‘Occupy Wall Street’

Why Representation Matters

I just watched the documentary, #whilewewatch. It’s free online, and you can watch it too. It’s only 45 minutes.

It’s also very overwhelmingly male–and except for one man, really fucking white.

This bothers me. It is more than just political correctness or affirmative action–it is about me (and all of the other women, women of color), and the hard work I (we) have put into this movement (especially making media to accurately portray this movement) being completely ignored.

I’m a woman. I’m not silent, I’m not invisible and I’m not decoration. In fact, I have fantasized about countering the evils of capitalism through revolution and taking the streets and a radical redistribution of wealth and re-evaluation of our cultural values since long before #OccupyWallStreet was conceived as an idea. To me (and many others), Occupy Wall Street was an answer–a powerful force to show that we were not crazy, and more importantly not alone. It wasn’t about being a hippie, being rebellious or doing something counter-culture just for the sake of doing something counter-culture–it was something that was deeply, deeply needed to shift the dialogue towards the privatization polices and rampant inequality that has absolutely entirely left so many of us completely fucked.

(There really is not a more polite way to put that and properly get my point across).

The reality is, the people organizing Occupy Wall Street, taking the streets, making documentaries, writing articles and exposing the corruption of both our police force and the one percent that rigs our government are women and men of all races and sexual identities. Of course, there have been difficulties–it is impossible for all of us to acknowledge and confront our intricate roles as oppressors and oppressed without working through uncomfortable moments. Still, Occupy–through meetings, media and conversations has provided a space to have these essential conversations, enlightening some of us to our privilege, allowing some of us to speak out in a safe space about our oppression, doing a combination of these for all of us in between. Our differences are our strength and inclusivity–as we bring more and more voices, experiences and ideas of how to make the world a more equitable place we truly will become a powerful force of collaborative change.

My participation in Occupy Wall Street originally had nothing to do with the fact that I was a woman. At first, I was an American before I was a woman.

But then the boy’s club came to town.

Disclaimer: The following paragraphs might get a little bit salty–I don’t know the sodium content, because frankly I haven’t written them yet. I just wanted to say that I mean nothing against male journalists and media makers, and nothing against white men in general. I’m friends with several white male journalists, media makers, commentators and activists–and many of them have an amazing social conscience about their personal privilege merely by being white males.

Soon, those of us who have been activists–or at least bleeding hearts who genuinely believed that change in the world was possible–for years began to feel “replaced” by white men. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but this made it a little bit more scary. In the first Occupied Wall Street Journal, there were no female bylines. The vast majority of journalists and pundits asked to comment on television shows were white and male. The journalists who were asked to cover the topic for major publications–and likewise were paid more for their work–were majority male.

TIME Magazine even famously asked “Where are all the women reporting OWS?” Those of us like myself and Alison Kilkenny who were there since day one, and Sarah Jaffe who was there shortly thereafter were rightfully infuriated. I elaborated a little bit more on all of this here.

You see, I don’t want to have to see myself as a woman in the movement. I want to see myself as in the movement. And, the wonderful part is I have met several amazing women through the movement–and when the movement is at its height and we are in the streets facing off with the NYPD and have the magical feeling that another world really is possible, gender and race don’t matter for a split second because we truly are one.

However, when I see a representation of #OccupyWallStreet that shows barely any women, I’m suddenly struck with my difference. I don’t see myself documented in what is supposed to be a posterity portrait of something that my heart, soul, and every thought has been quite literally occupied by. I don’t feel any antagonism towards the men who are represented, and I agree for the most part with most of what they say. I just want my presence–by which I mean the presence of all women who occupy–to be remembered, documented and passed on for generations.

I want my daughters to watch a documentary about #OccupyWallStreet and see that a woman’s place is in the revolution. I want them to see that there are role model women who are loud, smart, articulate and are rewarded for devoting themselves to social change. I want them to know that we/they are so much more than just the Hot Chicks that Occupy Wall Street–I want them to know that we/they are the hardworking agents of social change.

 

 

 

Happy Anniversary, Baby

Six months ago. I don’t really remember what life was like before six months ago. It was probably very dark and bleak and characterized by rich white men controlling politics from behind closed doors.

