Interview with Tamara Herman (by Mike Ma)
Mike: What is Billionaire Bash?
Tamara: So Billionaire Bash was an event that we organized for May Day. We essentially took to the street in West Vancouver in an area known as Billionaire Row where 10 houses alone are worth $433 million. So we gathered in a park and we essentially gave people an interactive tour of the “who’s who’s” of BC’s billionaires. It was a chance for people in Vancouver to learn about BC’s wealthiest developers, resource extractors, tech moguls, landlords, and bad bosses. And the folks who attended were from community members and we heard from different organizations engaged in campaigns and organizing efforts.
Mike: One of the main features of the protest was around land wealth. Could you elaborate on this critique or issue of land wealth and how it expresses itself in British Columbia?
Tamara: Yeah, well the starting point is that most of British Columbia is unceeded territory. It is stolen land and the models of colonization have expanded and they have taken some of the old forms and some of the new forms today. So, BC has long been a resource economy and so a lot of the wealth has been based on natural resources, and that is a form of land wealth, but more and more of the wealth has started to become concentrated in real estate as well. And so there is a huge grab right now for land that is valuable real estate, and we’ve seen low income communities being increasingly gentrified and the government subsidizing wealthy developers to build rental housing that rents at rates beyond what most people can afford. So that is just some of the manifestations of land wealth. What we wanted to show is that these 10 houses alone --being worth $433 million-- is essentially a symbol of everything that is wrong in BC right now: it is a symbol of the injustice of colonization that still continues and it is a symbol of the growing wealth inequality in our communities.
Mike: What was the one thing that stood out for you during the day’s event? What was the one thing that was memorable or rewarding that stood out?
Tamara: I think there were two things that stood out. 1) There was a billionaire who tried to drive up to his house, which was worth upwards of $40 million, and was quite frustrated that he couldn’t get there because we were blocking the road. We found that pretty amusing that he would be outraged at the small inconvenience of not being able to access the house that is worth more than most people will ever see in their entire lives. 2) The other great thing is that we had a really wonderful piñata and so when we came down from Billionaire Row we had a great BBQ where we had a piñata of the monopoly man and the kids really loved smashing it and so did we. It was a really great way to end the day.