Rachel Falcone and Michael Premo are the co-founders of Housing is a Human Right, an art project that acts as an ongoing documentary portrait of the struggle for home. Falcone and Premo interview people about their community and experiences with trying to obtain or maintain a home, and collect these oral histories as well as photographs and multimedia. So far, they have recorded more than a hundred stories in New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and South Africa. These narratives describe community and the human right to housing and land in an effort to compose a living portrait of human rights.
Premo and Falcone work with a variety of community partners locally and abroad to meet the people whom they interview, in the tradition of oral history. Sound recordings of the stories are made and shared in interactive exhibitions in unconventional spaces, and broadcasts via traditional and new media outlets. Their website acts as the central repository that holds their collection of audio stories, documentation and special projects. The “Stories in Sound” page is the first volume of nearly a dozen audio recordings collected in New York City. Visitors to the site can hear Lorenzo Diggs discuss the conditions of the Bedford-Atlantic shelter in Brooklyn, Beverly Corbin dispel the stereotypes of being a resident of public housing, and James Roberts share his story of taking care of his partner who has HIV in their home together, among other stories that provide a diverse perspective on what home is and means. On another page, Falcone and Premo document the human right to housing movement where they follow advocates, grassroots and social organizations to document the strategies being used to bring awareness to issues like housing foreclosure, vacant buildings, and homelessness. One such story focuses on an elderly Brooklyn homeowner, referred to as “Mama” by her family, friends and neighbors, who was facing a foreclosure-related eviction after living in her home for 44 years. The Special Projects page features a short documentary entitled, More Than a Roof, which chronicles the United Nations Special investigator’s first official mission in the United States on the right to adequate housing. The page also features information on a web-documentary entitled, Mandela’s Promise: A Dream Deferred, which offers a look into the lives of South Africans who are struggling to realize the promise of a new nation, post-apartheid. Falcone and Premo’s work in this project is generous in its action of bringing increased awareness to housing rights issues from the voices of the people who are directly affected. They are working to increase this generosity by connecting people across the United States and around the world who are engaged in and effected by the struggle to claim and sustain a home.
Click here to see the un-edited footage of Housing is a Human Right.
Images from Ms. Ward’ Eviction Defense Rally in Bedford-Stuyvesent, Brooklyn, August 18, 2011. Photos by Michael Premo.
Stills from More Than a Roof.
Stills from Mandela’s Promise: a Dream Deferred.
Images from Day of Action on May 19, 2010. Photos by Michael Premo.