It still is–but this time we know who they are, and aren’t going to shut up until they are held accountable for their actions. Their actions that have constricted our mobility, made us wonder whether or not we can afford to have families, and privatized basic human rights to a point that worth and value is placed only on those who can afford to pay for every basic commodity–for those of us who don’t have that kind of money, we’re a mass of regular people trying to figure out how to navigate a world rigged for the one percent.

Six months ago we realized that we have each other. We aren’t alone.

On September 17th, I didn’t believe anything was going to actually happen–but because I’m young, hopeful, idealistic and a bit of an idiot, I still packed my flip cam and my cell phone and went to Wall Street–just to see if something would happen.

I wasn’t sure–and then I saw the tweet:

Today I told a cab driver I was here to Occupy Wall Street–he said “This ride is on me”

The rest was–and is, still in the making–history.

Happy anniversary, baby.

 

In 2011…

I feel like I need to write some epic post for 2011. Instead, I’m just awestruck, thinking about everything that happened this past year, how the world flipped inside out and turned upside down. It’s not completely to where it needs to be yet–it’s far from that, but the massive global awakening and reclaiming of power for the people, and not the government is beautiful, inspiring, and only the beginning.

Looking back, it has been an amazing year. In January, Tunisians took to the streets and overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali–nine months later, several Tunisians voted for the first time in their lives to elect a constituent assembly, making Tunisia the first democracy in the Middle East (yes, Israel, you heard that correctly). Egypt followed suit, taking the streets in millions as one woman, Asmaa Mahfouz, made a viral video that electrified the world. Libya, Syria, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen, and even Iran and Saudi Arabia took to the streets fearlessly, relentlessly showing that people power would persistently disrupt the status quo until the status quo changed. It electrified the world.

Europe began to take to the streets–Greece protesting heinous austerity measures–scraping the backs of the people to pay for the mistakes of the banksters. Spanish protesters took to the streets, becoming known as los indignados protesting privatization and austerity. Chileans began to protest the rising costs of education. Protesting injustice and demonstrating to imagine the possible became translated into cultures around the world…

And then there was Occupy.

Occupy Wall Street. My baby. My life. My every thought. My inspiration. My hope for change that I had been beginning to give up on…ok, I’m going to stop being emotional. For now.

Occupy Wall Street was a bunch of crazy people–a bunch of crazy, radical anarchists and organizers who came together in a fateful park (a few, actually–around the world, as a matter of fact) and repositioned “politics” as a fraudulent ponzi scheme played by banksters and CEOs of mega corporations, and together we realized that none of this was working and it was our decision to take this into our own hands, and change our future. Occupy Wall Street was reclaiming politics as for the people–uniting as the 99%, meeting new people, exchanging new ideas, and disrupting the status quo in a way that couldn’t be ignored. Occupy Wall Street was re-invigorating imaginative politics, and strategizing to make it our reality.

At the first Occupy Wall Street meeting–yes, before September 17th when I was telling random people in bars that capitalism and the system as we knew it was going down in a matter of days–we went around the circle and said why we were there, and why we were going to Occupy Wall Street. I said that I wanted this idea of economic justice–that we deserve basic social services, jobs, and a viable future without insurmountable amounts of debt–to become a mainstream demand instead of a radical notion.

I think it has. (Now lets make it a reality!)

Because it shouldn’t be radical to imagine a better future and try to make that happen in a country that for some unknown reason you continue to love. It should be radical not to try, and to continue driving it along its toxic, disruptive path.

So, I have many people that need to be thanked. Thank you, Asmaa Mahfouz–you are an amazing, courageous inspiration. Thank you, Wael Ghonim. Thank you, Bradley (Breanna?) Manning. Thank you, WikiLeaks. Thank you, Egypt. Thank you, independent journalism. Thank you, Wisconsin. Thank you, union members and leaders. Thank you, blogosphere and twitter. Thank you, internet. Thank you #occupy–whoever the damned hell you are, leading occupying thinking, trouble making–thank you.

Thank you, Mohammad Bouazizi. May you rest in peace knowing that you inspired a movement towards a new beginning.

~*~*~

I can’t imagine life before Occupy Wall Street in September, much less life before 2011–I hope that I say the same thing about 2012 this time next year, and that its because of unimaginably fantastic revolutionary change rather than extreme alcohol consumption.

