G.A. Minutes 6-23-15
The air in the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is actually hot when we arrive. The sun is shining brightly; there’s a slight breeze and the temperature is in the low 80s.
Small groups of people are scattered up and down the street. They’re standing anywhere they can find a bit of shade.
We move slowly as we set up the things for the evening. A couple of regular street friends come over to help. We’ll wait to light the fire until the sun is behind all the buildings.
As soon as we set out the snacks, people descend on the table from all directions. We’ve brought several dozen hard boiled eggs and a big bucket of cookies; everything is gone in about 5 minutes. We recognize most of the folks who are eating but we don’t really know any of them.
Oh well, the Mission must have run out of food for dinner tonight. They serve 2 meals a day, 7 days a week. We’ve been told that the Mission’s food is not very flavorful or nutritious but seeing as they feed so very many people, it’s understandable.
We rarely are able to bring large quantities of food but we do bring the same quality of food that we feed ourselves.
We see one of the Occupiers who lives up the hill walking down. We don’t recognize him at first but as he gets closer real realize he has shaved off his full beard. We’ve never seen him without a beard. He looks good.
The employment councilor from CHUM arrives. As usual, many street folks crowd around him. When they are finished, he comes to sit with us in the circle.
As we begin to converse, the older woman from Mississippi settles in next to the CHUM worker. She is very talkative and takes his full attention.
When the CHUM man says goodbye, the Mississippi woman keeps talking. We think she may be telling her life story. In all the years we have known her, she has not talked with us like this.
The problem is, her voice is very soft, the other people in the Memorial are all talking and laughing and many cars are driving by. We can’t hear a word she says. So we just sit there smiling and nodding. She’s got a few years under her belt so the story takes a while.
After she leaves an Occupier says, “So I suppose you heard that Congress passed the TPP today? They passed it with just the 60 vote minimum they needed. I know they were bombarded by constituents telling them to vote no. Bummer”.
Another Occupiers answers, “Yeah, I heard. I’ve also heard that some of the rulers of the Asian countries don’t like it. Maybe in the end it won’t be agreed upon. I hope so. It sure does show that our congress people really don’t give a damn what we want”.
An Occupier who hasn’t been around for a week or so asks, “So what do we have coming up in the next weeks?”
One other Occupier responds, “Well, remember we have to go way out in the country to pick up a big load of firewood. We’ll be leaving at 11am on Saturday morning. It will probably take most of the day to get it all done.
“Homeless advocates are still working on the Homeless Bill of Rights Ordinance. I attended a meeting last week and the next meeting will be at the Human Rights Commission July 8th at 5pm.
“Loaves N Fishes is working on a survey which they want to get out to at least 100 real homeless people. They think they know what should be in the ordinance but they want to poll the people to be sure. I imagine we’ll be needed to help with the survey”.
“This month’s Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NdN Taco Sale is going to be on July 10th. Our help is definitely needed there.
“The annual Veteran’s Pow Wow is going to be July 10th – 12th out at Big Lake/Mash Ka Wisen. I really hope we can go out there on Saturday July 11th. It’s my favorite Pow Wow”.
An additional Occupier comments, “I’ve been reading the Pope’s Encyclical. I’m about 3/4s of the way through. It’s actually pretty good for a Pope. So far, most of what he’s been talking about is the environment and the need to care for it. It’s reads like a combination of a junior high science book and the traditional ways of Native Americans”.
The Native woman who tells good stories stops by to smudge, walk around the circle and give hugs. We don’t see her very often anymore. She’s partnered up with the crabby old African American man who gave us so much trouble during our first year at CJM. The crabby old man isn’t so crabby these days.
The space has been somewhat empty for a while but now all the people who were present at the start of our meeting plus a lot more people arrive. It’s standing room only.
We assume that most are drinking and/or drugging but their behavior doesn’t show it. Everyone is moving slow, talking softly and pleasantly and finding a seat wherever they can.
The main homeless outreach worker drives by, beeps loudly and waves. Everyone waves back.
Another Occupier arrives. He’s returning from his choir rehearsal and reminds everyone his choir and 2 other choirs will be giving a free concert this Sunday, June 28th 4pm at Leif Erickson Park.
The just arriving Occupier brings a tasty blueberry cake, sets it on the table and it disappears in minutes. The other Occupiers are the main culprits.
Our friend, the Central Hillside socialite and all around fun person, drops by. She tells us about her new house and all the things she’s been doing lately.
