Let’s challenge ourselves to think about our actions as part of the big picture. Why? Because looking at the narrative allows us to identify which groups have and haven’t been reached. It allows us to design actions targeted to as yet unorganized populations.
So when we plan an action, we start by thinking about where the actions we’re planning fall within the context of the larger narrative. Take a moment to identify which constituents – organized and unorganized – have been included in the Occupy Wall Street narrative, and which still need to be brought in.
If we’re going to build a meaningful movement, we need to relate our “actions” – from open meetings, to public gatherings, to marches, to art installations, to disciplined civil disobedience actions – to the larger economic/social/environmental justice message of Occupy Wall Street.
We always ask ourselves: Which groups were reached out to; Who is missing, and what actions are missing; What are the actions that are planned going forward and do they match up with our larger narrative?
*What was the narrative that spurred us to action?
BEFORE Occupy Wall Street
-Inequality, fair resource allocation
-Corporate control of our democracy
-Dead-end to existing methods – disempowerment/lack of democracy
-Auctions rather than elections – SuperPACs
*What was the narrative we built through actions?
The start of OWS-Now (4/7/12)
–Restoring hope: The Call to Action. There was a pervasive sense of hopelessness among people who were generally engaged, or disengaged – and because of the activism that sprung up, more people felt inspired to know what they could do, learn more, how to get active. More activists felt a sense that they could get back into the fold. People in particular arenas like schools and unions and the courts started to push back more and make more of a challenge to power
–Creating belonging: Coming together in public space: By staying in the park, we took back a sense of ownership. We fought for our right to assemble in public space, to reclaim the Commons which was taken away from us. We regained people power as we retook public space (POPs, bridges, parks, streets), and we created belonging.
–Staying power: The Occupation. The narrative of young people being seen as selfish and individualistic, having given up, has shifted. We told a narrative about the restoration of courage, of youth committed and willing to put themselves on the front lines for arrest, or to speak up, or to take action and head up a project. We restored a spirit of fight and freedom – of pushing back against repression. To “occupy” means we’re here to stay, we are not going anywhere, and by holding ground for an extended period of time we also showed we had real commitment – we proved we had some staying power.
–Non-violence: Peaceful mass marches. For a time, we presented ourselves as non-violent in the face of police violence. Occupy derived a lot of authority thereby.
–Critiquing by creating alternatives. Through our kitchen, housing, medical, media teams, etc., our actions communicated a possibility for experiencing collective belonging, creating an analog sense of community – leading us to the better part of ourselves rather than the lesser part. Specifically, we created our own media. We didn’t need the media – we made clear that we didn’t do this to get validation from outside – we create our own media, we exist even if you don’t cover us
–No demands: Communicating Intersectionality. Through our diversity, we clarified that all these issues are related. We got the message across that we wanted solutions not demands – not willing to simplify this – intersectionality; not willing to give up anything, to compromise.
–Inclusivity: Porous working groups. Through our diversity of working groups and our initial porosity, we communicated that we come from many places, skill-sets, concerns, and any small group can become a part of this. No one group can represent us. We all represent ourselves and our own interests. We are not one entity anyway, it’s not that we don’t have demands, we have a lot of demands – lots of individual working groups and some occupations do have them.
–Connecting with the hardest hit communities: Occupy Homes. After lots of repression on the streets and in public space, we went indoors. We started to create actions less about clashing with authority and repression. We started to go to places that are hit the hardest. This kind of tangible and human work reached people who are not quite on board with the get this.
As of 4/7/12
What’s missing from the narrative we’ve built/what pieces do we want to bring in/where do we want to go from here?
To start, what we’re trying to convey, and what the media picked up, are two different things. The media selected the economic justice message out, and left behind these pieces: democracy, the environment, and the war.
The question of racial justice was left out, but recent actions have changed the narrative. As we go deeper into places that are hit the hardest, through our anti-foreclosure work, we are also making a public statement that Stop and Frisk practices need to end now.
It is important that our actions are designed to mobilize new communities and to reinforce our accessibility and porosity. Key projects to continue: Roving Town Squares; Open Spaces discussions (in public and privately); Roving soapboxes – in central places and also bringing it to people’s neighborhoods. All of these create open space for existing groups with the courage to act more boldly. Any more ideas?