Tag Archives: Occupy Wall Street

The Evolution of Occupy Wall Street & Civil Rights

My brain is working overtime these days on weighty matters but that is surely a sign of the times. *nods to Prince fans* At times like these, it’s difficult to know where to begin because there is no beginning, it’s all interconnected. It would be accurate to say that the volume of this conversation had been grown steadily thanks to Occupy Wall Street (OWS).

Foremost, in my mind is the subject of civil rights and OWS. My followers know that I am an advocate of the Occupy Wall Street movement and may have noticed that I haven’t posted about them in some time. I’ve been weighing, there goes that word again, the issue of OWS, POC and their minimal involvement in the movement. Quite honestly, I’ve been angered by the firestorm of controversy that I’ve seen unfolding in mainstream and social media. It pissed me off because it seemed to be a no brainer.

Simplistically stated, the argument goes this way: OWS was initially conceived to fight against the tyranny of corporations, mass greed and economic injustice PERIOD.

It would be fair to say that there was a very slow initial response, if any, to the trickle, turned deluge, of voices that said their attempts were overly simplistic, exclusive, one sighted and reeking of white privilege. Needless to say, that erodes the very claim that the movement purports to represent the 99%.

There have been numerous responses to this claim:

  1. Talk of race/racism is divisive and seemingly unnecessary as this is a time for unification and solidarity.
  2. Issues of socio-economic justice that affect a specific segment of the population are not part of this movement. Seeming to imply that all is more important than some.
  3. I’ve even heard it opined that It’s too big a nut to crack.

Please note that I cull from a host of comments, Tweets, blogs and posts when citing these as the main responses. I could not possibly list them all but will give a small sample here.

For those who agree with the claims above, I will state unequivocally that you are wrong.

1. People are NEVER divorced from their experience

Asking me to look at life through the singular focus of your concerns immediately predicates a non-reciprocal relationship. There can be no consensus, or the much espoused solidarity in such a case.

Experience colors everything we do. It is unspoken baggage that informs your behavior, and effects your decisions. It is an integral who we are and no one, but no one, appreciates being told that their experience is negligible when attempting to address an issue, particularly one of this magnitude.

2. Race talk is divisive

Only in a racist society would one say that discussion of race is divisive. It is typically uncomfortable for Americans, considering our traumatic past and the current state of affairs, but it is an integral part of healing, empathy and progress.

Any friend whom I can not discuss issues of race with, as an African American, is NOT my friend. You dismiss a part of me that inform the very basis of who I am. It is more than necessary, it is germane to my input as a human being. That anyone would attempt to refute that is insulting and dehumanizing. This would explain why  folks have begun to distance themselves in the face of such close-mindedness, even though they wanted to support the movement. How counter-productive is it to alienate the very people whose support you need?

3. “We are all one race, the human race.”

That is certainly true. Genetically, it has been proven that humans are more alike, than dissimilar, and I will gladly say that I am first a human being. But, I am also an African American woman, a descendant of Cherokee Indians and African Slaves, and a New Yorker, just to name a few things. All central to my experience in the world.

People have attempted to use that statement in a pat way as if it erases all else we are and that is, quite frankly, bullshit. My experience is not the same as a Latina, an Asian, an Irish American, a Southerner etc.

4. An injustice for one IS an injustice for all

To profess that you are standing against injustice and tyranny caused by capitalism, and yet refuse to address the issues of those historically affected for generations by a system of disenfranchisement is more than unjust, it is morally reprehensible. The two issues cannot be separated because one is clearly the antecedent for the other. There is a causal relationship as one reinforces the other in order for capitalism to thrive.

The injustices in the US did not begin in 2008 and anyone who thinks so should pick up a history book. In any historical analysis of colonialism and the effects of capitalism, it is correct to say that the “dominant” group subjugates the oppressed for material gain, be it land, wealth, resources etc. racism is used as a means to an end at it’s very base.

So, perhaps it is understandable why so many people of color are/were deeply offended by any attitude which purports a concern for justice but dismisses our reality, our very history, as marginal. As well meaning as the messenger might be it is a clearly unjust stance. A stance that relies on the white privilege, ignorance of history, our struggles, convenience and a special sort of blindness.

Any struggle for socio-economic justice must address not just the current situation, but the sum of conditions that led to this historic moment in history for the 99%. If it does not, I can guarantee that we will go back to business as usual for the majority, and only a illusory victory for a few, and that is unacceptable. No one wants to risk imprisonment, police brutality, or a criminal record etc. for such a one-sided goal.

Yes, that mean significant changes must be worked for, the abolishment of the death penalty; tackling the giant of the prison industrial complex, constitutional amendments and the like.

It will not be easy but those who join in the struggle for liberty have never walked an easy path. They do what is hard and they do it because it is right. We should not be short sighted as what we do at this moment affects not only us but generations to come.

Wait for it…

I did and I am. I waited to see the movement evolve and listen, rather than just sought to be heard, and it seems to be coming, slowly but surely. For starters, there is the announcement that church leaders are joining the movement and the International Civil Rights Restart which I am very excited about. I don’t think it’s my imagination that a heightened sense of awareness and sensitivity has become prominent in our conversations as people have begun in greater numbers to speak out against social injustice everywhere. I can’t wait to see what’s to come…

Videos Of The Week #1

Happy Monday all,

I have decided to add some excitement to your lives by posting my favorite videos of the week. I’m going to give myself some leeway as to subject matter since you know how broad my interests are. This week’s are relating to social ills and civil disobedience, amongst other pertinent and heady subjects. Nothing like a little multimedia to brighten your day 🙂

Harry Belafonte on Occupy Wall Street

The Usury States Of America – Bill Maher & Elizabeth Warren

Where Does Occupy Wall Street Go From Here?