An Occupier remarks, “I see that a movie called “We Are Many” is going to be released in England soon. It’s about all the demonstrations held around the world before the start of the 2nd Iraq war. Maybe the Zinema will show it and we could go”.
Someone adds, “Yeah, I would like to do that. I remember I was living in another city during that time and we had a really big rally against that war”.
Someone else says, “Here in Duluth we had well over 1,000 people at the Civic Center rallying against it”.
The first Occupier continues, “The amount of people worldwide who got out in the streets to protest was huge! G.W. Bush and his cronies just didn’t care though. They went ahead and did whatever they wanted. Now that it’s supposedly over, it’s been proven without a doubt that we were right”.
Another answers, “Yeah, but the bunch of bozos trying to run this country don’t care about that either”.
It’s been dark for a while now. When someone checks the time, we find that it’s just about 10pm. The folks in the Memorial help us pack up.
One Occupier whispers to another, “I hope everyone stays this mellow after we leave”.
As we drive off, we observe several large groups of street peeps scattered on the sidewalks further down the street. They’re pretty loud and definitely “under the influence”.
Hopefully all will survive this first hot summer night without too much drama. If not, we’re sure to hear about before we come back next Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 5-30-15
It will be a big fire night again at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. We’ve got chilly weather with daytime highs in the low 50s and an east wind.
Some of the “usual suspects” are sitting on the back ledge. The mood appears to be calm and friendly all around.
We set everything up but the street folks don’t join in right away. It’s only Occupiers at the fire as we start off this evening.
An Occupier is looking at his newly purchased tablet computer. He says, “I bet that police camera up there is connected to Wi-Fi”. Another Occupier teases, “Why don’t you play around until you find the password and use the DPD Wi-Fi to get on the internet?” The Occupier answers, “Oh sure, I’ll do that right now. In about a half an hour the NSA will show up and I’ll be arrested for spying, but you guys will have my back, won’t you?” We all laugh.
One other Occupier comments, “Did you hear about that former Speaker of the House that just got arrested? The charge is lying to the FBI. Hello??? Lying to the FBI? The FBI lies to everyone else all the time”. We laugh again
Another Occupier arrives. He says, “I’m just returning from the Saturday jazz session at the Saratoga Club. The music was really good.
“I’ve tried inviting some of my female friends to join me there but when I do it seems like they’re offended. I don’t understand. I know it’s a strip club most of the week but on Saturdays it’s a completely different atmosphere.
“Someone told me that strip dancing is somehow connected to trafficking”.
A female Occupier responds, “Oh yeah, stripping is a precursor to sex trafficking. When one is a dancer, the customers always want to see someone new, so after one has stripped in all the clubs for a while the customers won’t give them money anymore. Then the dancers have to move on to something worse if they want to stay in that type of business.
The arriving Occupier replies, “I didn’t realize that. Maybe some of my woman friends are under the impression that I support people being trafficked. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just wasn’t aware of the whole story”.
The folks on the ledge begin to join the fire circle. They get their coffee and snacks and move up close to the heat.
Our friend, the African American gay young man arrives. He is “hammered”. He kneels beside the fire and begins singing a popular song from the 90s about a woman who finds true confidence and freedom after her lover leaves her.
He’s giving an all-out performance. If he wasn’t so drunk, he’d be pretty good. He sings almost on key while striking pose after pose. Some of these poses appear to be very difficult. We hope he doesn’t knock over the fire pit. His balance is perfect.
The Occupiers are kind of impressed. The street folks have seen his performances many times already.
When he finishes his performance he stands up and begins acting like his normal self. That’s when he almost knocks over the fire.
The performing man brings a large group of very drunk people of the street with him. Most are known to us and all appear happy and in good spirits.
An overweight Native young man who we’ve seen in passing sits down. He asks if anyone can spare him some tobacco. He says, “I don’t know why people around here are so cheap with their tobacco. Tobacco is meant to be freely shared. It’s a big part of our culture.
“I’m from the country and have only been in this city for about 3 months. I’m very into our Native ways.”
The Occupiers have a pouch of tobacco and rolling papers which they always bring when they are at CJM. It’s meant for the use of anyone who needs it. We offer it to the large Native man.
A DPD squad has been occasionally driving slowly past the space. Every time the squad passes by, the man who recently lost his baby’s momma to a heroin overdose, waves at it.
We are only about halfway through the usual meeting time but the food and drinks are completely finished. We still have a warm fire and good conversation going.
