fresh voices from the front lines of change







In 2009, I was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. It’s been tough, but I’m a three-year survivor. I was also born with cerebral palsy and use a wheelchair for mobility.

After my breast cancer diagnosis, my husband James needed to take some time off work to care for me. I asked Wells Fargo for a loan modification on my home in South Gate, CA where I grew up and have lived for over thirty years.

Our household includes three adults with stable incomes and my 17-year-old son. My husband works as a custodian at the Lynwood Unified School District and he’s now back at work. My mother Becky is a retired factory worker and currently works as a home health worker. I work as a court interpreter. We have three paychecks and we can pay our mortgage.

But it doesn’t matter. Wells Fargo denied my request for a loan modification and foreclosed on us.

Any day now, the Sheriff is coming to kick my family and me out of our home. But we’ve got a surprise for Wells Fargo: we aren’t budging. They’ll have to lift us up and drag us out if the bank wants us gone.

What’s happening to my family – and lots of other people who are facing foreclosure – is just plain wrong. There’s one person who has the power to fix it. His name is John Stumpf. He’s the CEO of Wells Fargo.

On April 24, I’m going to attend the Wells Fargo shareholders’ meeting in San Francisco and meet Mr. Stumpf face-to-face. I’m going to ask him to please accept my mortgage payments and let my life get back to normal. I’m one of about 10,000 people attending corporate shareholder meetings this spring as part of the 99% Power coalition and asking questions of the nation’s CEOs.

I don’t know what he’ll say or whether he can identify with my situation. In 2011, Mr. Stumpf earned $17.9 million. He received a $300,000 raise, more than me and most people make in five years. Mr. Stumpf’s San Francisco home is assessed at $5.3 million. I just want the chance to live out the rest of my days in mine.

I don’t blame people for being successful. What I blame them for is preventing other people from being successful. And Wells Fargo has done its share of destroying the American Dream.

Wells Fargo is the largest servicer of mortgages in the U.S and leads the way in foreclosing on families. Wells Fargo had $17.5 billion worth of foreclosed homes on its books as of June, 2010. Who does it help to have abandoned houses around the neighborhood?

A lot of the families that go into foreclosure are underwater on their homes, that is, they owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth. Banks like Wells Fargo helped crash the economy and now 11 million families with underwater mortgages are going to spend a lifetime writing checks, but never paying off their outsized mortgages.

If Wells Fargo wrote down its underwater mortgages to fair market value, it would help create nearly 180,000 jobs. The money that is currently going to inflated mortgage payments would instead go toward buying groceries, school supplies, and other household necessities. When consumer demand picks up, businesses will start hiring again.

I don’t know how my story will end. But I know two things for sure. We aren’t going to leave our home this month or any other month. On Tuesday, I’m going to hand John Stumpf a mortgage payment and ask him to take it. I’m going to ask him to be a human being.

Ana Casas Wilson lives in South Gate, CA. She is a member of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) is a multi-racial, democratic, non-profit community organization building power in low to moderate income neighborhoods to stand and fight for social, economic and racial justice.

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