If you’ve been paying attention, you must be wondering the very same thing. OWS is everywhere these days it seems and they have done what formerly seemed impossible, they have put our economic woes and highlighted some of the social ills of our society, more on this later, front and center in the national conversation. As laudable as that is, that’s not enough and it seems they have begun to work on a Vision statement and will soon be formulating a list, according to Michael Moore. Click here to go to Mike’s website. The statement below was released last night.

I think the list is great but feel that it falls short in terms of addressing many of the social ills which effect our society. Specifically, the judicial system and prison industrial complex. Click here for an extremely informative article on this very issue.

I am very curious to know what your opinions are re: the list and matters at hand so feel free to comment. Have a wonderful thanksgiving and don’t forget to count your blessings! 🙂

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November 22nd, 2011 1:51 PM

Where Does Occupy Wall Street Go From Here?

This past weekend I participated in a four-hour meeting of Occupy Wall Street activists whose job it is to come up with the vision and goals of the movement. It was attended by 40+ people and the discussion was both inspiring and invigorating. Here is what we ended up proposing as the movement’s “vision statement” to the General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street:

We Envision: [1] a truly free, democratic, and just society; [2] where we, the people, come together and solve our problems by consensus; [3] where people are encouraged to take personal and collective responsibility and participate in decision making; [4] where we learn to live in harmony and embrace principles of toleration and respect for diversity and the differing views of others; [5] where we secure the civil and human rights of all from violation by tyrannical forces and unjust governments; [6] where political and economic institutions work to benefit all, not just the privileged few; [7] where we provide full and free education to everyone, not merely to get jobs but to grow and flourish as human beings; [8] where we value human needs over monetary gain, to ensure decent standards of living without which effective democracy is impossible; [9] where we work together to protect the global environment to ensure that future generations will have safe and clean air, water and food supplies, and will be able to enjoy the beauty and bounty of nature that past generations have enjoyed.

The next step will be to develop a specific list of goals and demands. As one of the millions of people who are participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement, I would like to respectfully offer my suggestions of what we can all get behind now to wrestle the control of our country out of the hands of the 1% and place it squarely with the 99% majority.

Here is what I will propose to the General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street:

                                                                 10 Things We Want
A Proposal for Occupy Wall Street
Submitted by Michael Moore

1. Eradicate the Bush tax cuts for the rich and institute new taxes on the wealthiest Americans and on corporations, including a tax on all trading on Wall Street (where they currently pay 0%).

2. Assess a penalty tax on any corporation that moves American jobs to other countries when that company is already making profits in America. Our jobs are the most important national treasure and they cannot be removed from the country simply because someone wants to make more money.

3. Require that all Americans pay the same Social Security tax on all of their earnings (normally, the middle class pays about 6% of their income to Social Security; someone making $1 million a year pays about 0.6% (or 90% less than the average person). This law would simply make the rich pay what everyone else pays.

4. Reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, placing serious regulations on how business is conducted by Wall Street and the banks.

5. Investigate the Crash of 2008, and bring to justice those who committed any crimes.

6. Reorder our nation’s spending priorities (including the ending of all foreign wars and their cost of over $2 billion a week). This will re-open libraries, reinstate band and art and civics classes in our schools, fix our roads and bridges and infrastructure, wire the entire country for 21st century internet, and support scientific research that improves our lives.

7. Join the rest of the free world and create a single-payer, free and universal health care system that covers all Americans all of the time.

8. Immediately reduce carbon emissions that are destroying the planet and discover ways to live without the oil that will be depleted and gone by the end of this century.

9. Require corporations with more than 10,000 employees to restructure their board of directors so that 50% of its members are elected by the company’s workers. We can never have a real democracy as long as most people have no say in what happens at the place they spend most of their time: their job. (For any U.S. businesspeople freaking out at this idea because you think workers can’t run a successful company: Germany has a law like this and it has helped to make Germany the world’s leading manufacturing exporter.)

10. We, the people, must pass three constitutional amendments that will go a long way toward fixing the core problems we now have. These include:

a) A constitutional amendment that fixes our broken electoral system by 1) completely removing campaign contributions from the political process; 2) requiring all elections to be publicly financed; 3) moving election day to the weekend to increase voter turnout; 4) making all Americans registered voters at the moment of their birth; 5) banning computerized voting and requiring that all elections take place on paper ballots.

b) A constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not people and do not have the constitutional rights of citizens. This amendment should also state that the interests of the general public and society must always come before the interests of corporations.

c) A constitutional amendment that will act as a “second bill of rights” as proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt: that every American has a human right to employment, to health care, to a free and full education, to breathe clean air, drink clean water and eat safe food, and to be cared for with dignity and respect in their old age.