One of the Occupiers reminds everyone that we won’t be at the Memorial next Tuesday because we’ll be attending the Clean Water event at our friend’s club up the street.
On next Saturday some of us will be taking the Northwoods 350 bus down to St. Paul for the big Tarsands Resistance March. Northwoods 350 is asking for $20 for a seat on the bus. However, for those who are unable to contribute $20, funds are being raised to allow everyone to come along.
Someone says, “Remember it will be Juneteenth on Saturday June 21st. We’ll need to attend and see what we can do to help out. There’s also going to be a Juneteenth celebration in Superior, WI on Friday June 20th”.
An Occupier reports, “I won’t be able to attend Juneteenth this year. I’ll be up at the Midsummer Festival at Mesabe in Hibbing”.
An African American woman and 3 young female children enter CJM. It appears they have not previously visited the Memorial. The children are in awe of the sculptures and writings on the wall. The woman takes pictures.
She and her children are friendly towards us. An Occupier goes over to converse and discuss the writings with her.
The infamous street woman has been sitting with us for most of the evening. She has managed to keep from drinking for many months now.
Tonight she has a cold and is coughing frequently. An Occupier says to her, “You probably need to drink lots of liquid and crawl into bed”. She answers, “Yeah, I know. I need to go home but my joints are aching so bad that it’s gonna be painful to walk and I’m 50 cents short for bus fare. I’m hoping someone will lend me their bus pass”.
The Occupier looks to see what is left of the money that has been donated over the last few meetings. There is exactly 50 cents. She gives it to the woman; the woman leaves for home immediately.
The large Native man asks why people are going on a march. We start a conversation about pipelines, Enbridge and such.
The man comments, “Pipelines are a confusing thing. The oil companies hire a lot of Natives to work on their pipelines. Natives are really in need of jobs”.
An Occupier responds, “But wouldn’t it be better if we got our energy from the sun? People could have jobs working on sustainable energy systems. The technology is already there; it just will take the will power to make the switch. If we did that, we wouldn’t have to destroy the planet”.
The big man smiles and answers, “Oh yeah, for sure. The sun is for everybody and it’s free. The companies don’t like that very much”.
He asks for details regarding the Tarsands march. Maybe he will attend.
It’s after 9pm and the streetlights have just come on. The fire was big tonight so we have many coals to watch. We begin packing up.
Seeing as many of us will be in the Twin Cities next Saturday, we probably won’t be back until Tuesday 6/9 or Saturday 6/13.
G.A. Minutes 5-2-15
We’re back at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial again tonight. The pleasant weather is still holding up. Temperatures were in the high 60s today and will probably remain in the 50s throughout the evening.
The Memorial is empty when the first Occupiers arrive. An Occupier comments, “I don’t expect we’ll have too many people around tonight. Many street folks got their small checks over the last day or two so they’ll have purchased the recreational substance of their choice and will be off getting high somewhere until their money runs out”.
We don’t expect many Occupiers tonight either. It’s the biggest night of Duluth’s annual Homegrown Music Festival. Most Occupiers are music fans and will be out listening to their favorite bands.
We take our time setting up. As we do, Ms. Community Cleanup stops by. She says, “I just got out of jail an hour or so ago. Last night at about 4am I went into the casino to use the bathroom. All the security guards came running, jumped on me and threw me to the floor. Then the police came and took me to jail. The guards were really rough with me and now my hand and my knee really hurt”.
We ask her if she had been trespassed from the casino in the past. She responds, “No, but I guess I am now. Damn, I was just using the bathroom. What was I supposed to do? I have bodily needs and there was nowhere else to go”.
We shake our heads in bewilderment. It never ends. Where are homeless people supposed to go to the bathroom? The CHUM Center is open from 8am til 4pm. Other than CHUM, there is no place in the city that will allow the homeless to use their facilities. Some homeless people are even 86’d from CHUM. So what are they supposed to do?
If they attempt to relieve themselves in the bushes, alleys or doorways the police will ticket them and eventually take them to jail.
Homeless people have bodily functions just like everyone else. So what are they supposed to do?
Another Occupier arrives carrying a bag with hot dogs and all the fixings.
The occasional Occupier who lives out of town appears, then a woman who is probably not homeless and a well-known homeless man and his dog. We invite a quiet man who we haven’t met in the past to join us. He agrees but insists on giving us a dollar before he will sit.
An Occupier says, “It seems like almost no one is around but just throw those hot dogs on the fire and I bet we’ll see people appearing from all directions”.
