Tag Archive | "occupy"

A symphony for Trayvon Martin


Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared at Waging Nonviolence.

Atlanta, GA–I had been to Atlanta, Ga., before — running trainings with Occupy Our Homes Atlanta as part of the Wildfire Project. But until Saturday, I had never been to Atlanta the day George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin.

In some ways, it was strange to be away from New York when it happened — the city whose streets I’ve gotten used to marching in, the people I’ve struggled alongside for years, the cops I’ve learned so well. But in many ways, being in Atlanta felt lucky — away from the shiny glass of Wall Street, the manufactured dreams of Times Square, even the quiet Park Slopes that blur our vision and obscure hard truths. Instead, I was in a place where the faces of slave-owning Confederate generals still stand chiseled into the sides of mountains commemorating them, where a sizeable majority of the population is descendant from people kidnapped, enslaved and brutalized ever since. Being in the South felt somehow closer to the truth. But you know what Malcom X said: “Long as you south of the Canadian border, you’re south.”

The first night after the verdict came we marched in the streets, and the march grew with the very real anger and sadness and fear and hope drawing people out to join. The next day was even bigger, in the thousands. We must have marched five miles, much of it in the pouring rain. The city erupted in a symphony of car horns honking in solidarity, echoed by people cheering and clapping from their windows, emboldened by thousands of people stopping on every sidewalk with their fists up, and strengthened by people jumping out of homes, restaurants and cars to join. The music was loud — genuine mourning, righteous fury and deep purpose. I remember thinking, while marching to the beat, that this is the kind of music that revolutions come from.

The sound of the car horns struck me most — in anger, but not anger that they couldn’t get through, all in solidarity and encouragement. I heard from friends who were part of the demonstrations that took over Times Square that even there — in a city where people are so stressed out that they eat while walking — the honking was supportive. Tens of thousands were in the streets in dozens of cities across the country, and the media couldn’t help but report on it. Friends and family who have never identified themselves as political or radical were furious, and many of them took their first steps into a march. Maybe people have had it. Maybe the music is finally getting loud enough.

I suppose it’s like Aura Bogado wrote in The Nation: The question is not whether the Zimmermans of the world (or the rest of us) are white, brown or black; the question is whether we uphold white supremacy or fight to dismantle it. Oddly enough, in this sense, this case is black and white. In a country where a black person is killed by a cop or vigilante every 28 hours, where more black men are in prisons today than were enslaved just before the Civil War, where drones come home to rest after bombing people of color all across the world in the service of U.S. imperialism, you are either for white supremacy or against it.

The honking horns seemed to compel us — white, black and anyone else — to choose a side. They pierced through the wall of white guilt that threatens to handicap some of us, booming: Yes, you are different, your experience in this country is different, and your role in the struggle is different — but you, too, can choose a side.

Rather, You must choose a side.

As the march snaked through downtown Atlanta, the protesters flooded around cars like water. The drivers — the musicians of the day — sat with their windows down, high fiving or clenching a fist in the air. And every so often a marcher would stop at an open window, have a conversation and take down the driver’s phone number to put it on a list for future organizing. At moments like those I was reminded that people don’t march forever, that crisis moments pass and that we must always think of tomorrow today.

The sight of a young woman taking down people’s numbers reminded me how too often we tell ourselves the myth of spontaneity to avoid the hard work of organizing. There is nothing spontaneous about people streaming into the streets. It comes from a rage that builds over years and centuries, the hard work shifting narratives and raising consciousness, the organizing to bring people in and connect groups to one another, the movement-building to create structures to carry us as we fight. And, of course, people join only when an organized community is willing to step off the curb in the first place, ready to go into motion when confrontations are thrust on us and lines are drawn in the sand.

Then I drifted back into the music, an epic score dedicated not just to Trayvon Martin, but also to all the kids carried through the streets those nights by their parents, whose raised fists seemed to declare that they would no longer permit a world in which they were forced to fear for their children’s lives. The horns — and the rest of the music that gives life to our struggles — blasted through Atlanta and all across the country. The tune was unmistakable: Choose your side, organize and take to the streets.