Let me know what you think. Occupy Wall Street enjoys the support of millions. It is a movement that cannot be stopped. Become part of it by sharing your thoughts with me or online (at OccupyWallSt.org). Get involved in (or start!) your own local Occupy movement. Make some noise. You don’t have to pitch a tent in lower Manhattan to be an Occupier. You are one just by saying you are. This movement has no singular leader or spokesperson; every participant is a leader in their neighborhood, their school, their place of work. Each of you is a spokesperson to those whom you encounter. There are no dues to pay, no permission to seek in order to create an action.

We are but ten weeks old, yet we have already changed the national conversation. This is our moment, the one we’ve been hoping for, waiting for. If it’s going to happen it has to happen now. Don’t sit this one out. This is the real deal. This is it.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

What Does It Mean To Be A Human Being?

An excellent question. What does it mean to you and what do you stand for?

I’ve been writing frantically all day and have no energy to write my intended post :(. In it’s place, I leave the next best thing, two must see videos that are sure to inspire you and make you think. Kudos to Angela Davis and Danny Glover. I thought I loved Danny before but now… I have no words.

I have always respected and loved Angela for her sacrifice and commitment. Watch for the link at the end of the video, which will appear at the top in white text, that takes you to the Q&A section.

One of the most beautiful things that has come out of OWS is the spiritual, selfless and passionate articulation of humans, from all walks of life, across the spectrum, who have chosen to join the movement. It has gone along way towards renewing my faith in mankind.

Power To The People!

Things That Make You Go Hmm #4: Police Brutality

I have never liked cops. Nope, never. We spend a lot of time denying and defending our biases but in some cases it’s simply not worth the bother. If your bias has a basis in reality and continually gets reinforced then I say you are entitled to it. The caveat being that you are AWARE of your bias and control your actions towards others so that it is not a guiding principle.

I have been severely tested of late to adhere to this idea of fairness when it comes to law enforcement.

Disliking cops is most definitely a Black Thang. We have suffered so much at their hands or have been witness to their repeated bias against us, in famously publicized cases, that I venture to say it is a given. Who in there right mind could say we do not have sufficient justification?

Even so, I am too rational to say that all cops are bad. There is good to be found in everything, no matter how miniscule. However, I do believe that most are bad. Why?

  • It’s a natural outcome of the authority they are given and the inherent corruption of power. Here’s an article from today’s NY Times.
  • They are exposed to the basest elements of humanity on a daily basis which has far reaching psychological effects over time.
  • They don’t receive sufficient psychological training and any idiot with brawn, who is not overly psychotic, can become a member of the club.
  • Many lack the benefit of higher education which leaves them at the mercy of their baser instincts and inherited prejudices. In relation to this, you may find this article interesting.

That is my opinion. Often, when I have formed an opinion I wait to be proved wrong. I HOPE to be proved wrong because inside I am still an idealist. Sigh.

All of this to say that recent events at Occupy Wall Street camps have proved me out in the most horrid way. Like I really needed proof! Every excuse that has been proposed is in my book inconsequential.

  • “They brought it on themselves.” Look at the idiot protestors who obstinately continue to occupy public spaces, violating public ordinances and codes. Did Scott Olsen deserve what he got?
  • “They are human too and their behavior is understandable considering what they are dealing with.” Oh, the poor cops, with their gas masks, bullet proof vests and riot gear. They must be sooo scared as they face hordes of angry citizens and the potential of bodily harm. Ha! It’s worth pointing out that the violence escalates even when the protestors are peaceful and respectful so that kind of refutes that point.
  • “They are just following orders and they need their jobs.”

I am moved by NONE of that. The fact remains that they are inflicting bodily harm on citizens whose intentions are unquestionably for the greater good. We pay their salaries for chrissake. They are traitors in every sense of the word because they refuse to stand up for what is right and I find that to be morally reprehensible and inexcusable. I agree with Sgt. Shamar Thomas when he says, “There is no honor in this.”

By their actions, they deny their humanity and commonality with the protestors who are people. Not just a faceless horde of individuals hell bent on destruction.

How can they, with seemingly little remorse,  “attack” the elderly, the infirm, the young and not ask themselves if it is wrong? How can they be an arm of justice and not be concerned about what is right?

They victimize any whom they see as weak or deem an easy target. A lot of what they are doing is psychological, they look to instill fear to ensure crowd control. It is unbridled lawlessness that is sanctioned by the judicial system.

What I have seen truly disgusts me and I am equally alarmed by the people who keep making excuses for them. They should be held accountable in the court of public opinion, just like we are demanding of the politicians and the bankers.

Sadly, what is occurring is not new, or unique to this situation.

It’s worth noting that some Black folks are thrilled to see the current turn of events because it exposes and underscores the brutality that POC have endured for decades, which the “majority” accepted as justifiable. All wrapped up in a neat bow with their erroneous racial bias about POC and the mighty right arm of justice. Or, they just turned a blind eye as people do to things which do not affect them. Both of which are morally reprehensible as well.

And to that end, I say again, “Your silence has not saved you.”

The truth is that police brutality is colorblind and no one is immune. They give the saying, “A necessary evil” a whole new meaning.

#Our Speech for Congresswoman Maxine Waters: Democracy In Action

Today marks the day that I had the effrontery to stick my neck out lol. Undoubtedly, I will be labeled by some as crazy or, at the very least, as an ideologue. I do not care.   Great aspirations are not attained without risk and this, such as it were, is a tiny rock whose ripples I hope will spread far.

