G.A. Minutes 4-14-15
An Occupier who lives very close to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is waiting for us when we arrive.
He says, “There probably won’t be many neighborhood people stopping by tonight. For the last few days the cops have been heavily patrolling the area. They’ve been running people off, even out of the alleys”.
Another Occupier responds, “Seeing as spring has arrived early this year, they’re probably trying to run homeless people out. They’re hoping for an early tourist season.
“Well fat chance that’s gonna work, like homeless people have anywhere else to go”.
Again we set everything up but we don’t light the fire. The weather is even warmer than it was on Saturday.
The streets are full of cars but empty of people. The circle contains only Occupiers and an older African American gentleman. We haven’t met the gentleman in the past but we have seen him in the neighborhood.
He asks for the sage and smudges himself. He seems rather shy.
A couple consisting of a young African American man and a white or Native young woman arrive. They ask to join us and of course, we welcome them.
We are making small talk with the new people when a man in a fast driving car pulls up to the curb. He looks like someone who might like to ride motorcycles.
He comes over, hands us a card with a Bible scripture written on it, wishes us well and leaves.
Soon a Native man who was a visitor to our former homeless camp appears. Almost right behind him is a South American street man who is infamous in the neighborhood.
This is the first time we seen either of them since last fall. Apparently it’s also the first time they’ve seen each other.
This requires hugs all around and then lots of teasing.
The South American man says he’s recently found a job doing custodial work at the new O’Neill apartments. He states, “I can’t come around too much anymore because I don’t want to go astray and lose my job. I’m really glad you guys are still having fires though”.
After a conversation about PTSD, everyone takes off, some promising to return.
The Occupiers are alone at the fire. We think neighborhood homeless people are still around but they’re keeping a low profile.
Out of the blue an Occupier comments, “I hear ALF is now breaking into circuses and freeing the animals”. Another Occupier adds, “I think the life of a circus animal is usually pretty miserable. The same goes for animals in zoos. When I was younger and still went to zoos I noticed most of the animals looked unhappy”.
As we are conversing a young white man with a camera approaches. He’s asks what’s up, we briefly explain.
He says he’s familiar with Occupy and tells us he’s a sociology student from Augsburg College. He’s doing a project about northern MN and has been driving from town to town taking pictures and talking with folks.
He tells us people seem unwelcoming in the smaller towns but friendlier in larger areas. He thinks Duluth is the most cordial place he’s visited so far.
He asks if he can take pictures of us and the fire. We say, “Sure, no problem”.
As the student guy is clicking away our friend the older white gentleman from the neighborhood arrives. We haven’t seen him since last fall. He’s surprised but pleased that we are still doing the fire thing.
We start a conversation about student loans and the culture of credit in general then flow into the use of social media as a communication and organizing tool and wind up with the subject of Hillary Clinton running for president.
Sometime during this discussion, the Augsburg student stops taking pictures and joins in.
There are no Hillary fans here tonight. The older gentleman is looking for a better woman Democrat. The rest of us don’t want anything to do with the current 2 party/1 party system. Those of us who vote will probably vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party.
As the older gentleman and the student say goodbye, another Occupier riding his bike arrives.
He’s just returned from his choir rehearsal. He tells us that his choir and others are performing at Sacred Heart Music Center on Saturday April 25th 7pm. The event will feature many environmental groups with all proceeds going to Water Legacy.
He also reminds us that Veterans For Peace is sponsoring a Tax Day rally tomorrow on the Federal Courthouse steps at noon.
Someone else mentions White Privilege 101, the second class will be taught tomorrow 5:30pm at the Jefferson People’s House and that the next Idle No More meeting will be Friday 1pm at the Duluth Indian Center.
As usual, as we are conversing, regular neighborhood people are quietly getting coffee and juice from our table.
The last bits of wood have been put in the fire and it will soon be time to go.
A young white man on a skateboard rides up. He lives in the neighborhood but hasn’t noticed our fire before tonight.
He thinks it’s pretty cool and after making small talk, he tells us some of his life story. We stay a little longer and listen.
His burden is lighter than the burdens we usually hear about. He works full time in a local restaurant but has almost no money left after he pays his rent and child support.
He’s very much involved in his young daughter’s life and is worried that her mother will be ending up in a drug treatment program sooner or later. Then he will need to take custody and is very concerned about how he’ll be able to do that.
An Occupier asks if he knows about public housing. He replies that he’s applied for medical assistance and food stamps but been told he earns too much money. “I don’t understand how that can be” he exclaims.
The Occupier explains about the different requirements for different programs. She says, “The income guidelines for public housing are a little more realistic than those for food stamps. Public housing has a year and a half or so waiting list. If you apply right now, there could possibly be a place for you by the time you have to take your daughter in”.
The skater guy responds, “Oh, I didn’t realize any of that. I’m gonna apply right away. Thanks for telling me these things”.
The fire is almost out. It will feel chilly soon. More people are arriving. We pack up, promising to come back on Saturday.
G.A. Minutes 4-14-15