-Yotam Marom-

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Because I’m Afraid for My Child


Last Saturday (July 13) was the night that reiterated for the thousandth time that the system we continue to seek justice from will never provide that for us–especially if we aren’t white.

The months leading up to the Zimmerman verdict were filled with vigils and protests, outcries and anger, not for 1 young soul taken away from the earth too soon, but for many youth who have been murdered because they are black.  I remember sitting in the pew at the church where the 1 year vigil for Ramarley Graham was being held, listening to countless stories from a group called Stolen Lives.  I couldn’t contain my tears, my pain for them.

I have a 6 year old boy who I have to fear will grow up to be not a successful beautiful human who contributes to his community, but a target because of his skin color.  My son’s future is riddled with obstacles because they close schools to build prisons.  My child is worth more money to this capitalist slave system as an inmate than a productive member of his community.

All of these things came to a head Saturday night, and I could not contain the rage, the anger, the disappointment, the fear.  How in the Hell can I protect my child from being the next Trayvon Martin, Ramarley Graham, or Kimani Gray?  I felt helpless because I can’t protect him from this world, and it only made me more angry.

My temporary therapy is expression on social media, and while I do this often, this time was different.  Some family and “friends” reacted to my posts and became critical of me and upset.  They tried to pacify my anger and rage.  I was told that this behavior wasn’t good; I was told it wasn’t productive, and was even called a divider, a racist.  This society is so fearful of words, especially when spoken from the mouths of the oppressed.  An angry Latina anarchist who speaks her mind is viewed to be so dangerous and wrong, yet we passively watch as a controlling system wipes their ass with the Constitution and no one blinks.

My words aren’t the bullets that kill our youth, but rather the ones that blow holes through the oppressive state that systematically attempts to make us worthless, to make us afraid.

I used social media to process my very strong emotions about the verdict and what it means to a society of people who share that child’s skin color.  They don’t care about Black people.  They don’t care about our kids and they will never give us justice.

I had the amazing opportunity to process my anger in a more direct way because I was able to participate in the NYC Justice for Trayvon march.  Over 5,000 stood together in Times Square to rally for Trayvon and his family as well as all the families who have lost their loved ones to senseless violence at the hands of a racist system.

It was so invigorating to take the middle of Park Avenue in NYC and march all the way to Harlem.  ”Whose streets?!” That night they were ours.  I was able to belt out chants and hug my comrades, break down and cry when I needed.  Why? Because we were all one community that night.  We all worked together that night.  We were all one.

That was the display of unity I needed to see and feel.  That unity is what will move mountains.  That unity is what my son needs to be enveloped in, in order to survive.  That unity is what will save the lives of so many children in our communities.

I will stay angry and diligent.  I will continue to be a connector, bringing the members of our communities together so that we don’t have to hold a rally for a child who was senselessly killed.

It has been less than a week since this verdict and while my voice has become sore from all the chanting, I will continue to organize, educate and equally agitate the system, which has failed to represent us–especially the darker shades of us in this society.

-Katt Ramos-

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From Mic Checks to Privilege Checks


How Occupy fails to address (straight, white, male) privilege

Editors’ note: This piece originally appeared at Anarchy Isn’t Easy.

I didn’t think Occupy would accomplish anything when I first started working with the movement. I didn’t think it would last longer than a day. There were individual friendships but no group solidarity what-so-ever at any of those early meetings before September 17th 2011, and in many ways there still isn’t. We didn’t really start supporting one another and working together until the NYPD brutalized us into cohesion last fall and the truth of Occupy is that we consistently stop supporting one another and working together whenever the NYPD stop brutalizing us. The most frequent, consistent and symbolically violent attack made by Occupiers upon other Occupiers within this movement is the ironic demand to “check your privilege.” The concept of privilege as it is used in this phrase refers to the social advantages that certain straight white men enjoy over other individuals of other orientations, ethnicity and genders. This concept also automatically and incorrectly implies that straight white men necessarily oppress other people who are not straight, white and male in order to maintain their privilege. This concept further and even more erroneously and dangerously implies that people who are less privileged than straight white men are incapable of oppressing others precisely because they are oppressed themselves, as if straight white men are the only ones capable of oppression. This essay isn’t about the kind of caucasian, male, hetero-normative privilege that I am supposed to check as much as it is about how the check itself is oppressive and how it ironically prevents an actual redistribution of privilege from ever occurring.