Below is my latest labour of love, a speech which has been submitted to Congresswoman Maxine Waters for the #Our Speech call to action. I hope that at least some of it is heard or better yet, acted upon.

To add to the this weekend’s historic moments, Cornel West was arrested today getting his voice heard in Washington DC. How fitting is that?

We are the 99%.

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I do not profess to be a politician. The halls of congress and the White House are grounds that I never expect to walk upon, except as a tourist. Yet, within the halls of democracy lies the beating heart of the people who dared to conceive it and took the necessary steps to actualize it.

Democracy is the form of government which we believe exemplifies our dream of a just and equal society. We believe so deeply in its aspirations and veracity that we uphold it as the ideal to which other nations should aspire. The people are both the wheel upon which the system turns and the very steam which powers the engine of democracy and capitalism. Social injustice, racial disparities, institutional racism and economic inequality are systemic issues which mirror the failings of humanity. None of which are acceptable and all of which must be fought against.

The time has come to acknowledge that our ideology and aspirations are greatly out of step with reality. The current strife underscores this more than any speech ever could. Americans are sick of hearing Congress bicker about whom is to blame for our issues and what is the best way to solve them. I happen to be a Democrat but before any political affiliation, I am a human being and so I expect our politicians to put aside their differences and do the job we elected them to do.

While Congress pontificates and filibusters, Americans are starving, losing their homes, working multiple jobs, if they can find them, and puzzling over ways to balance our incredibly, shrinking budgets against the rising costs of tolls, gas, food and corporate thievery in the guise of bank fees and loan rates.

We wonder how we will pay our taxes and student loans, avoid answering our phones, leave our mail unopened, as we struggle against a rising tide of depression because the system, if it ever was for us, has failed at this critical juncture in history to safeguard us. That is unacceptable.

Americans have lost HOPE. Hope, is the sacred right of every human being and what many politicians seem to have forgotten is that they are elected to be our hope and serve the arm of the people in a world rife with uncertainty. It is a sacred trust which has been broken as Americans are falling under the wheels of Corpocracy and greed due to officials failing to keep up their end of the bargain.

I acknowledge, unlike many, that “the people” have helped to create the mess we are in by their apathy and silence. I applaud Congresswoman Waters for reaching out to Americans as change must be a joint effort, of the electorate and our government. We need to be reminded and we need to be held accountable.

The global Occupy Wall Street movement illustrates beautifully the consciousness of the people which has been missing from the political landscape. Our silence has finally and irrevocably been broken. Those of us who have been awakened are now willing soldiers in the fight. Our strength, our passion and our vision can, and should be, harnessed to power change. How can America hold out its hand to other nations but not have the wherewithal to do the same for her people?

My suggestions are listed below:

  • Revise the tax code and raise the taxes for the rich and corporations and pass the American Job Act.
  • Close the loopholes, legally or by constitutional ratification, which allowed corporations to skirt the system and create the mortgage crisis.
  • Pass legislation to get the money out of congress. We need citizen funded elections to limit corporate influence.
  • Enact a National Foreclosure Moratorium to stem the tide of homelessness and allow people to get their finances in order.
  • Create an Oversight committee for mortgage fraud investigation and HAMP. The program is a farce because banks are not making modifications as agreed to and homeowners have NO resource to go to.
  • Waive 401K tax withdrawal penalties for the unemployed and underemployed as discussed during the 2008 campaign. How can people get back on their feet if they are in debt to everyone incl. the IRS?
  • Create additional incentives for banks to lend to small businesses and new entrepreneurs.
  • Procure unused tracts of land to create a national program more urban community gardens or provide grants. Volunteer committees can plant and manage the grounds; sell proceeds (with a cap on profits) and be mandated to give a percentage of the yield to organizations which feed the homeless.
  • Provide a liaison for the Occupy Wall Street movement to ensure that their objectives (TBD) can be communicated effectively without resorting to more violent measures which is a foreseeable outcome.
  • Keep the channels of communication open between the electorate and government. Encourage volunteer committees of a select, and changing group of citizens, selected by lottery, who are responsible for communicating/brainstorming quality of life issues and provide feedback to their local governments.
  • Determine what can be done to repeal the recently enacted Voter id laws which will have a direct impact on the 2012 election.

The Transitory Nature of Joy

I woke up this morning with a feeling of Joy. My initial intention was to lay there mulling over it, analyze it and hold it to me so like the air from a balloon, it would not escape. A loud voice within me cried out that this would be a mistake lol. “Go with it” seems a much better course of action. By the time I finished, it might have dissipated in the wake of some of the things I am happy about. After all, there is almost always a fly in the soup.

I read once that your emotional state is a choice, one that we don’t often take advantage of, in our backbreaking rush to succumb to whatever ails us – at the moment. That is, of course, an unreasoned response which mirrors our primordial nature. Life is made up of moments that so often we are just trying to get through. To stop and contemplate an ephemeral rainbow, a passing cloud or the colors of the sunrise, is to align yourself temporarily with a thing greater than you, unknowable and haunting in their beauty and timelessness. Use beauty to arm yourself – Carpe Diem.

I like excercising choice so much better.

So, I chose to scramble out of bed to revel in this feeling. I attired myself in shades of pink and purple, went in search of a cup of java and stopped at the window to enjoy, momentarily, the last days of my garden’s splendor. All that in hand, I found myself right HERE 🙂

Being right here with you makes me happy. Being in a state of happiness opens you up to greater happiness and I like that just fine. I know, of course, why I am smiling and almost none of these things have anything to do with me but why not share them as they might make you happy too.

