Thursday, August 7, 2014

Too many Gargantuan tasks: from police violence to Gaza


To church after lectionary. TK is there, putting things in order although today he won’t be here all day long as he has a funeral to tend to.

Jason H from Occupy has come in  for conversation. He’s living on Staten Island now. Of course, he’s passionate about the case of Eric Garner who was choked to death for selling loose cigarettes. And he’s also consumed by the gentrification of his neighborhood. Staten Island is the borough we always forget about. Kind of like  New Jersey. And the black parts of the Island are the worst of all. The problem of course is that Jason gets it. The interconnection between everything. That race alone is not what its about. That racism is used to distract people from what the system is doing. Charging the choker cop with murder is not enough. Sensitivity training for police is not enough. He gets the limits of Iiberalism. He sees how unemployment, mass incarceration, red lining  and repression all support gentrification which expands the power of the empire. And he’s frustrated that you can’t go after all of it at once.

We talk about that. Sometimes you just have to just get a street light added and the garbage picked up. That’s ok. But the basic understanding, awareness that drove Occupy was right. The problem is building a sustainable movement. We talk about what the church could be. We talk about what I’ve come to understand about Peter Seeger, that his songs were a means of sustaining people over the long haul. That those songs, the sing-alongs, had existential political power.

Amanda has gotten him interested in the light tower project. But he’s way beyond the beacon of hope or commemorating the religious Stonewall aspects. What he wants is a sign that this is a safe space where conversations can taken place about the emerging issues for queer youth and the trans community. A safe space for conversations.  A safe space for any who have been excluded. I share with him the frustration of knowing where it needs to go but not being sure how to get there. And the sense of urgency burns within me.

Urgency….people are starting to arrive for tonight’s emergency meeting for Gaza. It’s being sponsored by an ad hoc group of neighborhood people, Upper West Side for Gaza Aid. All proceeds will go to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. ( We’ll be showing a film we previously showed during our Palestine Film Festival, Where Should the Birds Fly, by Fida Qishta. ( . Film maker Fida Qishta was to be with us, but she has been detained at Heathrow so she has to join us by Skype. (Thank you Marc…) Before  the film, various solidarity groups tell us of their upcoming marches and plans. And tonight’s organizer tells how she put flyers up on evety telephone pole in the Upper West Side only to find them all torn down. In this neighborhood, this is still a taboo topic.

Russ helps us get everything set up. I give a pitch for next week’s book study of Goliath : Life and Loathing in Greater Israel by Max Blumenthal. ( I’m happy to see Hugo and Arcadia here. As the film begins and I see the mammoth Caterpillar bull dozer tearing down and crushing houses in its path, I’m once again proud that our church, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to divest from them at our Assembly this summer. I can’t get over the feeling that it’s all gone too far, past the point of no return. That economic pressure is the last non-violent option left. But we are till shrouded in so much myth, myth that I would love to believe, that turning the American public is a gargantuan task. Maybe it’s just so blatant this time it’s no longer possible to hide. Maybe.

Too many gargantuan tasks. Back to Harlem to meet with Mili and friends and tslk about music.

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