The practice of calling out the privilege of, and demanding that straight, male caucasions step back and give others–that is non-straight, male caucasions–the chance to speak isn’t considered and defined as divisive, exclusionary, let alone as discriminatory within Occupy due to the seemingly widely shared agreement within the movement that “reverse-racism,” or more descriptively perhaps, reverse-discrimination doesn’t exist: a myth which enables those without privilege to use their voice within Occupy to silence the voices of those who are perceived as possessing more privilege as if this’ll somehow enable the voices of those who are more marginalized to be better heard. A privilege check isn’t really a demand to be silent as much as it is a demand for a masochistic confession of guilt from the privileged so that the oppressed might momentarily reverse the hierarchy of oppression and egotistically experience what Nietzsche called the “pleasure of mastery” via “the pleasure of violation.” The chatter of the confession, however ironically, ensures that privileged occupiers wind up speaking more than marginalized occupiers if the bait is swallowed.

My objective however isn’t to argue that discrimination against those who are perceived to benefit from conventional discrimination is still discrimination, or even that occupiers checking each other’s privilege is bitterly prejudicial not to mention discriminatory, as much as it is to argue that privilege checks are an unfortunate, redundant, counterproductive, self-defeating waste of collective time, energy and sacrifice. Devoting all of my time, energy, material resources, and commodifiable skills towards an advertising career, finishing my research and PhD, and/or charming my way into some rich girl’s family would’ve been a more reliable way to have furthered my own privilege compared to working with Occupy over the past twenty-two months. I’ve knowingly ruined my chances at any sort of career in spite of the fact that I’m drowning in student, medical, credit-card debt and IRS. I’ve made a generous sacrifice of blood for the movement last summer in Chicago and I’ve sacrificed a digital strategy job and therefore my home for the past eight years as well I fear in order to work with Greenpeace this summer. I have checked my privilege, my social advantages over and over again.

I’m Oneida according to my mother who I lived with during the school week. A direct descendent of the rouge tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy who had been practicing democracy in America long before it ever became the United States of America. The Oneida are perhaps best known for keeping George Washington and his army from dying of starvation at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778. They were attacked by the rest of the Iroquois after the Revolutionary War ended, Washington set aside some land for them which was encroached upon in subsequent generations, and many of them moved to a reservation in Wisconsin, and from there into the racial ghettos of the city of Milwaukee, from which my family managed to move into a working class suburb of Polish-Americans which prided itself on educating some of it’s children into middle-class workers. The white people of this town neither perceived, nor treated me as white. They would tell me I was Indian as their sadistic children harassed and attacked me in one way or another on what seemed like a daily basis. They knew I was Indian (as opposed to Oneida) because I tried to learn the language, a traditional pow-wow dance style and lacrosse in order to fit in with the sadistic children from the rest and the Indian Community of Milwaukee who would tell me I was white when they attacked and harassed me.

Racially oppressed people of all varieties can and do oppress other people precisely in order to feel less oppressed themselves via ‘the pleasure of violation’ and racial oppression, much like rape, is something which unfortunately occurs between friends, family, and acquaintances more so than total strangers. The police used to beat my step-father long before I became his first son and they would needlessly search through his car and question him in front of his children even after he got too old for beatings. He used to call me “Casper the Friendly Ghost” because of how white my skin is. My mother recalls deliberately ignoring the way he would deliberately neglect to give me anything to eat, not because he hated me or was consciously trying to punish me but because he loved me and because shit always rolls down-hill after it’s been eaten recycled. He would grab my head and fart in my face so often that I grew up under the impression that this was socially acceptable.

The means of oppression in my father’s house on the weekends with him, my stepmother and the gay artist she had been married to before he had died of the AIDS virus was a bit less complicated and tended to revolve around spoiling and guilt, privilege indeed more so than neglect and degradation.

