Today I went to the sentencing hearing and press conference for CeCe McDonald. Despite the rather somber occasion, I was uplifted by the large number of community supporters who had shown up in solidarity. By now, many people know the story. CeCe McDonald is a young, black, transwoman who while walking with her friends, was attacked by a group of racist and transphobic White people. According to the Support CeCe Website:
Around 12:30 am, CeCe was walking to the grocery store with some friends, all of them young, African American, and either queer or allied. As they passed a local bar, the Schooner Tavern, a group of older, white people who were standing outside the bar’s side door began hurling racist and transphobic slurs at them, without provocation. They called CeCe and her friends ‘faggots,’ ‘niggers,’ and ‘chicks with dicks,’ and suggested that CeCe was ‘dressed as a woman’ in order to ‘rape’ Dean Schmitz, one of the attackers. When CeCe approached the group and told them that her crew would not tolerate hate speech, one of the women said, “I’ll take you bitches on,” and then smashed her glass into CeCe’s face. She punctured CeCe’s cheek all the way through, lacerating her salivary gland. A fight ensued, during which one of the attackers, Dean Schmitz, was fatally stabbed.
It is time again for the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. Many people in the United States are looking forward to filling out their brackets and watching the marathon of hoops action in the coming weeks. According to consulting firm Challenger Gray & Christmas, in 2010 the private sector lost $1.8 billion dollars during the March Madness tournament. Most of the losses occurred within the first two days of the tournament. Online viewership increased by 36% in 2011, and is expected to spike again this year. So far, an estimated 26.4 million dollars has been spent to repress the Occupy movement and “repair” the parks. $26.4 million over the first five months of the entire movement. If these figures are accurate, it would mean that March Madness does about 68.1 times more damage to capital in about two days (most of the lost hours take place over the first Thursday and Friday of games) than the first five months of the entire Occupy movement. While the cost of the Occupy movement largely rests with municipal governments, March Madness strikes at the very core of capital: the private-sector workplace.
I’m tired of fighting with people, especially liberals, over impossibilities. Impossibility is merely defined by the limits of human perception. When people stopped believing the Sun revolved around the Earth, it wasn’t because the planets and stars were suddenly different, it was our ability to perceive them that shifted. In fact, life itself is a series of impossibilities. The probability of existing as you are is about 1 in 10^2,685,000.
So if reality is a string of impossibilities, then the old social movement saying “Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible” is an incredible truth. Engaging the impossible is not about restructuring external forces and structures, it is about altering our understandings and relationships. Impossibility is transformed to reality through human imagination. The question is no longer how to adapt institutions, how to get power, or how to vote; rather, the only question that matters is HOW DO WE WANT TO LIVE TOGETHER! Although, answering this question and fundamentally altering the nature of human relationships is not an easy task.
#OccupyDC & the “People’s Pentagon”: How OccupyDC’s Building Showed Our System Only Knows How to Destroy
December 4, 2011 OccupyDC engaged in a non-violent direct action to build a semi-permanent structure at the McPherson Square park. The small wooden pentagon-shaped structure used passive solar heating, was built “to code”, and was not attached to the ground. In addition to being practical, the action was highly symbolic and sent a very clear message. In the OccupyDC official press release I said the following:
“In a culture and city with chronic homelessness and foreclosures, this structure is a symbol of what people working together under principles of mutual aid can accomplish with limited time and resources. The police response demonstrates that our system is not committed to building up–they’re only concerned with tearing down.”
When people find out that I have participated in the Occupy Wall Street movement, they often ask me to explain what we want. I am quick to remind them that I cannot speak for the movement, only myself (one of the occupation movement’s core principles). The popular critique seems to be that we are unfocused and we lack clear and measurable policy demands. I would like to take the time to respond to that critique.
The occupation movement is not political; it is a personal and social awakening. For so many of us, this is our first time participating in a group that validates and supports the mission to create a more just community. For the first time, many of us are finding our voices. Nonparticipants often wonder what the movement’s demands are, but the occupations cannot be understood through a political lens. The movement doesn’t speak the language of politics, which is why it doesn’t need demands. Demands are points from which to make concessions, and ultimately, to reach compromise with a competing group. The most important thing to understand about the occupations is that people are creating a culture of personal and collective empowerment, not a political coalition.
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%
So, I am fortunate to have met so many wonderful people in my 23 years on this planet. One such person is my friend Patrick, who I met while we studied abroad in Bolivia. At some point, I’m really going to have to sit down and talk about how important that trip was for my identity. Until then, just know that Patrick (and the other students on my trip) is awesome.
Patrick has a lot of interests and can hold a conversation with anyone on just about any subject matter, but there are few things that draw out his passion like the environment. While in Bolivia, Patrick did an independent project on solar panels in rural villages that was extremely insightful. Patrick is the type of environmentalist who engages the people as much as he does the science and the policy, which is refreshing. Currently, he is in Brazil working on environmental projects. Patrick always takes the time to observe how a particular community functions, and using this context, he shows how a particular technology impacts a people’s way of life. Most importantly, Patrick’s blog demonstrates how a people’s social organization impact a technology’s implementation or effectiveness, an undervalued point of analysis in many development circles.