Happy New Year!

RT: Journalist Arrests at Occupy Protests

An estimated 26 journalists have been arrested while covering #OccupyWallStreet–and the vast majority of them are with the alternative, non-corporate press. Those of us who haven’t been arrested have most likely been teargassed or caught up in other forms of police brutality, more often than not without credentials or acknowledgement of press credentials to protect ourselves and our work. For more, read Susie Cagle’s article about her arrest at #OccupyOakland here.

Anastasia Churkina of Russia Today (RT) put together a great little video of alternative journalists talking about this problematic situation.

In the words of Amy Goodman, when you handcuff the press you handcuff democracy. Please support independent journalists’ work!

Occupations and Preoccupations

There have been times this week where I haven’t had words–I’ve just had feelings. In this abyss of feelings, mostly of fear, outrage, and complete shock, I’ve rarely had language to give a voice to these feelings, which has a way of leaving us writers feeling very confused, lost, and annoyed with ourselves.

Then we write things, and it has a way of fixing itself. Or at least making us feel more justified.

So, here goes..

I was at the eviction of Occupy Wall Street, but I did not know that the park was being raided.

I knew that the park was blocked off, and I knew that the police were teargassing us en masse, violently pushing us down Cortland Street, shoving us up against each other and up against walls all the while screaming at us to, “keep it moving.” I knew that people were trying to rally around our solidarity and strength in numbers, but that this is hard to believe when one side has weapons and the other side simply doesn’t.

I didn’t know that almost every subway in Manhattan had been closed. I didn’t know that the Brooklyn Bridge had been closed to all traffic. I didn’t know that there was a no fly zone over Liberty Plaza. I didn’t know that all of this was so that journalists–people like me–would be unable to reach the scene, take in the images, and report what was actually happening.

I still don’t know how what is effectively a “first amendment free” zone can possibly be packaged as constitutional.

I didn’t know that the park was being raided. In my naïvité, or early-morning inability to process practical translations of words like “eviction” or “police raid” I thought that those who were in the park would doubtlessly be able to resist in numbers, and eventually the police would go away. I didn’t know that anything had happened until I saw a picture on Twitter of a completely cleared, decimated park that looked far more like Zuccotti Park than Liberty Plaza.

I was horrified. And I really, really hated the police.

Because they weren’t police that night; they were the hired paramilitary thugs of the top one percent. They had weapons and protection, and we had none. They fired teargas without warning and chopped down trees that had people chained to them. They had shields, batons, and helmets and descended upon us without warning in the middle of the night because they knew that what they were doing was completely wrong and unfounded.

That’s why they blocked the roads to journalists–so that they could proceed with their jobs without accountability. (They picked that one up from the big bankers.)

In times like these, the class war becomes a little bit more of a war-war.

It has been a few days now. Two days after the raid was November 17th–a beautiful day, filled with actions of solidarity that culminated in occupiers, students, labor unions, and supporters marching across the Brooklyn Bridge as lights shined on the courthouse that said, “We are the 99%. Occupy!”

The crowd chanted, “Bloomberg, beware. Zuccotti Park is everywhere.”

Oh, and it is.

Though Liberty Plaza–I much prefer that language to “Zuccotti Park”–had once been an inviting space, filled with solidarity, conversation, and the beginnings of infrastructure modeled after an ideal society that had freed itself from capitalism and greed, it had started to become its own problematic bureaucracy. It was difficult to find meetings, or know how to negotiate the space if you weren’t intimately familiar with its political structure. I left a meeting one night because it was so preoccupied with its own internal operations that it barely touched on how to generate change.

This was happening at Liberty Plaza; it was so concerned with its internal operations–the tents, the infrastructure, the meetings, the general assembly structure–that consensus building became about drum circles and hot tea rather than making the fight for economic justice culminate in a victory.

Bloomberg–and his paramilitary hired thugs clad in riot gear (your tax dollars at work!)–destroyed the pettiness of Liberty Plaza, leaving the only thing we had left uniting us: our ideas.

