Occupy Was Never 4 Me- (1 Yr Later)


Tiny - Posted on 16 September 2012

Author: 
tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia

 

I am the .000 25- the smallest number  u can think of in yer mind-

Didn’t even make it to the 99-

love to all of yer awakeninig consciousnessness –

but try to walk in mine… excerpt from I am 000.25 by tiny/Po Poets 2011

 

Occupy Was Never 4 Me

 

Occupy was never for me. I’m Pour’, I’m a mother, I’m disabled, I’m homeless, I’m indigenous, I am on welfare, I never graduated from a formal institution of learning, I have never had a house to be foreclosed on, I am a recycler, panhandler, I am broken, I am humble, I have been po’lice profiled and my mind is occupied with broken teeth, and a broken me. And I am a revolutionary who has fought everyday to decolonize this already occupied indigenous land of Turtle Island in Amerikkka.

 

I’m not hating. I am glad, like I said when it all first got started, that thousands more people got conscious. I am glad that folks woke up and began to get active. What I am not glad about is that in that waking up there was a weird tunnel vision by so many “occupiers” of the multiple struggles, revolutions, pain and deep struggle of so many who came before you, upon whose shoulders and already "occupied" native lands you are standing on.  This is what I have now come to realize is a strange form of political gentrification.

 

Like any form of gentrification there is a belief by the gentrifyers/colonizers, that their movement is different, new form, that it has little or no historical contextual connection to the ones before it. And that it owes little or nothing to the movements and/or communities already there, creating, struggling, barely making it.

 

And yes, race, class and educational access matter. I have heard from elders that a similar thing happened in the 60’s with the poor people of color movements raging on like Black panthers and Young Lords then suddenly the “anti-war movement” sprung up, driven by white middle-class college students and the political climate suddenly got large.

 

This ironic disconnect was never clearer than the way that houseless people, people with psychological disabilities existing outside, were treated, spoken about, problematized, and “dealt with” in the occupations across the United Snakkkes this last year

 

“We are very excited because the police agreed to come every night and patrol our “camp” because we have been having so many problems with the ‘homeless people’ coming into our camp”, said an occupier from Atlanta, Georgia.

 

 “It took us awhile to forge a relationship with the police, but now that we did we feel “safe” from all the homeless people who are a problem in our camp,” said an occupier in Oklahoma

 

“We have been able to do so much with occupy in this town, but we are having a real problem with “security”, its because of the large contingent of homeless people near our camp,” Occupier from Wisconsin.

 

City after city, occupation to occupation, in these so-called conscious and political spaces which were allegedly challenging the use of public space and land use and bank control over our resources and naming the struggle of the 99% versus the %1, were playing out  the same dynamics of the increasingly po’liced urban and suburban neighborhoods across the US.

 

The lie of “security” who it is for, the notion of “illegal” people and how some people are supposed to be here and some are not. Our reliance on police as the only way to ensure our community security and the overt and covert veneer of racism and classism alive and well in every part of this United Snakkkes reared its ugly head in all of these Occupations. In many cases the “occupiers” gentrified the outside locations of the houseless people in these cities. Taking away the “sort of” safe places where houseless people were dwelling outside. And yet no accountability to that was ever even considered by the “occupiers”

     

Perhaps its because the majority of the “occupiers” were from the police using neighborhoods, and/or currently or recently had those homes and student debt and credit and cars and mortgages and stocks and bonds and jobs. Perhaps its because Occupy was never for me or people like me.

 

In Oakland and San Francisco, the alleged “bastions” of consciousness there was a slightly different perspective. Many of the houseless people were in fact part of the organizing and then eventually, due to deep class and race differences, were intentionally left out or self-segregated themselves from the main “occupy” groups and began their own revolutions or groups or cliques, or just defeated huddles around the camp.

 

Several of the large and well-funded non-profit organizations in the Bay Area re-harnessed Occupy into their own agendas and helped to launch some of the huge general strikes and marches to support labor movements, migrant/immigrant struggles, prison abolitionist movements and economic justice.

 

In the case of the poor, indigenous, im/migrant and indigenous skolaz at POOR Magazine we felt we could perhaps insert some education, herstory and information  into this very homogenous, very white, and very ahistorical narrative and to the empirical notion of occupation itself, so we created the Decolonizers Guide to a Humble Revolution book and curriculum. With this book and study guide and our poverty scholarship and cultural art we supported other indigenous and conscious peoples of color in Oakland who began to frame this entire movement as Decolonize Oakland, challenging the political gentrifying aspects of Occupy itself.

