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In Memoriam: Yolanda Luz Coca 1956 дус 2016, The Heart of Our Movement

December 13, 2016

The ANHD family mourns the loss of Yolanda Luz Coca, who passed away last week after a battle with cancer. Yolanda was a dedicated tenant organizer and an extraordinary person. Profoundly committed to her Catholic faith, Yolanda was the heart and soul of the anti-displacement struggle of her parish at St. Joseph Patron in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

In Memoriam: Yolanda Luz Coca 1956 – 2016

The Heart of Our Movement

yoliThe ANHD family mourns the loss of Yolanda Luz Coca, who passed away last week after a battle with cancer. Yolanda was a dedicated tenant organizer and an extraordinary person. Profoundly committed to her Catholic faith, Yolanda was the heart and soul of the anti-displacement struggle of her parish at St. Joseph Patron in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Throughout her years of community activism, Yolanda (“Yoli,” to many of those who worked with her) was beloved by her co-workers and the tenants she worked with for her endless energy, her endless optimism, and her endless love for her community and the cause of justice. Even after she became ill, Yoli worked as a volunteer organizer at the Bushwick Housing Independence Project, helping tenants who faced eviction. Yoli continued this work almost until the very end, and of course she did. Yoli came to Bushwick from the Dominican Republic in 1981, working first in a fabric factory. She studied English and got her GED, and later earned an associate’s degree at Boricua College and a paralegal certificate from Long Island University. She began her experience as a community activist fighting for her children’s right to a decent education. In 1997, Yoli became a VISTA Volunteer at the Fifth Avenue Committee in Lower Park Slope and was quickly hired onto the staff to work with tenants facing displacement. Over the eight years she spent in that job, she developed a reputation as a skilled community organizer and a fierce tenant advocate. She worked long days to help poor tenants who were terrified of being evicted from their affordable apartments and of being displaced from their neighborhood. As it is with this work, she helped save many tenants; but sometimes the losses piled up. Yoli’s energy and optimism never faltered. “I try to do the best for the people” was her regular phrase, always said with a heavy accent and a warm smile. In 2005, Yoli went to work for her beloved St. Joseph’s Church, staffing the Bushwick Housing Independence Project. Her skills were badly needed there. Bushwick is in the eye of the displacement storm, as real estate developers view poor, often Spanish-speaking tenants as the only thing standing between them and the windfall of rising property values. The parish of St. Joseph Patron is being decimated, and Yoli fought to save her community. This is what the movement is. It is dedicated people like Yoli who see their neighborhoods being torn apart by people who happen to have more power than the local residents do. They dedicate their hearts and souls to helping tenants fight back. It is parishes like St. Joseph Patron that pours its limited resources into supporting its community. Today, every neighborhood of working-people in New York City feels like it is fighting for its life. There are many heroes of the movement like Yolanda, like St. Joseph Patron, like Bushwick Housing Independence Project, like the Fifth Avenue Committee. But Yolanda was the heart of our movement. Yoli did enormous good during her life. As she always said, she did the best for the people.

[pullquote]Yoli did enormous good during her life. As she always said, she did the best for the people.[/pullquote]

Yoli leaves behind a beloved family—her husband, two children, and three grandchildren. She leaves behind many, many tenants and community members whose homes she saved and whose lives she touched. And she leaves behind and legacy of struggle and hope.   A remembrance will be held at: Seneca Chapels 494 Seneca Avenue Ridgewood, NY 11385

  • Wednesday, December 14th from 3:00 PM – 8:00 PM
  • Thursday, December 15th from 3:00 PM – 8:00 PM
  • Mass and burial on Friday, December 16th (details to be provided at the memorial chapel)

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