G.A. Minutes 1-2-18
We’re back at Coney Island …. finally. We took 2 weeks for “Winter Break” although we didn’t take a break from participation in our local activist community. We attended several meetings and actions directed by some of our local, radical partners in crime. We also held a Christmas Day get together at one of the Occupier couple’s homes.
When we reminisce about our attempt to have a fire circle in the backyard of the couple’s home on Christmas Day we crack up at ourselves. The weather people told us that it was going to be well below zero with a wind chill factor of -40, we said, “No problem; we can handle it”. In reality, we could not handle it; it was so damn cold that we thought we were going to die. We told all the folks who were invited that the fire would go from noon til 4pm; we only lasted until 2:30p. We all dressed like we were in the Arctic Circle; some of us even wrapped warm blankets over our arctic wear. Even then, it was too cold.
No worries though, we spent a pleasant day and into the night in a warm, comfortable apartment with plenty of good food, music and conversation. We decided not to have a regular meeting at Coney Island the next day, December 26th, as we were staying up late on Christmas Night and the elders among us were exhausted from all the extra work required during the holiday season. Many of us spent the day after Christmas just sleeping in.
We’ve been living in the “Arctic Circle” for over a week now. Temperatures haven’t been above zero and the wind chill factor varies each day between -30 and -40. The weather people say we’ll need to endure this miserable cold for a few more days with expected highs and lows slightly above zero by Saturday. Just trying to keep warm takes a lot of extra energy even though we all have heated homes and vehicles or access to public transportation. We can’t imagine what it must be like for our homeless ones. Every hour is a fight for bare survival; night time is the worst. If one is unable to find a safe hidden spot in one of the parking ramps, an abandoned building or maybe a basement door somewhere that has been left open they will have to stay awake and moving all night long in order to prevent freezing to death. Every winter some of our homeless ones do freeze to death.
Most of the Occupiers attended the CHUM vigil for all the homeless people who died this past year. An Occupier comments, “I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that Ms. Community Cleanup is dead. I think I will grieve for her for a long time”. Another Occupier agrees, “I know; she was so young. I found out that she was 33 years old; that’s still too young. I was told by someone who was with her in the hospital that although she was in a coma, she opened her eyes and with a big smile on her face, she looked around the room at everyone who was there and then she passed.
“The Main Homeless Outreach Worker told me that they would wait until March to hold a memorial service for Ms. Cleanup because that’s when her partner will return. I didn’t ask where Her Partner was but I assume he’s in treatment or in jail. The last time I saw him he was talking and acting like a normal person; he told me that he’d been sober for 100 days”.
Another Occupier reports, “In order to get all the bad news over all at once, do you all remember when I told you about the diabetic Water Protector from Makwa Camp who was staying at our organizer friend’s house?” We remember. “Well, I’m sorry to report that he had to get his big toe amputated. He’s down in The Cities now, recuperating at his family’s house. I never did get a chance to talk with him again since I went to take a look at his feet but I thought he was a very committed Water Protector; I think he’ll return to camp once he’s healed. Losing a big toe will affect his balance somewhat but once he learns to accommodate that and if he takes care of his health, he’ll be able to fight many more battles”. Someone adds, “I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting the injured Protector but the Anons know him and say he’s a really good dude”.
There is probably magic in the air because just as their name is mentioned, a fairly good sized group of the Anonymous crew rolls in. As the crew is getting settled, an Occupier gives one of them a good winter coat that she found in the back of her closet. An Anon says to an Occupier, “We want to go down to Lake Place Plaza in the early afternoon on Friday and bring a table to put all our warm clothes on and also our sound system so we can play good music to liven up the place. We’re wondering if you would be willing to haul everything down there with your truck. We have someone who will give us a ride back when we’re done”.
The Occupier replies, “Sure, that’s doable. I’ll need you all to help me unload some of the fire circle stuff so we can fit your stuff in. How about I pick you guys up around noon on Friday and then we go and unload the truck and go back and load up your stuff?” The Anon exclaims, “That would be great! Thanks”.
Some of the Anons and an Occupier are going out to Makwa Camp tomorrow. They intend to help out with the physical labor wherever they are needed. An Anon opines, “I hope they ask us to chop wood; I love doing that”. An Occupier concurs, “When I was young and able I loved chopping wood too. Once you get that rhythm going it becomes kinda like a meditation”. As the Anon looks at her, he breaks into a big smile; his eyes twinkle and he says, “Yeah, I know”.
