G.A. Minutes 7-5-14
It’s almost 90 degrees and very humid as we roll up to CJM tonight. The sky is grey, looking possibly like rain. We decide to set up without starting a fire. In this heat it would be crazy to start a fire. However, the weather in this city can change in a minute. We’ll wait to see. The worst that will happen is that we’ll get wet.
The street is pretty quiet again, almost, but not quite empty. The 1st Occupiers to arrive are slowly bringing things into the space.
An Occupier who has been out of town for a while arrives and says, “Where is everybody?” “
Oh they’ll show up,” is the answer. Soon a young Occupier appears, bringing the Occudog with him. We haven’t seen this dog in over a year and she doesn’t remember us or the fact she had been christened the Occudog. She barks at everyone who shows up. She’ll need to get reacquainted.
As we’re settling in a woman from the street asks for something cold to drink. Most folks know the routine by now. We set the snack table slightly away from the circle so people can help themselves and not have to interact if they don’t want to. If they feel like sitting with us they are welcomed, if not, that’s o.k. too. In spite of this, everybody always asks before they take anything. Most are very careful not to take what they consider to be too much.
An Occupier reminds us that Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance will meet this upcoming Friday, 1pm at Randy’s. She also reminds us that we are planning to attend the Pow Wow out at Big Lake on the Fond du Lac reservation this upcoming Saturday. If possible, we will assist with tabling for the NWA.
2 older women from the street who we have known for years arrive. They are twin sisters and have been living the life for many years. They smudge; get their snacks and stay to chat. We ask them, “Where is everybody tonight?”
They answer, “Down at the carnival”.
We remember that this time every year a traveling amusement show comes to the Bayfront. Homeless people might go unnoticed in those surroundings.
As the women depart an Occupier mentions that Food Not Bombs will be having their feeding event in front of City Hall on Monday. They will attempt to hold a free food event every Monday before City Council meetings.
This leads into a discussion of city government and one Occupier says, “Remember that we had planned to go visit the mayor on the last Tuesday of July?”
The Occupier who has been out of town asks, “Oh, what’s up with that?”
She answers, “The mayor has open office hours the last Tuesday of each month from 5pm-7pm. I suppose we can talk to him about homeless issues, that’s what we know most about. Also I’m going to ask him why he didn’t appoint me to the Human Rights Commission”.
“Oh really?” says the other Occupier. “Why do you think he didn’t appoint you?”
Another says, “It might have something to do with not wanting an Occupier on his commission”.
She laughs and says, “Yeah, probably but I think it was really because of the comment I wrote on his Facebook page the day after he held that press conference in Superior announcing his support of Enbridge and all the environmental pollution they want to bring to our beautiful land and water. A lot of people were reaming him out and I was feeling particularly poetic that day so made a pretty good comment. I remember just before I pressed enter, I thought that it might cost me a seat on the commission. Oh well, I’ve known the mayor as just a regular person for years. I didn’t think he would be that petty. I guess he is. I think being in the current political system corrupts people. It’s probably for the best. I’ll do better just attending the meetings and working from the outside”.
Just then a cool eastern breeze blows across the Memorial. Everybody stops talking and says, “Whoa!” We just sit in silence for a few minutes to make sure what we’re feeling is actually happening. Then we start up the fire.
An African man from Senegal sits down. We had met him briefly last fall and we remember him. He starts talking and we listen. He expresses frustration over the fact that many white people don’t like his black skin.
He says, “If they don’t like it they need to keep that to themselves and at least be civil when working with or interacting with me. I mean, it’s just skin. What’s the big deal?” He speaks of his frustration dealing with African Americans from the neighborhood,
“They don’t like me much either. They want to intimidate me by saying they are gangsters from Chicago. So what? I’m from a country where there is civil war. A country where they slit your throat just because of your last name. I’m supposed to be afraid of a gangster? When they see that the so called gangsters leave”.
A female Occupier responds, “Well right here we’re pretty much about getting along. Pretty much about peace”.
The African visibly relaxes smiles and says, “Yeah, peace is so easy. Why does everyone want to fight?” He then begins talking about playing his drums.
One of the Occupiers is also a drummer so they carry on a conversation about the spirituality of drumming. The man also tells us a little about his travels throughout Europe.
An older African American man comes walking over. He looks drunk and angry. We gone through this routine so many times; we know what he is going to say and do before he even starts.
He yells and points to the sculptures of the 3 black men who were lynched here in Duluth in 1920. That lynching is the reason our Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial was created. The angry man says, “Those men were killed by white people! White people! You don’t belong here! You don’t have any blacks here!”
The African man jumps up, assumes a fighting stance and says, “Get out of here!”
We say, “Come sit down and talk with us about it”. Both of the black men stare each other down and the African American man stomps off.
The African man says, “That’s disgraceful. They bitch about you being here yet they come here and drink and smoke crack and stuff. This place is sacred. What do they think they are doing?”
He sits and talks a little more but begins to yawn. He states, “Tomorrow is Sunday. It sure is nice to wake up in the morning and know that you don’t have to go to work”. As he leaves, he promises to return another day and bring a couple of drums.
The street lights come on and the 2nd shift is arriving. As we are packing up an Occupier says, “Well that dude shot my stereotype all to hell. Because he’s from Africa I expected him to be very sexist but it appears that he’s not”. We all laugh and plan to meet here again on Tuesday.