I was but I wasn’t Oneida in my father’s house, just like I was and wasn’t Oneida in my mother’s house. I’m too Oneida to ever be white but too white to ever be Oneida. My mother tells me that things have changed and that Oneidas look like whites, African-Americans, Hispanics and even Asian folks these days but my identity will never be acknowledged in the minds of world that can’t think about American Indians without also thinking about head-dresses and whooping calls, and this unfortunately, ironically, includes the #OWS community of NYC, which of course prides itself on combating such ignorance. Being told to check my privilege or to step back and let someone else speak up after throwing on a suit and challenging stereotypes on MSNBC or Fox reminded me of being harassed by Indians at weekend pow-wows even though challenging stereotypes about Indians was something I had to do daily at school.

I wouldn’t have joined Occupy in the first place had I not already been painfully aware, not only of the vast inequities in the distribution of wealth and privilege but also how these inequities ruin the chances of every individual in this society from living out their specific version of a fulfilling life. My critical consciousness and awareness of privilege and oppression is far more advanced than that of anyone in this movement morally sadistic enough to demand anyone else to check their privilege and I am far too outraged to patiently elucidate the ironies of oppression to the hypocrites of this movement, even though I know that I must rise above my rage in order to truly be a change that I would like to see. Anyone who has come to Occupy to listen and to be listened to has effectively engaged in a privilege checking process by virtue of collective participation itself, and any demands made on that individual by another individual to check their privilege while in midst of collective processes is essentially the same thing as halting the movement of the whole heard so as to beat a once lame dead horse.

The first time I was publicly told to check my privilege wasn’t because I talked about Occupy on a few cable news networks but because I found and reported that well over 70% of the followers on occupywallst.org were white/Caucasian and I’ve since seen the same trend not only on follow up surveys on st.org but also on peoplebrowsr gender breakdowns of all the big Occupy twitter hashtags. All the pages and channels I have access to, including Facebook Insights and YouTube analytics, confirm the same trend, and all of this raises an important question relevant to a critical discussion of privilege in Occupy Wall Street. Who is Occupy Wall Street? The individuals who work within the movement and who represent spectra of genders, ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, and educational experiences and political intentions? Or is it the people who consume the news we produce because they want to know what we have to say? They appear to be overwhelmingly single, heterosexual, white, angry males who can’t earn enough to pay off all of their debts like white males are supposed to be able to.

The answer to this question hardly seems to matter however given that both groups should at least in theory be working together if this truly is a movement of the 99%. Telling predominantly white males, assumingly educated enough to know about privilege, and likely single precisely because they’re broke and in debt that they should check their privilege will only alienate them away from the movement, make it smaller, weaker, slower and prevent the sharing of privilege, or a flow of mutual empowerment from occurring between individuals which in turn will not create any kind of social movement capable of creating the massive redistribution of wealth necessary to abolish the inequalities in privilege by distributing ever more of it to those who have need of it.

-Harrison Schultz-

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A Midsummer Night’s Occupation


Editor’s note: This post originally appeared at Occupy LA.

New York, NY–I ran like a fleeting shadow up a dark New York City street. All about me was the occupation.  Not the “take a plane to NY and lounge around Zuccotti Park for the afternoon on the One Year Anniversary of OWS” crowd.  This was the night-time Birthday March to Times Square on the night of September 16th, 2012–a hardcore crowd.  It was unlike any other occupation experience that I’ve ever had.  What is the occupation?  Who are you people?  Tonight those questions would be answered to me in a more profound way.  We’re the glue that holds American society together.  The playful spirits who appear, not with violence nor its threat, but with a vision of how the world could be—and act on it.  But all around us on this march were dozens and dozens of NYPD cops on foot, in cars, in vans, on motorcycles, etc., to keep, in a sense, Queen Hippolyta’s order.  But as Bottom’s head was transformed into an ass—magic was soon to be squeezed into the cops’ and the world’s eyes.

At the head of our column was Puck.  That’s not his real name, of course, but still apropos.  His delight in playing pranks on these foolish mortals no less than the enchanting sprite.  We took off from Zuccotti Park on a trek to Times Square—many, many blocks away—to be there when the figurative ball would drop on our one-year-old world.  Night time, long urban march, lines of riot cops, the press nowhere in sight—this is where things get violent quickly.  But you wouldn’t know it from observing Puck.  It was as if, literally, he was from a different world.  He’d wander this way, that way, ahead of the group, behind the group, but he was leading us.  Not like the NYPD Commander leading his troops a few feet away.  It wasn’t just that the local occupiers would defer to him at key points—an undercover cop could pick up on that—if they could get this close to us.

