Thursday, June 7, 2012

Leader or organizer?

Jason comes by for a visit. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen him. He was part of the original OWS group that came over from SPSA. He sees everything that ‘s going on. He’s done one on ones from Occupy the Hood in Harlem to community organizers in the Bronx to people in the movement against stop and frisk. He sees it all. Gets it all in its whirlng, swirling complexity. He sees how it all fits together. Wants to move beyond the in the moment reality of the scattered OWS to building a movement that could really bring about change.  He’s feeling frustrated. Feels if he could just get a critical mass together, just get people to agree to participate in an open space process, well then maybe....
We talk about that. For all the ideological commitment of OWS to no leaders, much of the splinter group activity is none the less driven by individuals.  Things are happening. The Living Wage campaign has had serious legs. OWS people have joined with the anti-sweatshop folks. Steve and Shen organized buses from  around  the country to go to Chicago for the anti-NATO demos. And the national nurses union had their own Chicago presence. But there’s no coalescence. No conscious coming together.
I talk to him about the difference between organizers and leaders. That in the  classic formualtion, leaders are people who have followers. You have  to decide which you want to be. In faith language, who you are  called to be...The difference between movements and organizations. Movements driven by charismatic leaders, or are  single issue focus... ..stop this war, abolish that law..but OWS unearthed a dissatisfaction that went to the core. The whole global system is broken.  Organizations are built through realtionshipsmtp last, always connected to the people, shifting and changing as issues shift and change.
He’s afraid that it can all be frittered away. That's not going to happen. Not when the systemic grievances experienced by the people continue  being lifted up. Not when people are speaking for themselves in their own behalf....
I tell Jason the basic relity. ..It all depends on relationships. There are 3-4, no more, people who can ask me to be  certain place at a certain time for an event and I will be there. No questions asked.  I trust them enough to know that they won’t waste my time. That they will only call on me when a clear strategy woth an expected outcome is in place. 
What he’s got to do is get that small group of people to invite their people to participate. 
They also have to understand that sooner or  later the other side is going to strike back...remember Kent State and Jackson State ....or the murder of Fred Hampton and the systematic removal of Black Panther leadership.  At some point the reality of trying to overthrow a global system has to be understood. 
Jason asks if i would show up if he asked me. Depends, I say. Get your meeting together, I’ll give you space. I’ll come. 
Marc is very excited. He’s got the rebuilt amp up on e-bay and bidding is going up. Could mean some dollars for the church.  
Christopher comes in  and offers me some Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia
Then Samantha for the softball fields permit money. Haven’t seen her for awhile. The work her mother has dome over the years organizing the softball league, setting the schedule, hiring the umps, being the commissioner, she’s given a real gift to the churches.

Anthony and Jacqueline come in to talk about getting married. He's a New York Italian. She's from Hong Kong. Their families have never met. 
John and two of his Dark Lady Players are arriving, ready for rehearsal. Melisa, the director, recovering from tonsillitis follow close behind. They’ve got a performance coming up this Saturday at the Figment festival on Governor’s Island. 
I might actually get a swim in tonight. 

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