Clearing Up Some Rumors and Stating Things Clearly

Posted on December 2, 2011


The Rumors

An article at a blog has some incredible inaccuracies about OO and me. I’ve written a letter to the author; whether or not the inaccuracies are simple ignorance or actual mendacity will hinge on whether its published. In the meantime,  I’m going to clear up those things here:

I do only a few things with the media committee at Occupy Oakland. We have a system of channeling press requests. When the camp was active, it was of some importance for foreign and non-local media, so that we could channel media to people interested in talking to media. When there was no one who wanted to speak to media, we could make sure that SOMEONE spoke to them. As there is no camp at the moment, this job is even more important. So another thing I do is ask people at GA’s if they would like to be on our interviewee list–this list has contact info for people who do like speaking to the media, who have a point of view they’re itching to talk about in regards to the subject, and who are on various committees and have specific knowledge of events or what not. I sometimes talk to the media as a member of this committee, but not a maker of media for it; I make that clear in all interviews. I am not a spokesperson for OO. At this point, there are a few media outlets that sometimes contact me outside of the media committee because they’ve already spoken to me, and ask to talk to me again.

I’m not a site administrator. I’ve never posted any content to Occupy Oakland’s website in its forum or anywhere else. Though anyone can post to the forum there, its not something I’ve done. I talk enough at my blog and on my twitter account. I firmly believe that we make better media on our own, when we state our own points of view about this diverse movement, rather than speaking as one voice on a website purporting to capture that diversity.


Stating Things Clearly

My blog has turned into a single issue advocacy forum, yes, that’s true. That’s because when I became involved in the camp at Occupy Oakland, I saw a vast potential for breaking out of the box that has trapped the left for the past several decades. That box is created by a focus on left wing institutions, Democratic party strangleholds on action, class-based barriers that prevent people from all ethnicities from becoming involved in self-organizing political action.

Left wing institutions are good at organizing people of color into a certain ideological way of entering politics. Its an ideology rooted in electoral politics and top down labor organizations, and it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy where mainstream working class people of color are constantly routed back into tame demonstrations of only a fraction of their power. Academia does the rest, creating an imaginary world of discursive territory, where endless fights about the power of words are given the look and feel of action. Together, these two poles harness the power of the working class and poor, and pour it out into a useless political and discursive system that will never address inherent disparities of income and social position. If we are to have lasting social change, I firmly believe that it will come from the poor and working class, and many of those are people of color.

The game-changer of the camp was its open nature and its capacity to involve people immediately in a network of work and discourse. That openness was also one of its greatest weaknesses. There was no filter, anyone could come. Some people came into the camp with less than stellar rationale for being there, and then were won over by the community. Others weren’t, or haven’t, and became anchors around the camp community’s neck. But all that’s worth it. Some people have described the camp as a sort of utopia in the making, and I think they may be talking in anarchist terms of a classless society. That’s fine.

But for me, that utopia was in allowing the poor and working class the right and ability to discover political truths and relationships of capital on their own, to come to their own conclusions. During this process, they could start immediately participating in a process to address their conclusions. Some of those people were white; but the vast majority of poor and working class people that became part of the Occupy Oakland community were and are African Americans and other people of color from all over Oakland.

With the camp gone now, it seems like a hollow echo of a dream. Once we all were here, in a gigantic block long community struggling in the shadow of the Clorox complex, City Hall and the Oakland Tribune. We shared food, work. We fought and discussed. We talked about difficult issues openly-racism, genderism, violence, love, respect, rage. It wasn’t always easy. Actually, I think it was never easy. And not many of us are or were angels.

Some of us still go back there every day and night. Some never left at all. There is Running Wolf, tree sitting for weeks in an incredible demonstration of stamina and force of will. There are the vigil activists struggling against city hall and the police in their own backyard, daily contesting the power of municipal buildings to declare what is appropriate expression of free speech. There are the interfaith people, who’ve never given up, though police forced them to take their canopy down in a show of discriminatory application of the law.

And the rest of us, who go there daily and nightly to attend meetings for the port shutdown, community outreach brainstorming, discussion forums, and the General Assembly. We took the most unused and useless park in the history of Oakland, and turned it into a dynamic and churning engine of political discourse and action. That construct was so strong that it refuses to die–no matter how many thousands of gallons of water Mayor Quan dumps into the swamp she’s created on the site where once a living forest of humans stood. Like haunting ghosts, we won’t go away, we’re still there. We still Occupy.