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I read with keen interest the response of Meredith Jessup to the direct action protest which took place in New York City involving my son’s arrest. I feel the writer of the article, Video: Liberal law student chokes on silver spoon in (false) protest has missed the point of the protest by her limited perspective about American freedom, with her statement, “Only in America could a kid have been blessed with so much… and only in America could he still claim to be a victim.” She has chosen to focus on a personal attack of Robert, including his having the ability to attend good academic institutions. These institutions have taught him to think and develop a consciousness about global suffering. Meredith Jessup says “Robert Stephens graduated from Carleton College (average cost: $42,942/year) in 2010 and now studies law at The George Washington University Law School (average cost: $70,449/year).” It would also seem Ms. Jessup believes that a private education should buy your silence about these kinds of issues; that they should be fodder for the classroom but not crossover into real life. I can think of more than a few professors in private schools that would take issue with that viewpoint. I can also think of privileged persons that led movements that introduced a whole new way of thinking; that changed things; and are revered in America. Ms. Jessup in so reporting seems to be persuaded that the status quo is worth maintaining even though she admits to being underemployed in a system that she works to uphold. Ms. Jessup, Robert’s participation in the protest, covers you too.
In the two days since I got back from New York, I realized that I needed to take a step back and really explain my experience and state of mind at the time of my civil disobedience during Occupy Wall Street.
Banks bought & sold each individual mortgage in the United States an average of 7 times before the sub-prime mortgage crisis. These financial institutions made so many bets on the mortgages that they did not have enough assets to cover their potential losses. They would not be able to pay the people that they owed money, which destabilized the entire economy and led to many people losing their jobs and their homes.
These mortgage bets became known as “toxic assets”. Instead of allowing the collapse of these institutions that bought and sold mortgages like Pokémon cards in 1998, the government relieved these corporations of their toxic assets and prevented them from losing their money.
The people who captured this footage were beaten, and one, Marissa, spent 30 hours in custody. I spent 27 hours in custody and was charged with disorderly conduct.
Here is the subsequent right-wing smear campaign:
They called my mother, pretended to be a friend from Facebook, and ambushed her with questions. It is true, my parents are doing a short-sale in an attempt to prevent the forcible repossession of their house by the bank. If the house doesn’t sell, the house will be foreclosed on. My dad has cancer and is disabled, my mother lost her job. They have been under tremendous financial pressure for years now as they try to keep afloat, these recent events of disability and loss of employment were the final straw. Their mortgage became a “toxic asset”, just like the financial industries that traded mortgages that became “toxic assets”. Unfortunately, the financial industry got their toxic assets relieved, while millions of families got homelessness with no relief.
I revised this post for clarity. The point of this post is to say that foreclosure and sub-prime mortgages are not the end of this financial crisis. There are millions of Americans, with millions of different stories, who have been caught up in this financial tragedy.
I told my story, and I stand by it. I have talked about my own family, and our situation in an effort to explain my civil disobedience because I thought that by being forthcoming, people might understand. I now realize that there is no amount of honesty about my life that I can tell that will help people understand just how bad it is for many families in United States.
This is a new world that we are creating. At the time of my arrest, I threw down my backpack and my vest into the middle of the street. I was removed and taken to 1st Precinct, and subsequently Central Booking, where I would not be released until 27 hours later. Upon my return to our camp at Liberty Plaza, both my vest and backpack (which had my phone, keys, books, and other valuables) were back at the camp waiting for me.
This story is a testament to the power of our movement. WE ARE THE 99%. We are changing the very manner in which we treat one another. We reject capitalism’s mandate of competition and we replace it with cooperation and compassion as we look to build a new social existence. We are the 99%
One of my favorite stories about my father is when he was protesting Apartheid by laying down and blocking the entrance to a Frank Sinatra concert. My Dad is a pretty big guy, and the way the story is told, it took at least five officers to lift him up and take him to jail. Now, I watch my father lay in pain from cancer; and it instead of police, I and my little brother help him to his feet. I’m there to listen to him discuss how he is going to pay for his own death; nothing hurts me more. At the end of the day, my father did well for a Black man from rural North Carolina. Between my father and mother, a Black woman from urban Pittsburgh, they have six degrees. Despite these and other “successes”, even they can potentially be casualties of the ravages of government austerity measures and unemployment. So how can I believe in an American dream after seeing the endgame?
Well it’s official; my future self aka Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino has signed to Glassnote Records. The label, which is home to acts like Mumford & Sons, is distributed by Sony’s RED distribution division, the company that also distributes OFWGKTA & Odd Future Records. It seems that Glassnote, which was founded in 2007, is a small independent label with a recent track record of success. The label released the indie band Phoenix’ Grammy-winning album “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”, in addition to seeing Mumford & Sons’ 2009 album “Sign No More” peak at #2 on the US and UK album charts. With those recent successes, it is clear that Glover has signed to a label that can foster both critical acclaim and sales success. With the rise in popularity of free independent music, it seems that artists are able to transition free-music popularity into deals with smaller and more focused labels that in turn use major labels to distribute the work. This is an interesting development, and it will be interesting to see how this changes the music industry landscape.