This week’s story about the bulldozing of a small business on East Cesar Chavez is putting Austin pretty close to the precipice of widespread gentrification backlash.
While gentrification is driven by money, not race, it’s hard not to see race when so many of those being displaced are not Anglo. Actually it’s more about power versus the powerless, and again, the face of the powerful in Austin tends to be white.
For those of you who feel the need to do something to help families on the powerless side of progress, a GoFundMe campaign has been created to help the Lejarazus family that owned the bulldozed pinata store. That funding page, created by Kienan Clute, aims to help the family bridge through this trying time.
1. How did you hear about the incident at the pinata store and what made you decide to start this funding campaign?
A few days after the Lejarazus had their store demolished, people were sharing the video from TWC News showing the damages and reactions from the family. After hearing that they lost thousands of dollars of property in the demolition and their landlords don’t seem to be the most compassionate people around, I knew that I could probably help them out.
About a year ago, I helped my friends put together a different fundraiser for our friend Sandy Le who was killed by the drunk driver during SXSW 2014 and we raised about $6,000 for her family. Through that experience, I learned that there are wonderful people all over Austin who are ready to help in whatever way they can.
2. As the story unfolds and more details emerge, it seems like we’re never going to know the whole truth. But do you think the Lejarazus were victimized?
While all of the facts may not yet be public, it does appear that the Lejarazus weren’t treated with an abundance of empathy or respect as a local family business or as fellow Austinites. Some individuals have brought up a past incident where Mr. Lejarazus was arrested for purchasing two stolen bikes in 2014, implying that we should not help out someone who has been in trouble before. In my experience, however, we could dig up dirt on most anyone so I prefer to assume the best of people and that means helping them out when in need.
3. How will you dispense the money to the family? Do you know what they’re going to do with it?
I’ve been able to connect with Emilia Lejarazu via email recently. Whenever they’re ready, I’ll withdraw the donations to a certified check to provide to their family. GoFundMe takes close to 8% to stay in business but the remaining amount will go directly to the Lejarazus which they can use to rebuild their family business and move ahead with their lives.
You can donate to the GoFundMe page here. Also, consider attending a rally on the Jumplin site (1401 East Cesar Chavez) on Saturday, Feb. 21, at 10:30 am.