Yesterday, was a historic day. October 15, 2011 will live in my memory as a day that was witness to a collective consciousness that joined people together in purpose, love and solidarity – worldwide.

A Change Is Gonna Come, expect it. It has already begun. It needs to be harnessed and clearer demands articulated but such an outpouring of unity makes me feel hopeful and empowered.

To add to my glee, today is a historic day, Dr. Martin Luther King’s monument is being unveiled and dedicated in Washington D.C. Check OUT President Obama’s speech. We must carry on the work of the dreamers who fearlessly gave their lives to make this world a better place. The world is worth fighting for.

I like riding the winds of change so much better.

Here is a very cool post by one of my Blog Sisters, Angelika Beener. It’s very fitting that I am sitting here surrounded by auditory splendor :).

Just two things but they are pretty BIG things.

I often think about how transitory happiness is. It can’t be bottled, or ingested by a pill. We search fruitlessly for people that will make us happy and read self-help books that will tell us how to get to that place. In a word, futility.

It seems clear to me that we aren’t meant to be happy all the time but I’m good with that. If it were a constant feeling it would not be so uplifting and revelatory. It is the nature of life, our days are balanced (or not), by moments of dark despair, sadness, mundane activities, ongoing responsibilities, enervating fear, insecurities, aspirations and flashes of joy unbidden, which like rainbows reveals to us the state of perfection that can be achieved. Sometimes all you need to do is be open to receive it. Keep seeking, the answer, the articulation, lies within.

Peace.

I Am The 99%

This post was inspired by We Are the 99%

2008 is a year that I will never forget. First, I lost $50,000 in value from my 401K which was 1/3rd of the value of my portfolio and had taken me 14 arduous years to save. I thought that was the worst.

Then, October came along and I lost my eleven year job as a Telecommunications Engineer/Project Manager. I was one of three laid off with whom I shared tenure as we all had been with the firm for over a decade. Not surprisingly, two of us were POC. Too boot, I was the only female technologist. I did have a sneaking suspicion but that did not really prepare me. As I was to discover, what we imagine rarely holds up against the implacableness of stark reality.

I remember what I wore that day, red and gold. I was attired as a warrior goddess, ready for battle and was already packed, just in case. My motto, never let them see you sweat held firm – for a minute.

I made it home fueled on rage and then went grocery shopping. In aisle 11 of Costco, the dam burst and I dissolved in tears. I was hit by a mix of emotions, best summarized as disbelief and fear.

Anyone who works in Corporate America is intimate with the knowledge that anyone is dispensable. That is doubly true for POC and triple enforced with superglue for those of the fairer sex. Even so, I had great difficulty getting my mind around how I suddenly lacked value with 22 years of experience. It took a lot of stripping away to face the ugly reality that I had NEVER been valued and it was the thing that sat on my chest at night, indigestible and spirit stealing. Honestly, I merely stomached it in exchange for my piece of the American dream. It kept me up at nights but I always put on my game face because the ends justifies the means. How wrong and horribly naive of me.

I could not belive how wrong I was and I can’t tell you how many hours I spent grappling with the truth that was entrenched in my spirit and the deconstruction of my carefully constructed reality. I wonder even now where I would be today had I not been so eager to buy into what I was told and invested more in my dreams.

I could only sit still so long though. In the background, was an ever increasing death knell of friends who were let go, one after another, and others who spent fruitless hours job searching. I told myself it wasn’t THAT bad but the unanswered query letters, calls to industry friends and mounting resume submissions kept climbing right alongside my mortgage, my credit card bills and all that I needed to live.

November came and just as I had predicted Obama won. His victory shook me out of my stupor and propelled me forward to start a business. Finally, due to unforeseen circumstances, I could take all the energy I put into someone elses business and do something that I loved. 12/31/08 was the date of my incorporation and that day changed my life forever. It realigned my personal beliefs with my reality and I changed. An unfolding which will always be incredibly precious and beautiful to me.

I’d rather be naked in the light of truth than bask in the falsehoods designed to keep us compliant and satisfied. Not a lot of people feel that way, sadly.

Do I have to say that I was told that I was crazy? A Black female entrepreneur in the landscaping business in NEW JERSEY?! I pressed on anyway because of all the things around me in that I no longer believed in – I still believed in myself. It is the one thing they could not take away from me.

I withdrew what remained of my 401K savings and invested it in – me. Fuck a stock. Banks weren’t lending at the time either. Who better to gamble on? I thought for sure then everything would be alright. WRONG. In hindsight, I realize that I had merely bought into the mindset that I could “Pull myself up by my bootstraps.” You can only do that if the system isn’t rigged. It didn’t take long for my severance package to run out, followed by unemployment. Unemployment is the new welfare, quiet as it’s kept. In NJ, you can only get $320 a week. Try having a mortgage and a car and kids etc. and living off that amount. Good luck! Not to mention the indignity of filing reports, being called down to the office for mandated workshops and certifying continuously so they won’t cut you off. Amazing, since I paid for insurance for 22 years. It took me ONE week to even get through to the office since the lines were flooded and they now only have one office to walk in – located in Albany – for New York.