No, this was different.  We weren’t being sucked up a river like in Apocalypse Now.  We were being compelled forward, by an unseen energy as if from the shadows, much like what compelled us all to show up in the tents last year.  A sense that the order of the world was against the common man and something must be done to change how the people around us see the world.  What would Puck squeeze into their eyes?  We were about to find out.  We were hippies and trouble-makers to many of the cops on this march.  Would we make asses of them?  We are America.  Just as the Tea Party is also, but we’re very proud of our inclusiveness.  The Tea Party panders to peoples’ dark side, their fears, intolerance, selfishness, etc.  Preaching loudly to their flocks, but then shying away when the mainstream media arrives.  At the end, in the glow of Times Square, celebrating the fact that we’re still going strong, even the cops seemed uncomfortable, out of place.

The march came to a pause by Macy’s.  “We have to keep moving!”  It was Puck’s voice.  Suddenly, very much in this world.  Our “escort” of motorcycle cops slowed also, sheepishly staring at us from their bikes.  BEEP, CRACKLE, WAIL.  The strangest sounds will pop out of some of these police vehicles.  Occupation marches are like snakes.  They coil and contract.  Punkish girls with red, white and blue spiked hair, teens with backpacks pockmarked with political and social buttons, glistening young eyes above bandit-strewn bandanas.  But NY is very different from LA.  Where are the U-Streamers?  I could swear that I’m one of the only people taking photos while the group’s moving—still and video.  The group “coiled” forward.  A chant began: “We are unstoppable!  Another world is possible!”  Over and over, echoing throughout the Manhattan canyons.  And then–and then–there it was.  Glowing in the distance.  Times Square.  The pace of the march picked up.  The cycles dropped off and lines of cops on foot would take over.  STOMP, STOMP, STOMP.  Puck would be here, then there, then disappear.  Closer.  Wow!  Talk about lights.  Story after story of commercial ads packed with models up into the dark sky.  It was then that the real symbolism of this march became clear to me.  Yes, be where the ball drops at our midnight, but also be at the center of the over-commercialization of American society.  We flooded into the center of the square as if from another world, and we are, aren’t we?  We speak the truth when your normal world of TV channels and news rags seem morally empty.

A cake appeared, as if by magic.  Occupiers delighted in taking a bite, though there were no forks.  The police formed rings around us.  We ignored them.  Our eyes were on the figurative ball in the sky Puck had brought us here to imagine.  10, 9, 8, 7, 6, Puck sat down.  Others joined him.  5, 4, 3, 2, and then Puck spoke.  It wasn’t like anything I’d ever heard from an occupier before.  Why we were still here after a year…  What we’d accomplished…  But in my mind’s eye I heard: Why the potion had worked that we’d all squeezed into society’s eyes.  How people stopped focusing on distractions such as whether or not to raise the debt-ceiling limit, but on the reality of the plight of our very real fellow Americans whom we care about deeply—who have been deceived by the serpent’s tongue of the ultra-rich.  After Puck’s speech, the crowd dissipated and even the cops fell away—as if the occupation had been a dream.  Puck from NYC, Nowhere Man from Hollywood, all of us “meddling fairies” vanished back into the semi-darkness of Manhattan like shadows who’d overstayed their welcome in the mortal world of driven, but dishonest men.  But all of us, Puck included, had one phrase on our minds.  “We’ll be back.”  We are the pressure in society to make amends.

I’ll let Shakespeare’s Puck (a.k.a. Robin Goodfellow) have the last word:

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding, but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend;
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck,
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long:
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

Occupy!

-Nowhere Man-

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Heartbroken and Defeated


By trade, I’m a high school teacher and had, since 2009, been working in some schools that would scare the slacks off Tom Berenger in The Substitute.

I’ve been laid off for over six months and have not been able to find work anywhere; I literally can’t even get a call back from Wal-Mart or Best Buy.  I’ve exhausted my UI benefits and just received a 14 week extension and that’s only if Congress approves the funding by Dec. 31.