Our physical occupation may have been destroyed, but our ideological preoccupation is taking to the streets, occupying our hearts and minds with an obsessive force that is resistant to riot police, batons, and teargas. It is demanding that we wake up in the morning, that we use the dialogues we started in Liberty Plaza–the contentions that arose with racial and gender justice, our knowledge of the paramilitary extent of our cities police force, and most importantly, our own and each others stories that we have exchanged that put a human face on our collective struggle, to continue to occupy–just this time, it’s everywhere.

Midnight Raid of Mayor Bloomberg

So, Tuesday was a little bit crazy–long story short, I got the eviction text around 1 AM, got downtown around 1:30 AM, was teargassed by riot police, shoved against a wall with a police shield while live-tweeting, took to the streets with many others, and saw the pictures of a decimated Liberty Plaza.

I wrote in my journal, wondered home like a lost drunk, wrote a blog post, slept for thirty minutes and then did Thom Hartmann’s radio show, wrote an article for Global Comment and ended with doing Thom Hartmann’s TV show with two of my favorite occupier-journalists, Sarah Jaffe and J.A. Myerson.

Here is the round up!

Dispatch: Teargassed While Tweeting

You don’t need a metaphor to describe the horrors that just happened–but if 5,000 wonderful, radical donated books being destroyed by the NYPD and thrown into the back of a garbage truck to be ground into landfill isn’t a metaphor, I don’t know what is

Thom Hartmann Radio: The Media Blackout at Zuccotti Park (scroll down!)

Teargas and Hope: An Eyewitness Account of the Police Raid on Occupy Wall Street

Because that’s the thing about Occupy—even if the police were physically able evict everyone from lower Manhattan, which would have been physically impossible, it is impossible to bulldoze or brutalize this idea that has consumed our minds, hearts, and souls with the radical—and sometimes palpable—hope of liberation. Occupy Wall Street is not about tents—it is not about infrastructure, it is not about a park, and it is not about hand signals—it is about what all of these things come together and stand for. It is about coming together and learning from each other. It is about imagining the radical, and then criticizing our imaginings for not being radical enough

 

The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann: The Midnight Raid of Mayor Bloomberg

Love Letter

We slept together right off the bat.

I had known about who you were for a few weeks beforehand. I knew I was interested, I just wasn’t sure that anything would ever happen–or if you were quite ready. I didn’t know if we would have that magical chemistry that I imagined, or if it would be awkward as we parted on questionable terms.

It was a little bit awkward at first. We exchanged hellos–we clearly both wanted to be there, but weren’t quite sure what to do next. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but I wasn’t resistant and I was still very intrigued. I stuck around–and I was glad that I did.

I stayed with you late that night–I came home full of questions, thinking about you, wondering how we would work together. I’m not used to thinking about someone like that if they aren’t right in front of me.

Four days later, I was already back. I’m not used to being back that soon. I like to play a little bit hard to get, but I just couldn’t this time. You were warmer, more comfortable and made me feel at home. The intrigue and the questions persisted, and this time we made plans in that moment to see each other again very soon.

We started seeing each other all the time. I would sneak by between classes. I would come immediately after work–sometimes leaving early just to be with you. I came late at night, and never wanted to leave because of the addicting, electric energy. I started realizing that you were here to stay–that we were here to stay–and I got very attached. I’m not used to getting involved or attached so early.

I even started introducing you to some of my friends. They liked you–and understood why I liked you, your energy, your persistence and resilience. They wished us luck together, they could tell that something in me had changed just by being with you.

One month in, I was completely smitten. I snuck around to be with you, ignoring my responsibilities because I knew my heart and thoughts were always with you. I made excuses to spend more time with you. I dropped by unannounced, and you loved it. I started writing about you. I started writing about you a lot.

When I wasn’t with you, I was writing or talking about you.

You’ve been through some tough times. I’ve always wanted to be with you, and felt a tearing gripping responsibility to be with you. I ran down at 3 in the morning, 1 in the morning–fighting. I just needed to see you, to know that you would be okay. I worry about things, you know, and I really worry about people that I love.

Because that’s how you know you love: you worry and fight and do crazy things for each other.

Tomorrow it will be two months–and it feels like it has been years. I can’t wait to spend the day with you–and I can already tell it might be our most magic yet.

I can’t imagine life without you, and when I do it feels bleak and awful. Please, please don’t go away.

Happy two months. I love you, Occupy Wall Street.

 

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