It seemed that there was no other choice than to supplement my income with what was left of my 401K savings. My health insurance went by the wayside. COBRA was approx. $500 a month after the government subsidies expired in 2010. Who needs to be healthy anyway?

To add to my delight, there is the conundrum of my taxes. For the first time in my life, I owe the IRS a double-digit figure because I had the gall to LIVE off my savings. There were claims that there would be dispensation for such circumstances during the election but my accountant laughed when I mentioned it. His laughter still rings in my ears as I go about the daily business of survival.

Now, foreclosure looms. Chase (aka Cheat)continues to play with me, 120 pages of documentation and 3 applications later, my modification app. is still amongst the thousands pending. Yet, they keep asking for MORE information, 99% of which they already have, as one friendly rep told me. Is there oversight – NO.

I am not alone. Many of my friends face the same struggles and the reality of panic attacks, poor health, depression and ongoing stress, as they try to cope with the mounting waves of economic fallout. They too, did what they were told and their worthless degrees and professional accolades mock them. They too have had to face that their reality was ALWAYS tenuous and that the angry rhetoric we spouted about the system being stacked against us was a pale shadow of what could come. When shit gets real, that’s when you find out what you are made of.

My mother was on welfare when I was a child and I remember thinking that I would NEVER be in such a position. I would NEVER ask for anyone’s help after the way I saw her treated by so called social workers and professionals who were there to help. At 9, I could tell that was a JOKE. Yet, no one could be more amazed than I that when I finally had no choice but to ask for help, from a system which I have spent my life upholding and following inside the lines, there would be roadblocks, penalties and misdirection at EVERY turn. The banks are good though. Who will bailout faltering Americans?

Are you feeling worthless yet?

The closest articulation of truth that I have found, outside my own heart, is the cry that arises from Occupy Wall Street. I wouldn’t have believed it but the camaraderie, tons of information that I have gotten thanks to Twitter and the people/organizations which I have found through them has empowered me to continue fighting when I was just about to give up. Now I fight for more than my survival, I fight for CHANGE.

We are the 99%. 

Occupy Wall Street: Bridging The Color Gap

I’m happy to say that I have followed The Occupy Wall Street Movement from the beginning of the occupation. Like many of their followers, I found them on Twitter and have watched, cheered, donated and tweeted my days away in slavish fervor in keeping with my commitment and admiration.

I believe wholeheartedly in what they are doing, civil disobedience is our constitutional and human right. Anyone with eyes can see that the government has become less and less effective, reaching a state where one is tempted to call politicians mere titular heads. I agree with many who say that party alignment is irrelevant as there is definitely “Something rotten in Denmark.” It is painfully obvious that government is failing to safeguard and enact the will of the electorate which is their primary function. Nowhere was this more evident than the bailout of the financial sector and the complete lack of accountability for their actions which has affected the nation and it continues to snowball.

The question I kept asking as I watched uprisings around the world unfold was,  “When will Americans wake up and take a stand?”

Finally, they have! Do I see issues within the movement? Absolutely. Yet, I take heart that this anger can be fueled for positive change in a world careening towards disaster and that any issues, glaring as they are, will be addressed. The movement is taking shape and needs our help.

There has been a lot of talk about organizational, communication and goal oriented results and demands which are key factors to the success of any movement. Yet the issue which bothers me the most is the seemingly minimal involvement by people of color (POC). The term POC is all encompassing: African Americans, Hispanics, Indigenous Peoples and so on. In this dialogue that has started, “Of the People, By the People and for the People”, our faces are glaringly in the minority. The question is WHY?

The question must be asked because the movement is supposed to stand for the 99%. It does not purport to be about one class, one race or one state. It is now, unbelievably, GLOBAL. Why? Because we all have the same basic human concerns: safety, housing, education, a fair wage, a political system that is representative and corporations which are accountable and do not stampede over us in their unending pursuit of profit.

If the movement fails to incorporate all people, other valid issues which are directly tied to economic policies like social justice and institutional racism will not be addressed and that would be a crying shame.

I’ve been doing my homework, monitoring Tweets, reading articles which have begun to spring up espousing the idea that the 99% is really 99% White, and talking to my circle for the last two weeks. As soon as that was articulated, a dull rumbling began. Smart folks are wary since divisveness is a tool that has historically been used to conquer people and it WORKS. We must work together to unify and so the discussion can’t be truncated to those subjects that are easy to discuss. Who exactly would that help?

I have compiled a short list of issues below that I feel bear discussing, failing all else I hope to raise consciousness.

Disclaimer: The issues listed below are NOT all inclusive. Breathe. However, I do belive it speaks directly to the reluctance of POC to become more actively involved. 

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1. They have never cared about us or stood up for our concerns.

This, of course, is a generalization as there are White Americans who have stood up and fought side by side with POC to achieve their goals. However, it would be fair to say that those who have are in the minority. America has been since it’s inception a racist country which White Americans, over many generations, have profited from, directly or indirectly. In spite of what some would like to believe with the election of President Obama, we are NOT in a Post-Racial society.

The facts and statistics, excluding the electoral shift, simply do not support this notion of Post Racism, grand as it is. Ask a POC how their life has changed since 2008. You will hear crickets or get cursed out for your pains.