An Occupier asks, “So, does everyone want to go to Marxmas on Saturday? The Anons respond in unison, “Yes!” Most of the Occupiers plan on attending too. An Anon sheepishly reports, “Of course, we’ll need a ride” The Occupier assures, “I can fit 4 peeps in my car. If there’s more than that, I’ll make 2 trips. Everyone who wants to attend will be able to”. The Occupiers attend Marxmas every year; this year will be the first time the Anons do so.
Marxmas is an annual event sponsored by Socialist Action that is held at Solidarity House in Superior. Much of the preparation for the occasion is the work of our friend, a feminist organizer, artist, writer, educator and domestic violence shelter worker. She creates marvelous food around an annual theme and we play parlour games that are centered on the same theme. This year’s theme is Party Like It’s 1917. The Russian Revolution began in 1917. Most of the games have an intellectual bend to them; we look forward to this party every year.
An Occupier questions the Occupier who is a member of the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition, “So how did your action with The Holy Family go last Thursday?” The Coalition Occupier tells him, “It went well and it was also a lot of fun. It was primarily an event for the media; we all dressed up like angels or shepherds and a woman who had been pregnant and homeless until Loaves N Fishes found a place for her in one of their houses, played the part of Mary. She gave birth to her baby about a month ago so the baby played Jesus; one of the LNF guys was Joseph. Mary gave a speech about how, when she was homeless, she was terrified that the hospital social workers would take her baby from her if they found out that she was homeless.
“I think all the major media were there plus a few from alternative media. I’m told that we were featured on all the local TV news programs. Our plan was to send a shout out for homeless people and to also send a message to the type of area Christians who think they’re following the tenets of their religion but think homeless people are dirty, creepy and lazy and they should just get a job (as if that was an easy thing to do)”.
An Occupier asks everyone, “Has anyone seen the locally made documentary entitled “The Secret to Being Black in Duluth”?” A few of the Occupiers have seen it: the Anons have not. Another Occupier remarks, “I have seen it once; I’d love to see it again. It features African American members of our community; some of whom I actually know. The members speak quite frankly about their daily experiences with racism in Duluth. I think everyone who lives in the Twin Ports would benefit from viewing the film”. The first Occupier continues, “Well, the documentary is going to be shown again at U.U. Church on Friday, January 19th at 7pm. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.
“Also, the annual Martin Luther King Birthday Celebration is coming up soon. The NAACP is the main sponsor and MLK events will run from January 11th – 15th. There will be a Mayor’s Reception on Thursday the 11th, 6pm at AICHO, Rhythm & Hues, Friday the 12th 5:30pm for dinner with the performance at 7pm at Peace Church, Youth Nation on Saturday the 13th noon – 4pm at Denfeld H.S., Inter-Faith Worship Service, Sunday 5pm at First Presbyterian Church and then the Community Breakfast on Monday the 15th (Dr. King’s actual birthday) 7:30am at Holy Family Catholic Church followed by the march leaving Washington Center at 11am and arriving at the DECC by noon for the rally”.
Another Occupier adds, “Whew! That’s a lot of events. The city official is the music director for the Inter-Faith Worship Service. If possible, I think we should all be there in order to support his efforts”. Everyone plans to attend as many of the events as possible.
An Anon reports, “Saturday the 13th is also the date for the next Makwa Camp Support Feast, 5:30pm- 10pm at the Central Hillside Community Center”. We all plan to attend and to help out as needed.
An Occupier inquires, “Is Skip still running for 8th CD? We say, “Yes, as far as we know”. The inquiring Occupier responds, “Well, have you ever heard of a woman named Leah Phifer?” Another Occupier replies, “Yeah, kinda. She’s a somewhat progressive who’s trying to get the DFL endorsement for 8th CD. I think she used to work for the FBI; she’s not as progressive as Skip Sandman but more progressive than Rick Nolan. I hope she gets the nomination because a campaign between her and Skip might actually be interesting. Remember, Skip is ex-Navy and then worked as a correctional officer for many years. I’ll be voting for Skip, of course, but it would be nice to not have to hear Nolan’s lyin’ ass anymore”.
It’s close to 8pm, which is Coney Island’s new winter closing hour. We think there were a few customers who came in while we have been talking but probably not enough to justify keeping the place open for another hour. We generally don’t notice much about our surroundings here once we get to conversing; possibly because the surroundings here are really boring. However, we are grateful that the staff welcomes us and doesn’t mind that we push a bunch of tables together and sort of dominate a part of their large space.
Anyway, it’s time to leave; some of the Occupiers and Anons are going to continue the conversation at a private home. None of that conversation will be recorded but if you were to attend one of our meetings, we would invite you to tag along next time. We plan to meet at Coney Island again, next Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 1-2-18