He is correct. As soon as the smell of the meat cooking on the grill hits the air, another 10 or so people arrive. All are folks we already know. They stand around talking and waiting for the food to be ready. We feed them all; they thank us and wander off.
Except for the man who is always laughing. He’s still laughing but not as much as usual. Tonight he has a lot on his mind. Apparently his pregnant girlfriend is angry with him again.
He explains, “When I came home last night she was waiting for me. She was yelling and throwing things. I don’t know why. I never know why when she gets this way. I don’t think I can take it anymore. Anyway, so I tried to leave but she came after me. I ran through the building, out of it and into another building and she was still chasing me.
“Nine months pregnant and she can still run like that! She must be doing meth again. I finally got away but had to sleep in my car last night. I have nowhere to sleep now but I’m not going back. I’m 47 years old. I just can’t keep living like this.
“I notice that for the last couple of weeks she’s been hitting on some other guy. Just about to give birth to my child and she’s hitting on some other guy!
“She won’t be able to keep the baby, she takes too many hard drugs and she’s already lost her two other kids. Those kids live with their Daddy.
“I guess I’ll end up a single parent. I got to figure out how I’m gonna do this. This is a serious situation”.
We all agree that this is very serious and verbally offer him support. We only know him through our contact at CJM over the years but we’ve met his girlfriend and think his story must be at least partially accurate.
An Occupier reminds us that the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NdN Taco Sale is this upcoming Friday.
She also reports that on Tuesday, May 26th we will need to attend the City Council meeting at 7pm. Funding for the proposed Housing Access Center is on the council’s agenda and we need to show our support.
Someone else mentions the documentary “30 Years of Punk Politics” will be shown on Wednesday, May 6th 7pm at the Jefferson People’s House.
Over the last hour or so we’ve noticed several squad cars cruising the neighborhood. They don’t even glance over at us as they drive by. A young man who is sitting with us says, “Yeah, they’ve stopped me twice tonight. They’re looking for someone”.
So far, this evening has been very calm. As if to break this spell we are visited by the most obnoxious street woman we know. There are very few street people we find intolerable but this particular woman is one of those few.
We’ve just put more hot dogs on the grill. She plunks herself down and demands that we give her one. An Occupier offers her the first one done but she refuses it. She growls, “Nah, I don’t want that one, it’s too burned. Give me a different one!”
We give her a different one and look up to see seagulls flying overhead. Seagulls always know when people are eating.
An Occupier remarks, “They want our hot dog buns but bread isn’t good for seagulls so we shouldn’t give it to them”.
As if on cue, the obnoxious woman begins tearing hot dog buns apart and throwing them to the birds. Immediately, all the seagulls in the entire city descend on the Memorial. We roll our eyes and sigh.
The woman has a boyfriend with her tonight. This is very unusual. The boyfriend is older than her, polite and soft spoken. She is a little less obnoxious than usual. Not much, just a little.
As the sky darkens, the parade of Homegrown attendees begins. A band rocks out at our friend’s club down the street.
The folks in the parade look over at us. We wave and some wave back. We invite them over but they’re not interested. Many appear afraid of the company we keep.
We think that what they are doing is not that much different than what the street folks are doing. The Homegrown folks just drink more expensive alcohol.
We think it’s time to leave but many are mesmerized by the fire. Ms. Obnoxious is dancing with her boyfriend to the music of the band.
We’ll let the fire burn down all the way and then we’ll be back again next Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 4-11-15
The early evening air is exceptionally pleasant as we arrive at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial an hour or so before sunset.
Temperatures are still in the 60s, there’s no wind to speak of and we don’t even need our coats yet.
We set things up but don’t light the fire. We’ll wait until the entire space is shaded.
While the first arriving Occupiers are unloading chairs and such from the vehicles, a lone Occupier sits by the fire pit.
A group of youngish African American men and women walk by. They have small children in hand and smaller ones in strollers.
One of the men warily calls over to the lone Occupier, “So what do you think about all this?” He gesture towards the 3 metal sculptures on the wall. Sculptures of the 3 young African American men who were lynched on this corner in 1920.
The Occupier responds, “Well I think what happened to those innocent guys is pretty sad. However, I know that kind of thing happened in this country at least a gazillion times and as far as I know, this is the only memorial about lynching in the whole country. So in that respect, I think it’s pretty good”.
The young man smiles and says, “Thank you” and the group continues their walk.
As we take our seats the street man who makes wooden flutes comes to join us. We notice he seems a little wobbly. He says, “I’m a little drunk tonight but I’m o.k. I never get mean or stupid or anything”. He and an Occupier carry on a conversation about their gambling addictions.
