what does the 99% look like?

i started this blog yesterday morning, miffed that i couldnt finish it and post before running off to less exciting things.  but then my day presented even more wrinkles for mulling.

we had a pretty challenging occupy cville meeting last week.  the people who called the meeting were expecting a much smaller turnout and, when nearly 50 people showed up, they were unprepared to facilitate.  a friend of mine jumped in at the request of the original facilitators and tried to help us consense on what we were doing at the meeting.  there were lots of different opinions and some amount of self aggrandizing going on, and we couldn’t really find the common ground in time to make something happen.  but there was something beautiful and worth learning from the struggle of bringing so many different people together.  and we will try again this week and i think we’ll be able to do more together as a result of the experience we had together last week.

i walked out of the meeting fuming and inspired.  as i was ranting, kassia looked at me and said exactly what i was thinking, that the challenge of working with so many different people and experiences was a good glimpse into what i want to be doing in pittsburgh.  i want to be creating something with an open culture, with space for lots of different experiences and expressions.  and i appreciate what the occupy message is doing to call so many different people to a common expression.  it’s a piece of what’s brilliant about not having any stated demands.  that they are creating a space, largely just a space, for people to come together and share their experiences of the crazy fucked up world we live in.  that they are creating a space that is not really a protest, as kassia recently put so eloquently, but a demonstration.  they are creating a space that shows people we can live differently and have our needs met.  what is happening in zuccotti park and across the nation is a new way to bring all people together and live differently.

but it also warrants caution on the behalf of the largely white, middle class activists who want to engage with the occupy movement.  one of the more dangerous things said at our last occupy cville meeting was that we should leave “race and gender out of” our conversations.  not surprisingly, said by an older white man who was taking up a lot of space in our meeting already.  but of course we cant.  we cant pretend that the oppression that exists within the 99% is absolved by our groovy participation in such a bold movement.  we can’t ignore the institutions of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, etc, of patriarchy and hierarchy that shape our own realities within the 99%.  we cannot pretend that all of the fucked up shit hasn’t informed our socialization and given us our own set of oppressions to break down.   but this argument is made more eloquently in this brilliant article by a southasian activist in nyc.  i highly recommend it; i cried when i read it.

and the most powerful part of the meeting last week was when we did a time limited go around to say who we were and why we were there.  we had 45 seconds to sum it all up and when our time was called, most people respectfully sat down to hear the next person.  as i heard the different whos and whys i was brought to shivers.  there were, of course, the usual suspects: the small collection of young anarchists, the older generation of activists from the global justice movement of the 90’s.  but there were people who admitted they’d never been activated before, people who had worked hard all their lives and were waking up to their fucked up reality, teachers who had been organizing around corporatism in schools and wanted to expand the scope of their activism.  it was really exciting to be surrounded by such a diversely ideological group.  and the challenge now is to see and hear each other, to
respect all of the diversity present and recognize the commonalities of our struggles and the places where we can complement each others dream building.

i read recently about the unions joining in with the occupy wall st protests.  about how they were coming to join “the kids” and how they admitted to being embarrassed into action by their previous non participation.   and it made me jump for joy.  the 99% is a lot of fucking people and we will have slightly different motivations and we will have slightly different solutions and slightly different demands.  the power of the occupy movement is that it is making space for all of these people to come together.  it will be challenging to work in such diverse coalition, but that is probably are most powerful weapon against the structures we seek to dismantle.  and dismantle we will.

yesterday i went to a “how to start a non profit” workshop and felt demoralized again by the huge amount of energy and passion that gets siphoned off into single issue organizations who then fight amongst each other for important funding for their fractured solution.  one of the slides said something to the effect of: when collaborating with other groups you weaken your own mission.  i looked at that slide with fury.  as if all of our own missions weren’t interconnected. as if one group had the silver bullet solution.  i look forward to our occupy cville meeting tonight, on the downtown mall.  6:30 pm for mingling and 7pm for the meeting.  around the free speech wall weather permitting, under the pavilion otherwise.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lorena
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 15:45:54

    love it, sara.


  2. joyce
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 22:30:39

    wow i feel your furry, because i own the same furry…I believe (and know as Ann Ree says) that we only strengthen our missions by collaborating. collaboration was at the heart of Project 22…we had 3 organizations walk away because “it was a conflict of interest” or “we don’t share our donor base”. so frustrating, as I see it the role of non profits is not just to raise money for their given “cause”, but to raise awareness, provide education, stimulate thinking, give birth to new ideas. resistance creates resistance! a puzzle to me knowing we all one, why is so difficult to just focus on our oneness and connectedness … very proud that your are my niece!


  3. karmakas
    Oct 13, 2011 @ 23:55:28

    thanks for quoting me…and joyce–i LOVE the idea of owning a furry! i want one too!


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