I’ve done everything I can to cut expenses.  I gave up my new car for a 15 year-old car with more than 200k miles and a lot more problems, reduced my cell phone plan to the cheapest available, moved into a studio apartment that offers week-to-week rent, been rolling my own cigarettes and getting many food from food pantries.

I’m so depressed and Sallie Mae is relentless.  They won’t stop calling and, despite what they say, they’re completely unwilling to work with me at all.

My debt is preventing me from so many things I want to do in my life, and my girlfriend of two years won’t marry me because of my student loan debt and I don’t blame her.  I’m 27 and I’m worse off now than when I was 17 and that is not hyperbole.  At least at 17 I was working and had no debt.  The right-wing Oligarchs or Plutocrats (six one, half dozen the other in this country anymore) who keep spouting off about low marriage rates among young people and the high marriage failure rate need to re-examine the leading causes of both these phenomenon: IT’S DEBT!

Next time I hear someone say something cliché like “tighten your belt strap,” “pull on your boots,” or “just get a job,” I’m going to kick their teeth in.

Things just keep compounding, pun definitely intended–if you catch my drift.  I can’t cut any more from my budget between rent, gas, and the groceries I need to purchase because they aren’t at the food pantry and I have no money.

So, I’ve lost my job, and instead of flexibility or compassion the vulture capitalists line up at my door trying to get as much out of me is possible before the next one can push through.

I’m at my end.  My student loan is crushing.  It is literally stripping my life away. I can’t get ahead because of it and it is preventing me from ever achieving any sort of economic security.

-Andrew Breen-

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Always Low Wages


Black Friday is always day of resistance for me, at least it has been in recent years. Last year I remember Occupy said it was “Buy Nothing Day” and I didn’t really do much, other than sitting around my house. This time I didn’t want to sit around. I heard about the Wal-Mart Strikers and so my whole family got in the car and drove the nearest plaza with a Wal-Mart. Happy with glee, I found there were protesters.

My family and I climbed the hill, where at the top there were 20 protesters with signs in solidarity with the workers. My mom left after asking a few people and determining that there were no workers there. Instead, my dad and I stayed up there, and looking around one could see people of all colors and creeds. I took a sign they had and stood there on the corner as I held the flimsy sign blowing in the wind. I felt such solidarity standing there with others, on that corner. People were sitting up on a white-painted wall, as others stood by the curb side, while cars honked in support of workers. Then, after about an hour, I and my dad left, saying we’d return.

After a series of delays and such, we came back about two hours later. But the other protesters were gone. We engaged in what one would call vigilante activism. We protested on the corner, as I sat up on the wall with a sign that said “HONK IN SUPPORT OF WAL-MART WORKERS” while my dad had a sign that said “WAL-MART=ALWAYS LOW WAGES,” a sign I had made earlier but used again. I ended up taking the major role, sitting on the wall as people honked for workers (probably about 100 honks), and my dad yelled out at cars. It was exhilarating no doubt, sitting on that white-painted wall, thanking people for honking in support of workers. It was a two-man show, but that was okay because we were standing for the workers. This action seemed to follow these thoughts in my head, of Charlie Chaplin leading a march in Modern Times, and when I walked around before with a sign against Israel’s war of aggression in Gaza. Then it all ended. My mom came in a car, calling from the parking lot below. Then she came to the hill where we were, my dad and I taped up a sign that said to honk for Wal-Mart workers, and it was over. But I knew this time wouldn’t be the last time I would stand for justice in the world.

-Burkley Hermann-

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Election Day, 2012


New York, NY–Recently someone asked me if it was true that most people that joined Occupy did so for “selfish” reasons, meaning their lost home, lack of steady employment or underutilized college degree. I told her I thought for some it might have started that way, but Occupy was a place where those people had encountered others like them, where they had built a community, and where they had come to understand that their personal grievances were tied to a larger structural failure.

These words now echo in my mind as I sit in the freezing darkness of the Rockaways, after less than a week of relief work with the communities here that were devastated by superstorm Sandy.