The regular street woman who tells really good stories arrives. We haven’t seen her since last fall. She’s very smiley and happy as she tells us she’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer. “Are you gonna be here for the evening?” she asks. When we tell her yes she says, “I’ll come back and I’ll tell you a good story”.
The Memorial space is now completely shaded so we light the fire. We still don’t need our coats.
By now we’ve also been joined by a regular man who lives in the apartment building on the corner and a couple of regular middle aged Native women.
A young girl comes over and asks for apple juice. She is followed by a group of boys who are about 8 to 10 years old. They are carrying long sticks and baseball bats and they all go to sit on the back ledge.
Suddenly one of the Native women begins yelling at them. Some of the kids yell back. A boy runs up and hits our plastic garbage can with his bat.
The woman screams, “That’s it! I’m calling 911”. She pulls out her phone and begins talking. We think maybe she is just pretending to call.
The children go running up the hill. The woman runs after them.
The largest and probably oldest of the boys remains on the ledge. An Occupier walks over, sits beside the boy and they talk.
After a short while the children return. They come to our table and we offer them sandwiches, juice and oranges. One of the boys tells us, “That lady was trying to hit us and says she’s gonna call the cops”.
We’re confused by the whole thing. They seem like normal kids to us.
An Occupier reminds us about the benefit at the Red Herring tomorrow starting at noon. The benefit is for the people who lived in the Applewood Knoll apartment building that burned to the ground last week.
She also informs us another friend of ours had a serious fire in her private home just last night.
As usual, a large group of people suddenly arrive. Among them are an Occupier and her boyfriend. They bring a large crockpot of homemade vegetable stew and warm garlic bread. Everybody chows down.
Once their bellies are full most of the large crowd of people wander off.
The woman who also lives in the apartment building on the corner stops by to visit. She keeps an eye on CJM and regularly cleans the area. We’ve known her for years.
It’s the first time we’ve seen her this year. She looks much older and although it doesn’t seem possible, she appears to be even thinner.
We’re quite sure she doesn’t abuse substances so we wonder what is up.
She explains that someone has attempted to set her up and get her evicted from her apartment.
“I let some people into my apartment. They were well dressed and had good jobs and I thought they were nice. One of them hid some kind of pipe in my house when they left. The next day my landlord came in, found the pipe, told me it was drug paraphernalia and said I was gonna be evicted. He wanted me to sign a paper saying I accepted what he was saying.
“I told him it wasn’t mine, I had no idea how it got there and I wasn’t signing nothing”.
We begin offering advice but it seems the thin woman already has things under control. She comments, “I know what to do to defend myself but this is so stressful and it pisses me off”.
An Occupier states, “This is a perfect example of why we need to have the Housing Access Center again”. Another Occupier asks, “What did the Housing Access Center do?” The 1st Occupier replies, “It was a place where one could get information about all of the low income housing projects all at once in one place. It was also a place where landlords and tenants could meet with a moderator and work out their differences. Now days, about the only option landlords have is to evict”.
Another woman we have known for a few years sits down. As usual, she’s drunk. We’ve always thought she was quite beautiful but it seems her alcoholism is robbing her of her looks. She’s wearing a lot of makeup now.
Apparently, she’s recently fallen and cracked a rib. The hospitals won’t treat her because she’s always drunk. That makes no sense to us but we hear that same story from many.
The drunken woman has always seemed to have some sort of oppositional defiant disorder so we’ve given up trying to give advice. We just listen.
Eventually she catches the eye of a man who is probably not of the street and they walk off together.
The woman with the good stories returns but she’s very drunk now. She’s crying. She walks clockwise around the circle, blessing us all as is her custom and then sits down. Between sobs she says loudly, “I have breast cancer and they’re going to cut them off”.
An Occupier with experience in the medical field attempts to comfort the woman and explain that she may have other options.
The Occupier’s genuine concern appears to comfort the storyteller. She hugs the Occupier and stops crying.
A group of Native men, some of whom we know, join the circle. They can’t smudge because they’ve been drinking but they appreciate the smell of the burning sage.
The women who had chased the children earlier return. It seems all the men and women are related. They laugh and tease each other.
We all watch the fire turn to coals. Then it’s time to go.
Everyone wants to know when we’ll be back. We don’t have anything really pressing coming up in the next few days and the good weather promises to be around for a while.
We think we’ll be back on Tuesday.