Rally shows support for Kent’s elders

Simon Husted

Although most of the Silver Oaks residents have moved elsewhere, the fight isn’t over yet, according to neighborhood activists.

A crowd of more than 80 people rallied at the Home Savings Plaza in downtown Kent Friday evening to support Silver Oaks residents’ fight against eviction.

In late July, 250 residents of the 55 and older housing complex learned that they had until Oct. 1 to move elsewhere to accommodate Capstone Development Corp’s plans to renovate the property for student housing.

“I think they’re being—for a lack of a better word—screwed,” said Tim Thompson of Kent who despite the heatwave, came out to downtown Kent to donate money for the residents affected by eviction. “People have been living there for 25-30 years and I don’t see the problem with continuing to let them live there.”

On Thursday Capstone Development Corp, who won’t officially own Silver Oaks Place until the end of the year, stated on its website, silveroaksmoving.com, that “less than 20 Silver Oaks Place residents” are left at the complex without a scheduled move-out date.

“I think Capstone is making up the numbers,” said Avery Friedman, a legal counselor for the residents.

“It’s not true,” Friedman said. “Not only is that statement to the media not true, my fear is that it’s going to be printed as it were true.” Friedman said more than 40 residents of Silver Oaks have filed charges with the government against Capstone.

Speakers at the Respect Your Elders rally and musical concert included City Council Members Robin Turner and Tracie Wallach; Chris Yambar, an activist and writer for the Simpsons comic; Arlyne Habeeb, a community organizer for the Community Action Council of Portage County; and Major Raijain, a poet and son to a Silver Oaks resident.

Not everyone at the Respect Your Elders Rally had a personal or professional connection to Silver Oaks residents, including the two major organizers who came up with the idea for the 5-hour event.

“I actually had no personal connection,” said Vivian Ramone, a freshmen at Theodore Roosevelt High School.

Ramone and her younger sister, Midge—a fifth grader, said they came up with the idea for the rally after their father e-mailed Ramone a link to a news story about Silver Oaks residents faced with eviction.

“This is something happening in my community and I don’t want Kent to have a bad name for it,” said Ramone, who performed along with her sister during the event under their band name ShiSho.

On Thursday, Ramone sent an open letter to the leaders of the Birmingham, Ala.-based Capstone Development Corp. encouraging the company to reverse its eviction plans and convert Silver Oaks Place to a “mixed generational housing complex,” which would allow current residents to stay and welcome students to fill the complex’s vacancies.

“Capstone would still make their profit,” Ramone wrote in her open letter posted on the Facebook pages for Respect Your Elders Rally and ShiSho. “The City of Kent would still get increased tax money. Kent State University would still get extra housing while setting an example for campus generational diversity. AND Capstone would generate goodwill for being a considerate new member of Kent, Ohio.”

Jen Cunningham, a graduate student studying literacy rhetoric in social practices at Kent State, said mixed generational housing is the best solution.

“I think there would be a good group of people open to that,” said Cunningham, who came out to the event only after learning about the Silver Oaks controversy on ShiSho’s Facebook page four days ago.

“I think this was more quick, blunt and rash than needed to be,” said Molly Taggart, a graduate student studying communication studies at Kent State. “It could’ve been a phased in, phased out project and chances are if you did this over multiple years you’d find students who would want to live there and you’d also find some of our elderly people that maybe would not want to live there in the end, but it can be a more gradual calm process.”

“It’s all about choice,” Cunningham said. “It’s giving people choices instead of others making decisions for them.”