 
 

POOR Magazine in an attempt to harness some of the energy and minds of this time towards the very real issues of poverty and criminalization and racism in the US, created The Poor Peoples Decolonization (Occupation) traveling from both sides of the Bay (Oakland to SF) to the welfare offices where so many of us po’ folks get criminalized for the meager crums we sometimes get, public housing where we are on 8-9 year long wait-lists for so-called affordable housing, the po’lice dept where all of us black, brown and po folks get incarcerated, profled and harassed every day not just when we “occupy” and Immigration, Customs Enforcement where any of us who had to cross these false borders, get increasingly criminalized, hated and incarercated for just trying to work and support our families.

 

But in the end a small turn-out showed up for our march, I guess our poor people-led occupations weren’t as “sexy” as other 99% issues.

 

Finally, in Oakland there was a powerful push to re-think the arrogant notion of Occupy” itself on already stolen and occupied native lands and became one of the clearest examples of the hypocritical irony of occupy.

 

After at least a five hour testimony from indigenous leaders and people of color supporters at a herstoric Oakland General Assembly, to officially change the name of Occupy Oakland to Decolonize Oakland, with first nations warriors like Corrina Gould and Morning Star, Krea Gomez, artists Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantez and so many more powerful peoples of color supporters presenting testifying and reading a beautiful statement on decolonization and occupation, it was still voted on that Oakland, the stolen and occupied territory of Ohlone peoples would remain Occupy Oakland.

 

So as the “Occupy” people celebrate 1 year of existence, I feel nothing. I am glad that elders are being helped to not lose their homes through foreclosure, but truthfully, that work was already being done by so many of us already on the front line of eviction, tenants rights, and elders advocacy.

So one year after Occupy was launched, while lots of exciting media was generated, massive resources were spent, a great number of people were supposedly politicized and the world started to listen to the concept of the %99, the same number of black, brown, poor, disabled and migrant folks are being incarcerated, policed, and deported in the US. The racist and classist Sit-lie laws, gang injunctions and Stop and Frisk ordinances still rage on and we are still being pushed out of our communities of color by the forces of gentriFUKation and poverty. So, I wonder, how have these political gentrifyers changed things for black and brown and poor people? Not at all, actually, but then again, Occupy was never really for us.

    

(To read the whole poem I am the 000.25 click here )

Excellent point: "Like any form of gentrification there is a belief by the gentrifyers/colonizers, that their movement is different, new form, that it has little or no historical contextual connection to the ones before it. And that it owes little or nothing to the movements and/or communities already there, creating, struggling, barely making it."

The same was true of the first wave of feminism, of which a major component was middle-class white women proclaiming the desire to work outside of the home. That statement didn't exactly resonate with poor women (often women of color) who didn't know what it was like to stay at home and *not* work. Looking back on that her-storically, that movement did indeed benefit me, as I've had choices that my ancestors didn't have. At the same time, I can recall what it was like to be raised by a single mother (yes, she was white) who *had* to work three or more jobs at a time to make ends meet. What she would have given to be able to spend more time with my sister and me instead of having to work so much!

Thanks for the reminder that political resistance movements are indeed nothing new. After all, it could be argued that Jesus occupied...no, make that DECOLONIZED...the temple.

(I think this comment will show up as "anonymous," but this is being posted by Cynthia Beard.)

...of 'illegal' people and how some people are supposed to be here and some are not."

Tell any woman who has ever been raped, or anyone who has ever been robbed or assaulted, that security is a lie. The fact is, no one can take a meaningful part in a socio-political movement, or even life in general, if they do not feel secure. That is why your "revolution" is a lie: because predators are not restricted to right-wing Republicans and Catholic clergy. Movements like Occupy are full of them, and until you're willing to recognize this, and to "po'lice" them, you will continue to hear people say "Occupy was never 4 me."

