even better–
    that your dream–
    is too monstrous to fit your purse–
    you should separate from your dream–
    before the charlatans–
    separate you from your purse–

    But such was the nature of dream–
    it never saw an apocalypse coming,
    or heard an avalanche on its way–
    unleashed by minor tremors–

    It presented the rosiest picture–
    of every bleak scene–it said–
    “You are an American
    and you have a right–
    to a home– a shelter–
    at night a place of return–
    should be your natural expectation–
    because the pursuit of happiness–
    is a no brainer–
    in the American fabric–
    and the pursuit of a home–
    to make your own–
    is the same as the pursuit of happiness–
    you are not complete–
    you should not be happy–
    you cannot not even be American–
    if you do not somehow–
    ultimately– own a home…”

    Such was the nature of dream–
    fed by streams of lies–
    it was a creature alive with tentacles–
    the ad men said it was possible–
    the bankers insisted it was quick–
    painless as the wink of an eye–
    the bigger the better a home–
    the bigger the better an American–
    pens and papers came out–
    signed and sealed without qualms–
    money that never existed–
    rolled from hand to hand–
    such was the nature of dream–
    it spawned– people across the land–
    eager to help a band–
    of brigands carry on–
    building castles in the sand..

    Crash–went the castles in the sand–
    poof went the winds of speculation–
    fingers of blame like swords drawn–
    then flashed all over the land…
    such was the nature of dream–
    buried even before it was born…

    Where a right to everything–
    right to life–
    right to work–
    right to drive–
    right to vote–
    right to speak–
    is contested–
    in a land of so many rights–
    rivers ran red with the wrongs….

    Usha Nellore




  • DJN

    Lavern Myrie lost her home because she bought a house she couldn’t afford, taking risks with initially low rates that would eventually go up (thinking she would refi before that happened). And now she’s pouting because the risk she willingly took didn’t pan out. Guess what homeless bitch, you shoulda bought a house you knew you could afford, with locked in rates, but it’s so much easier to blame everyone else for your own stupid mistakes.

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