African Americans, Hispanics and other POC still suffer disproportionately in America and anyone who denies this is delusional. Anyone who says this is our fault is at best ignorant of history, societal norms and the deeply embedded stereotypes of racial superiority. At worst, they are bigots.

We are plagued by high rates of unemployment which affects housing, education, incarceration rates and our quality of life. From an African American perspective, there has never been a movement, not started by an African American, to address the fundamental inequalities they face. Worse, their is a history of lies and betrayal has a long memory. So it’s understandable why POC do not trust that this time is different and “colorblind.”

2. A sense of separation pervades our minds.

Many seem to believe that the concerns of Occupy Wall Street are not our concerns. They see White faces on TV, they see Hippies, Intellectuals, Activists and the most of them are White. Therein, lies a disconnect. We need to see someone we identify with in order to feel comfortable. Which can be said of most human beings. For example, feminists don’t want MEN to speak for them because, as well meaning as they might be, it’s accurate to say that they lack something as they have no experience in this arena. Understanding and empathy, while laudable, is not experience. POC have lived with the injustices of the system long before 2008.

The fact that the movement’s concerns are universal is hard to overcome when you are burdened by anger and have felt separate for so long. Be honest, many of us do not leave our Hoods. Our friends, in many cases, are the same race with the same concerns and are the same class.  Of course, there are exceptions but I’m talking about the norm. Denying the class divisions, or the justifiable anger of POC, will not make it go away. In fact, the lack of acknowledgement merely makes it worse.

3. Law enforcement does not treat us the same.

Nope, it doesn’t. For those of us that wish to join, we wonder how it will go down, if and when, things get hectic.

We don’t believe that if we turn up in force that we will be treated equally by the nice officers. Say the names Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Rodney King to yourself if you don’t believe that’s a valid concern. Many of us, thanks to the industrialized racism of law enforcement and prisons have records as well. How easy will it be to get us released, or get bail money?

The negative experiences that many of us have had add historical precedence and experience to the mix. The memory of dogs, hoses, plastic bullets, billy clubs and police brutality would cause many to deem that it is simply not worth the risk.

4. NO ONE ASKED US

Because of all the issues above, it is understandable that POC would want to feel included. It is not a question of an engraved invitation, as I originally raved, but the feeling that our input is valued and required.

Understand, that sadly, many of us do not believe that anything we do will matter. That’s the duck down mentality which I don’t agree with but that makes it no less significant.

Historically, the organizers of any movement must make an effort to spread their message and invite others to join. NAACP? Community Colleges? Radio? Schools? Brooklyn? Harlem? Uptown? Any Hood? We have neither seen, nor heard, from anyone other than the distorted messages that are being broadcast by mainstream media. Social media is just the start. Whatever misguided reasons served as the base for this decision it is actively being addressed.

Cornell West, Tavis Smiley, Russell Simmons and Talib Kweli are down for the cause. They have joined their voice to the thousands crying out for justice.

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The truth is that there are many people throughout the world who have suffered at the hands of colonization and capitalism. Just looking at the issues above makes my head ache :). Most of us have baggage, no doubt.

The effects of racism and social injustice can not be remedied overnight but if we seek to make a better future we have a lot of work to do. I am hopeful that joining together to fight a common enemy will result in the beginning of a desperately needed national conversation. I believe that it can begin to heal wounds and CHANGE the future.

Silence will not save you.

Occupy The Hood has been created to bridge the gap. Click here to find out more about them and how you can contribute. Join the global conversation by clicking here.

STAND UP AND LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD. SPEARD THE WORD. WE ARE THE 99%.

An Activist Is Born…

What is a nactivist? A new activist, duh. Ok, so it’s not incredibly snazzy but in a world rich with made up words, I felt it was my God given right to give it a try. I will stick with stories in the future lol.

All my life I have regretted not being alive during some past era so that I could get behind some humane cause and do my part in changing the world. I missed the Women’s Movement, African Americans Civil Rights Movement or Ooh la la la The Sexual Revolution. A tragedy of ginourmous proportions. I would have been a bra burner for sure! Of course, the flip side to that would be experiencing the injustice, racism, sexism, misogyny and puritanical boundaries of misguided American society that strangled it’s citizenry. Right.

Still, I would give my left arm, rhetorically speaking, to have been witness to the brilliance of Dr. King, Malcolm X or Angela Davis. We have no great leaders today and it breaks my heart. I am drawn like a flame to the passion, commitment and dedication of activism and yet I am a member of a generation, as has been stated ad nauseum, that is incredibly self-indulgent and stands for NOTHING.

I take the blame that I have done nothing but chatter about social injustice up to this point. It wasn’t because I didn’t have passionate beliefs, or was blind to injustice, but because there has always been something more pressing to do, like living my life. That’s a big thing all by itself and it is frequently out of hand lol. But I would lie if I didn’t say that I always felt a nagging guilt that while I was verbally committed a corresponding action never arose.

This weekend was cataclysmic for me, as well as many others. I can say quite unequivocally that I am sick and tired of being sick and tired! I have the time and I am deeply committed, for once, to something outside of myself and it feels fine.

I was not looking for a cause to champion but the death of Troy Davis and The Occupy Wall Street Movement have captured my attention and seem worthy causes to stand behind.