Thank you for not simply walking away without expressing this. We all have a lot to learn. "Occupy" may indeed not be the most appropriate word or meme for this movement. Some may never truly understand what it means to be poor, to be persecuted for one's appearance, or what it means to live without shelter. If we expect everyone to understand these things simply by being told, or by reading about them, I think we expect too much. But then what? Do we take everything away from everyone to level the playing field? It took a very long time for us (the human family) to get this far in our evolution (if we can call it that). We are doing our best, most of us. Everyone is trying in their own way to survive and evolve. It's encouraging to see how many poor, indigenous, homeless, diversely colored, diversely gendered humans stuck with this movement. It takes a lot of hard work, learning, humility, acceptance, truth, struggle, confrontation (thank you again for yours) and TIME for a small spark like "occupy" to grow into a bonfire. Flaming it may help it grow, but it won't make it "for you" in any noticeable amount of time. It may seem like eternity, but a year is a very short time if you look at previous movements and their successes. My biggest concern for this movement has been its attempt to include such a huge variety of people. Will the 98th percentile ever be able to struggle alongside the 2nd percentile? But ultimately, we are all HUMAN. Patience is imperative if we are going to resist the machine's insistence that we all compete with each other. Working together across gender, social, class, and political divides will not be easy. But striving towards higher levels of cooperation is the only way I can think of that we can hope to evolve away from the greed and fear that through the centuries has lead to the horrors in our world today. I hope I am able to learn more from my continued involvement in this movement, and have already learned a lot more than I ever could have in any school. Thank you again for taking the time to write your thoughts/feelings and to read mine.

I mean, there are good reasons why 'Occupy' and 'Deconolize' just aren't the same thing. Occupy is really more of an economic movement. That's what its focus is. Since it's a left wing movement it's certainly allied to the causes you mentioned above. But that doesn't mean it's the same thing. Occupy has a particular message that's different from other struggles that it's allied with. This doesn't make it a political 'gentrifier' just that Occupy might be slightly different from whatever other struggles there are. The focus is different. It just has a different identity. It's an open movement but that doesn't mean it can be expected to be everything for everyone. I think people should have thought about this earlier. When there's a movement, take it or leave it. It can't conform to everyone's wishes because many people want it to be contradictory things. If a movement is good enough, then take it, and if you leave it don't blame the movement.

How can one blame a "movement" really? Besides, blame doesn't contribute to progress, it only keeps us in the past, and in a resentful state.

Actually, didn't the majority of people "vote" to rename Occupy Oakland "Decolonize," it just didn't reach the 90% consensus requirement? Just shows that consensus is often a dumb process. I suspect the 90% mark would have been reached if the proposal wasn't presented in a hostile, shaming way: "you white gentrifiers need to learn from us and stop occupying" etc.

Also, not really historically accurate to say the Black Panthers were active, then white antiwar activists came along and "gentrified" things or whatever. There was a "white" student movement before the Panthers formed. But anyway, isn't it a bit silly to see these things as a competition? Yes, white middle class people need to be more aware of the issues affecting people of color. And obviously anyone who is pro-police and against homeless people has a LOT to learn. But I suspect most white radicals already know this stuff. Please don't think middle class liberals somehow "represent" all white people.

This article, while including an important critique, is also missing out. You can write all of this while ignoring the many who were or brought veterans of 1960s, 1930s, 1970s struggles, did readings and screenings of earlier social movements. You can ignore the hundreds who came to NYC's spanish language general assembly, the hundreds of Black and Brown brothers and sisters like myself who gained our need to fight in the streets not in the ivory towers, and who chose to engage with occupy rather than just blasting on it. You can write all of this while ignoring the radicalization of many, many homeless and poor youth and elders. Yes, huge swaths of this occupy thing were and many remain ignorant and large sections were and are privileged and unaware. But don't take them as another excuse to make me and mine invisible.

this "invisible" politics has go to stop.

if you want to write an article about how PoC engage successfully in occupy go ahead and do it.

fact is occupies across the nation are majority white and there are reasons for that.

Kia ora ki te whanau mo to whanau ki Aotearoa
Ngaa mihi mahana, Ngaa mihi aroha ki a taatou katoa.

Hello to the family from your family in New Zealand
Love and warm greetings to you all

Thanks for this article as it supports my view of the world and change. I really wanted to become involved here in Otautahi/Christchurch but simply could not as i felt it was for poor people. This feel remained a very strong feeling for me and does still today. The way the homeless were seen around the world was terrible. We in many senses are all homeless us poor people. I also totally agree with ignoring those who have been involved in the struggle for many years in many ways. Thank you again Lisa Gray Garcia. Live strong, live well, walk gentley in your skin my whanau :-)

I can be contacted at notmuchincome@hotmail.com

Thx to all for thinking thru and listening-

n to other indigenous warriors like fam in New Zealand- pls consider submitting stories to PNN on your experiences there for indigenous peoples media project @ POOR Magazine- just send submissions to deeandtiny@poormagazine.org- ( we po n don't have money but would be honored to hear your words and medicine !