I’m sitting in the dark under the light of a tiny flashlight writing from the second floor of my beloved friend Heather’s house. I hear the buzzing of an infinite line of ambulances brought from all over the country by FEMA as they burn precious gas outside waiting in line to evacuate seniors from a nursing home in preparation for a new storm coming our way tomorrow.

I still remember all the work we put into fixing up this house when my friend decided to move out here last summer. I took the long train ride out here a couple of times to help her rip off carpeting, tweeze out staples from the floor, stop by the beach for a quick swim and then back to painting walls and building a library. So much work went into making this house a home.

Today I walked in surrounded by total darkness, to find myself in an emptied out living room. Around the corner, a hub of kindness and solidarity has been built in the last few days as Occupy Sandy Relief set up shop in order to put words into action and show what mutual aid really looks like.

It almost sounds unnecessary to recount the myriad encounters of the last few days, and the stories that accompany the flood of strangers that have become brothers and sisters in this enormous effort. I don’t want to fetishize their need or glorify our instinctive desire to lend a hand.

I just came out here to help my friend clean her house after the strong winds and high waters battered it, my friends from Occupy just happened to be around the corner.

Perhaps it’s just that the personal is political. Always. Blah, blah, blah.

I could hardly care less who my overlords are by tomorrow.

All I know is, there’s a storm coming tomorrow, and I need to make sure everyone is safe and warm.

-Sofia Gallisa Muriente-

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VIDEOS: Two Updates from the Rockaways


These videos, by Kisha Bari, were featured at How Sandy Hit Rockaway.In each, a resident describes the difficulties they and their community has faced at receiving aid from governmental organizations after Hurricane Sandy struck.

More than one week has passed, and still this woman has not heard from any kind of agency or aid organisation on how to find help in Far Rockaway.

Mr Turner describes how difficult it is for him to get aid in Rockaway.

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Strong in Staten Island


New Dorp Beach, NY–Went down to crossroads church in New Dorp Staten Island with cleaning supplies. There was a sign saying to just head down to the beach and help out directly.  Since I don’t know the area at all, being from New Jersey, I just drove through the neighborhood and went door to door with supplies.  Everyone was so grateful for everything and appreciated any help they were getting.  Received many handshakes, a few hugs and a ton of “God Bless.” There is so much work to do and they still need lots more help.  They want to know they’re not being forgotten and that the occupy teams are making a difference.

-Chris-

Read more #OccupySandy Stories >>

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Occupy Sandy Rescued Me from My Couch


New York, NY–After trying and failing to volunteer with a bunch of established organizations, I finally found Occupy Sandy — and more specifically, Astoria Recovers. Within hours of adding my name to a Google Doc on their site, I was offered a ride out to the Rockaways with a neighbor I’d never met. Five of us drove out to the firehouse on Beach 58th St. on Sunday morning with supplies that made sense, thanks to Occupy Sandy’s list of what was really needed (batteries, flashlights, toiletries, cleaning materials, and the like).

The folks at the firehouse directed us to St. Gertrude’s on Beach 38th St. Even though the church had itself suffered major damage, they were running quite an efficient operation, marshaling dozens of volunteers to get food, clothing, and supplies to people in the hard-hit neighborhood. In fact, things were run so well that we felt a little superfluous. So when a local woman grabbed one of us on the sidewalk and asked for help cleaning up her little storefront church around the corner, we took her up on it.

The five of us spent a couple of hours ripping up the church’s ruined carpet in semi-darkness, with only a Leatherman for a tool. We hauled the carpet scraps to the sidewalk to await the sanitation trucks. As we left, a group of church members shook our hands and thanked us profusely. They still have a long way to go toward recovery, but we were glad we could help in some small way.

The damage in the Rockaways was so staggering that I can’t stop thinking about it — or trying to help. Today I brought some mops and work gloves to a drop-off site in Astoria, then spent a few hours sorting donated clothes at a local gym. Tomorrow I’ll be part of a group making hot meals for delivery from northwest Queens to our neighbors in the southeast. It’s not enough — it couldn’t possibly be enough — but it certainly feels more helpful than sitting on my couch and watching horrific images on TV.

Thank you, Occupy Sandy. I am proud to be a part of this group.

-Susan-

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