Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Becoming the subject of your own history

I find someone asleep on the steps in the south doorway. I start to wake him up then realize it’s Sage. Hey, man, you know you can’t sleep out here during the day. And why aren’t you inside?
I can’t sleep in there, man. It’s madness. Thought someone was goin gto wake me up. 
OK, you know the deal, right?
Inside, Rafael has a whole crew of people together ready to start a construction project. He’s ready to go.
Deacon James comes in. Haven’t seen him for awhile. The chemo is getting to him. Hopes to get his new teeth in tomorrow. I tell him he’s got to come by so we can see. He’s thinking about Luther. How he didn’t give up. I told him Luther’s mantra against the powers, when he felt sore pressed, was I am baptized, I am baptized. James likes that. 
He talks about growing up in Freeport, Long Island. Where Andrea grew up. Where we got married. So many visits. So many years. Freeport, Long Island. Home of Guy Lomabardo. And Public Enemy. And Flava Flav. James says his pops worked for old Guy. I know the territory well. He says he’ll go so I can get soe work done. I’m happy to see him.
Late in the day, P_____ comes by to discuss her eviction case. I’ve called someone from the courts who I met at the Martin Luther King, Jr. march last week. She has recommended someone in Gale Brewer’s office. Rosalia. I tell P_____she’s got to call Rosalia. She says, No, that woman says I’m crazy. She wants to put me in the loony bin... So it’s down to me and her again. She wants me to go to court with her on Thursday. She says all I have to do is swear that she sleeps there. If it were only so simple. Now, not only do they want to evict her, they want to force her to pay the difference between her rent stabilized payments and market rate for four years and also court costs. Who is crazy? If only I could talk to the judge.....
Out on the street, Nadia tells me that Rachel is in the hospital again. More fibrillations. Anytime I don’t see her in curch, I should know, something is up.....
Jason has organized an impressive groupof people to talk about a free university.  Kelly asks us to introduce ourselves and say what we bring or why we came. I recalled how back in the day, yes, 1973, I worked with David Leichman (now of Kibbutz Gezer) and sister Dottie Shugrue to form a Free University of Religious Studies at the Univeristy of Bridgeport, then a working class university with lots of returning Vietnam vets and an active commie group in a city with a Ku Klux Klan. We had courses like Christianity and Marxism and Christian Roots of Anti-Semitism. 
Then I recall, PRAXIS, the free university at the Canterbury Center for Campus Ministry at the University of Tulsa. How I created courses on Tulsa, the All-American City with David Breed, editor of the city’s black newspaper, the Oklahoma Eagle, and Tulsa After Midnight, which was exactly what it said. 
There was Jason, back from Brazil where he was deeply schooled in the Freirian model of education for critical consiousness and David who lived the same thing in Ecuador and began exploring using a questions technique teaching philosophy and literature at both public and private schools. Bill, from upstate, who built the sphere at the Liberty Science Center and is part of the council of elders and does mentoring in a wilderness awareness program. And Jordan who hated her public schools and  only wants education that makes sense. And Aswad who wants to explore possibilitites for homeschooling. And Catherine, a singer-songwriter from Portland (where else), well, grew up in Norristown, Pennsylvania, who’s been active in Occupy Faith along with her husband Sebastian, and of course Kelly. And we’re later joined by Eve, who works in Theater of the Oppressed (where Freire was required reading.) She’s feisty and strong and take charge. 
(The key in Freirian educaction? people learn to become the subjects of their own history. Their own lives are part of the text, must be in dialogue with it. At the end of the day Paolo Friere is one of the founders of this revolution, as well as contemporary Nicaragua, the Middle East...Paolo vive!...Warren Dennis at New Brunswick showed me the way when I taught with him. And now I've been invited to do the same in Newark, a truly urban city. )
I'm trying to put this all together with the travails of my living, breathing Occupy community in process with all it's chaos, infighting, confusion, passion, caring. Neither one is more the real #ows than the other. They both are part of what #OWS is. 
The conversation goes round. There’s an agreement as to philosophy, principles. And that teaching philosophy is not like, say, teaching making sushi. Later, Joseph walks in, mainly concerned about Native American values. And Eve describes her concept of Occupy Yourself University. So we’ll set some courses. Get them underway. Meet again in two weeks. 
Outside, we hang out talking for awhile. I can see that Eve has made lots of friends among the occupiers. We talk for awhile, she heads home to the Village. 
(Catherine's music is great.....,, 

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