 

Ache

I meant to say..."was NOT for poor people..."

Yes, there are very deep divisions and misunderstandings between classes, races, etc., divisions which Occupy has not overcome. I do see progress being made, though; at the occupations, activists from different classes and races found themselves living together -- this fact alone helped many to better understand each others' perspectives and to build connections, friendships, working relationships, etc.

At Occupy Portland, we started a vigil at City Hall soon after the eviction of the camp. We livestream from the vigil -- see http://www.youtube.com/user/opdxvigiltv (full archives) and http://www.youtube.com/user/occupyvigiltv (highlights) -- documenting the experiences of many people who have come to sleep on the sidewalks around City Hall. Like the camps, this vigil/mini-occupation brings activists of different backgrounds together, giving the homeless safety in numbers while we work in various ways to change the status quo in which assembly and shelter are criminalized.

i wrote the comment above & you can reach me at josh.maurice@gmail.com; see twitter.com/joshmaurice

Lisa,
Thank you for your insight. I believe you answered the question, "What happened to the Occupy?" We called out for world change and the experts on both encampment and oppression stepped up. Only to be marginalized, mistreated, put back in their place. Which is, not coincidentally, somewhere out of sight. We demonstrated for any to see that our enemy is not the 1%. The enemy, again as always, is within.
Hope for healing and unification.
Ken Lee
http://occupiedtucsoncitizen.org/?p=1464

This is a powerful critique of "political gentrification". I am involved with (Un)Occupy Albuquerque. Our name reflects that we are in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement but we know our history of occupation well here in New Mexico so we chose to use language that reflects that.

Many people--mostly Anglo--were unhappy with the analysis that our group has of our economic system because we speak openly about how colonization and racism have always been a part of capitalism. Those people left the group and some tried for a while to sabotage the work because it didn't fit what they thought an occupy wall street movement should look like, and believed their ideas were the norm we should follow.

We partnered with local groups already working on injustice to see how we could support. This is a very important statement you wrote so I shared it with others in (Un)Occupy Abq: "Like any form of gentrification there is a belief by the gentrifyers/colonizers, that their movement is different, new form, that it has little or no historical contextual connection to the ones before it. And that it owes little or nothing to the movements and/or communities already there, creating, struggling, barely making it."

Thank you for writing this.

UnOccupy and thx for doing what you are doing!

 

Young activists do not have the resources or training to handle some of the individuals who came to our camps. At the place that I stayed, a nearby shelter was sending people that they kicked out (for things like committing VIOLENCE on the premises) down to us. I have had a knife pulled on me, been screamed at, threatened, etc etc. It is unfair to expect us to have been able to deal with these massive social and personal issues. It is not as though people were profiled-- indeed the homeless were always welcomed, as long as they (as all of us) abided by the "Code of Respect" we set up.

I also dispute the claim that we are not connected to our history.

At the end here--have to note that there have been multiple occupy protests and workgroups etc focusing on things such as the inherently racist stop-and-frisk laws, and more is in the works.

I regret that you were made to feel unwelcome by the way your local movement was arranged, please do not let this dissuade you from revolutionary actions in the future. It doesn't matter whether or not you "Occupy" as long as you Resist!

When marginalized people come to a political phenomenon and politely (or non-politely) say: fuck off! Too little, too late! Change what you are doing to reflect our lived experience instead of your own!

Why then, it's important to listen, and to respond in a way that shows we are listening.

Dear angry, abused, impoverished and traumatized victim of society: our little group is going to be doing something here for a while in accordance with our understanding of what is best. Please consider ranting a little bit over there so passerby don't confuse us. Clearly, that is something neither of us want.

hadn't the resources to deal with the folks, who, from their point of view, had very many resources--computers, tech devices etc., to the the word out about their movement. Welcome to the movement.

Some people's homelessness is deeply intertwined with mental illness and substance abuse.

In extreme cases, these people need assistance that can only be effectively administered by people with special training related to mental disorders. Such skills, knowledge, and experience are limited resources.

Selling off all of one's fancy tools, such as computers, tablets, and phones doesn't translate into getting people with acute mental disorders the resources they need.

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