Wednesday, January 18, 2012

We haven't been here before

The day starts chaotically enough when New York Post reporter Candice Glove arrrives wanting to    interview me about the baptismal font. She had read the minutes of the previous night’s spokes council meeting online and wanted to investigate. She had spent a night in Zucotti herself and experienced it in the scary days. I am naturally wary of the Post. They supported us during the landmarks process, but generally portray me as a naive bleeding heart liberal around issues of homelessness. So I will try to control the narrative. 
I want her to understand that the movement cannot be blamed for trying to deal with those the rest of society has cast off. And that the vast majority here are working very hard to build community.
While Candice is interviewing me, a film crew arrives to interview Mim about the center. For a moment, I get that film crew and Post people confused. At the end of Mim’s interview, the head of project comes in and introduces himsef andtells me that we were in the same National Conference of Christians and Jews National Leadership Development Project 30 years ago. Lowell had left before the project was over to move to Israel where he now lives in Jerusalem.
I tell him that I had married Andrea from our group and that our oldest son has worked in Ramallah and that we visited him there two summers ago. We are both amazed at the randomness of meeting like this so many years later. Or maybe not.
I direct Lowell and his crew to the Yemenite hummus place down the street and Mim brings lunch for Danielle and I as we catch up. Late in the day photographers from the Post come back with Candice to take photos. I will hold my breath until I see this story.
Jason comes with his friend, Kelly Mc Gowan, who had coined the phrase poverty diaspora of America. We talk about how this is truly a new moment. We haven’t been here before. How, as Marian Wright Edelman has said, there won’t be another Gandhi, another King. It has to be us. No more charismatic leaders. 
And how this movement appeared almost overnight, through networking, before it even thought about what it was about. And now it is trying to find out. I give my critique of the concensus process, that it only works if there is a priori buy in as to where we want to go. She disagrees, says the destination is not so important but that agreement as to what we agree on is. 
And we talk of all the various methods that could help; the open space process, traditional community organizing with one-on-ones and house meetings, power analyses, the anti-nuke affinity group strategy, on and on. And at the base, her commitmet to the idea that everyone can be reached, to take responsibility for their life, to have their own gift called out and contributed. It’s classic Freire: education for critical consciousness, that people must become the subject of thier own history. And how we’ve moved beyond simple class analysis materialism into  transformation. Something Ruben Alves pointed us to in Warrior, Poet, Priest. Why I couldn't do a socia justice ministry apart from a faith community. Something I can’t even explain or articulate but have seen in Nicaragua,  the Middle East, everywhere. What the center is supposed to be about: transformation. And that it starts at the margins, not the center. Therefore the marginalized cannot be abandoned. 
And I see connections. I need to get Rick at Stony Point in on this conversation. That’s what we need, conversation. I can always see all the pieces fitting together. I just don’t always (not often) see how that happens. We need to draw more in and have the conversation continue. 
Bobby makes his daily appearance, with his movie star sightings and reading recommendations. 
Katherine comes with two young theatre people, Stan and Matt. They’ve done some  impressive work and have recently been doing plays in apartments. I take them into the sanctuary and go through the social history of the church. Then I give them the tour.  And they, of course, fall in love with the place. Will they do their next show here? They’re immediately thinking of something site specific. Dream. Real. Hard. That's why we're here. 
I introduce them to Jason and they’re thinking about how to tie in #OWS. As we finish, more occupiers are begining to arrive. It’s a warm mild night. I will walk Katherine home, go for a run. 

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