Ironically, I am, in a sense, a victim of my own words. After my last post, I thought about just how disturbed I am that people are sitting around doing nothing while the world falls apart around them. I do not like the idea of being included in that club. I thought about how disgusted I am that privilege, wealth and class are robbing people of their constitutional rights, civil liberties and is the cause of spiritual death and actual loss of life, in some cases. I thought about me and how blessed I feel (yes, I am a living contradiction lol) to be alive NOW. For all the difficulties that we labor under, what are the odds that I would have been the person that I am had I been born 60 years ago? It never leaves my mind and I know the answer is – not f*cking likely. Which led me to humbly thank once again all who had gone before and a wonderful thing happened – commitment crystallized.

I don’t have children and am not sure I ever will so I can’t hope that they will have some fantastic impact on the world and pick up where I left off. The footsteps I leave behind will be all mine…

In keeping with this I am now a member of Amnesty International & the NAACP. I have donated to Occupy Wall Street and will be in the next march and the next. Send bail money if I get arrested! I have been working on spreading the word to my friends in the hopes that they too will be nactivists and I have volunteered, egads, to help with articles for Occupy The Nation whose purpose is to bring attention to the national movement which is growing at a phenomenally fast rate. Very cool.

There are detractors out there who say that #OWS is doomed to fail because it lacks structure, lacks a leader, is disorganized, blah blah blah. I would like to ask them what they are doing to make a change and ask them to acknowledge what it does have…a growing chorus of voices joined in the BELIEF that we can right the morally corrupt yoke that is strangling the heart of present and future generations. Not all, just some would satisfy me. As Michael Moore said, “It has to start somewhere…”

I have been thinking of all of you as I have been Tweeting like mad instead of writing Blog entries lol. I love my Blog community, each and every one of you, for the huge bite of humanity that I ingest each time I read your poetry, joys, triumphs and perspectives. Thank you for sharing in my journey. 🙂

Here are some links to articles and videos underscoring the need for change.

– The Guardian on The Occupy Wall Street Movement

– NY Times article on the Death Penalty – An Indefensible Punishment 

NYPD Police Brutality – Occupy Wall Street 9/24/11

Troy Davis Execution Protests Georgia – 9/21/11

Things Fall Apart…Belief & The Power of Change

Yesterday was a heavy day for me as I was psychologically burdened by the weight of my frustrations about the Troy Davis case and the state of things. I actually felt disconnected from myself, because all the things that are usually on the forefront of my mind vanished into the mist – so I did nothing. Nothing but feel clouded and muffled….it was a stormy day.

Not content to wallow in hopelessness, I took my angst to the Net. I was looking for information on the movement to stop the death penalty and was overcome with a burning compulsion to find out what I could do. 

When I talk to people so often what I hear is not that they don’t care about politics or injustice, but that they do not believe that caring means anything. What point is there to caring if there is nothing you can do about it? The polls call them the Undecided but it would be more accurate to call them the Unbelievers. The general feeling is that they are just one person against a mountain of money, corporations, politicians and a system rife with corruption, racism, greed and indifference.

In such a world, isn’t it better to keep your head down? Better to worry about your own life because nothing you do will ultimately matter?

I have never been a person who accepted that way of thinking. It’s comfortable and familiar for many but it’s not the way I choose to live my life. Not just because caring about others comes naturally to me, but because such  acceptance is a kind of spiritual death. That’s what arises when you feel powerless and at the mercy of your environment.

I am positive that my resistance is spiritually and historically based. Think of all the people who have gone before who have manged to effect real change in the world and where we would be if they too were Unbelievers. Thoughts of my ancestors, what they sacrificed, and how they struggled, is all that’s required to inject me with a passionate belief that change is possible.

Our world mirrors the imperfections of the human race and I have no doubt that it always will. But one of the key differences between us and animals is our ability, at any given point in time, to reject our teachings, surroundings and harness the power of mental and spiritual evolution which is the impetus for change. Without it, we would be dead already.

I will admit that this train of thought was not uppermost in my mind yesterday but being on the Net changed all that. What began as a simple foray into finding out about the death penalty movement ended with me bleary eyed at 2:45 AM. I found a trail of bread crumbs and it led me from one site to another and another and another.

I read about the history of the death penalty and found organizations like Amnesty International, Color Of ChangeCampaign To End The Death Penalty and Democracy Now. I found the website for Troy Davis, read articles from tons of newspapers and Opinion Blogs. I also watched The Egyptian Revolution video (below) which brought me to tears. Many thanks to my Twitter Community for their uplifting and insightful comments and leading the way.

I ended the day on the Occupy Wall Street site and what I saw amazed me. The movement, now in it’s sixth day, is receiving little or no mainstream media coverage which of course reminded me of Gil Scott Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” It is largely made up of college students, so they say, and has engendered international support. The world is watching and cheering us on.

I read through 172 comments last night, which were remarkably free of hate messages, containing advice from every quarter, lawyers, older activists who understand the politics of revolution, and everyday folks. They gave REAL advice, legal and otherwise. It was uplifting and empowering and reminded me of just what can be done when we stand together to right a wrong. Better yet, they reminded me of the beauty, diversity and power of the human race. They gave me hope and a renewed belief which I so sorely needed.

The power of the Internet is not routers, servers, fiber optics or the cloud. It is the power of connection that allows human beings to connect with one another and draw strength from one another and celebrate our humanity.

Note: The title of this post is humbly borrowed from the book entitled “Things Fall Apart” by famed author Chinua Achebe.