Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What I wrote when someone from The Friend asked for a few sentences about my OWS experiences...

It is almost impossible to condense my experience into a soundbite. (I've been a journalist, I think I know what you're looking for...)

My friend took these pics: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/106605538291535917297/albums/5661958874509093169?hl=en ...that crumb-covered circle of paper was at the bottom of a cupcake. They were passing out free cupcakes, the Monday I brought her to see what I was seeing. Later, she needed a throat lozenge-- as we were trying to make our way out of the throng, a ten year old with a bucket of Ricola walked past, shouting, "Anyone need a throat sweet?" That was when she fell for the revolution... They had what she needed.

Picture # 15 is a poem I wrote-- I wrote it the second week of the occupation, when all my progressive friends were asking, "What are their demands? What do they want? Why should we participate?" I love that not two minutes after I placed it next to some occupiers, a visiting family stopped and read it. They would never speak to me on a normal NY day, in a normal NY park. But Liberty Plaza has become a vacation from normal. People are getting their normal shaken up and examined and it is wonderful.


My first day at the encampment was the fifth day people had occupied the space. It was a chilly, rainy Wednesday: I brought medical supplies and non-perishable food and socks and whatever I could carry on my back on the subway while also keeping hold of my three year old. I wanted to believe, but I wasn't sure I could believe in them. I've been a New Yorker for 7 years, and we know there is always a catch, someone always wants something from us for whatever they're offering.

I walked up to the edge, where 3 or 4 soggy, bearded guys were holding cardboard signs, and said, "I have food, where should I take it?" One of them said, "I'll show you!" He escorted me around a few piles of tarps and bedding and clusters of people huddling for warmth and companionship and the occasional cigarette. I was not hopeful. I got to the center, where the kitchen area had been carved out between a couple of stone benches. While I was waiting for someone to notice me and take my stuff, a restless man in the middle shouted, "Mic check!" three guys near him echoed, "Mic Check!" This was early on, before the media was saying anything about them. I was bemused. "There is a coat in the middle of the kitchen!" he snarled. The speaking people echoed him, so that people further out could hear. "Keep your stuff with you!" an echo, "Keep the kitchen clear!" (echo)... I cringed inside, how could these imperfect people face everything that needed to be faced? And then the restless man shouted, "Sorry for being so pissy!" and the human mics grinned and shouted, "Sorry for being so pissy!"

...And that was when I fell in love with them.

They are imperfect and are aware of it. They're trying anyway. I will keep cooking for them as long as they hold onto that imperfection.

...The next Saturday, the day of the infamous young women getting pepper sprayed incident, I was there, marching with my older son. Because of the cute seven year old, we got stopped by people trying to capture the moment several times. Someone took a picture of us holding hands. "Why are you here?" they asked. I pointed at my son. When they asked for more, I said, "Because I support non-violent protest. I am marching now, so that he doesn't have to participate in violent protest later."

Occupy Wall Street ("OWS" on twitter and between friends) is many things. It is the people holding down the physical space of Zucotti Park/Liberty Plaza (or Square or Park. It doesn't seem to matter much) and listening to each other in working groups and general assemblies and chats with cigarettes. It is the people marching and moving together, taking action in between taking their kids to school and their lunch to work. It is the conversation I had with my neighbor around the corner and the poet from Brooklyn and the young woman from Egypt and the Transit Workers Union members who have been giving me hugs. "Thank you for coming," I said, almost in tears. I was there the day they showed their support-- the first Union to support us and march with us. It was like the Marines had come-- we didn't have to talk and struggle alone. "Thank you," he said. "Thank you for waking us up."

OWS the community cares and listens and fails and tries again.

OWS the movement... I got my picture taken again this Saturday, in between dropping off sterile saline solution and participating in the meditating circle. The photographer wanted me to write why I was there for an art piece. I wrote under "Occupation": Mother, Writer, Human Mic. Under Why I Was There in Less than 1000 characters: As a citizen, I support free speech, free assembly, and non-violent protest. As a mother, I fear my children will be silenced, isolated, and all that will be left for them is violence.

...I had run out of space, but the point is that OWS is-- in this moment, I can't speak for any other-- giving them and me and my friends the opportunity to be part of a community and get our voices heard, our needs met.

I love them.


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