The following post is an article appearing in Poor Magazine on September 16th. Not all stories we have collected about our experience as or with OCCUPY go in the same direction. Tiny has another story to tell. Please tune in to Here Be Monsters this Sunday to hear her tell us about her journey. The following is her experience.
OCCUPY WAS NEVER 4 ME – (1 YR Later)
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 )