G.A. Minutes 8-23-14

G.A. Minutes 8-23-14

It seems like the whole town is partying today. There are so many events going on that it’s not possible to name them all. It can’t be because these are the last days of summer. Oh no, we didn’t get actual summer weather until July this year. We are still owed at least 1 more month of heat and we plan to collect.

As we arrive at CJM we see the street is blocked off at the intersection just past the Memorial space. We remember that our friend, who has recently opened a club up the street, is having an anniversary celebration tonight. It looks like it’s going to be a pretty big doings.

It’s a bit chilly tonight with a gusty east wind. We’ll get the fire going right away.
There are people on the back ledge and some of them help us unload and set up. The snacks are out and folks are lining up for a cup of good hot coffee.

A friend who is a well-known and longtime local anarchist, peace activist and Occupy supporter rides up on his bike. He’s in his late 60s and was in a serious bicycle accident about a year ago. Most would have been crippled for life under those circumstances but not our friend. Because he was in such excellent physical condition when he had the accident, he’s back riding his bike again.

Another friend, a well-known community activist, artist and all around “gypsy woman” also joins us. She’s going to the party but felt like spending some time with us beforehand. She tells us the street is blocked off because there is a cover charge to get in to buy drinks and watch the bands.

The bands will be playing in the street so everyone will be able to hear them. Most of the neighborhood people are strictly the BYOB type so drinks won’t be much of a problem either.

The club owner is a pretty good guy so that makes us think that perhaps his logistics are a way of allowing his regular patrons to party without the street people while still allowing street people to enjoy the party also. It will be interesting to see how things work out.

The music is starting. It’s loud but it sounds good. We can’t even hear the person sitting next to us talk so we just sit back and listen to the good rock sounds.

Some of the people on the ledge are dancing on the corner but no one appears to be particularly thrilled by what they are hearing. Slowly they all drift away. Most grab a cup of coffee and a cookie as they go.

When the band stops, some Occupiers tell us about the 25th Anniversary Party of Loaves N Fishes that they attended earlier. The street down by the LNF houses was blocked off and there was a ton of delicious, healthy potluck. Several bands, a Maypole dance, face painting, baked goods sale, even 2 gorgeous horses were among the many things going on at the celebration.

The Gypsy Woman tells us about the City’s plan to cut down all the fantastic 100 year old trees that line our 4th St neighborhood corridor from 6th Ave E to about 14th Ave E. What?!?

We had heard a rumor about this plan but didn’t believe that the City would dare to do something so foolhardy. Apparently, we were wrong. Gypsy woman says, “Apparently it’s a done deal. It doesn’t matter what protests or meetings are held, they’re already set up to do it. They say they have to widen the street to fix sewer lines or something. They say they will plant new trees when they’re done.
We all groan. We’ll have to see what we can find out. As if our plates weren’t full enough already.

The music is getting ready to start up again. The Anarchist has to take off as darkness is falling and he has no lights on his bike. Gypsy Woman goes off to the party. A few street people, who don’t need to talk all the time, remain sitting with us.

The next band is exceptionally good. When they are finished we begin a conversation about the goings on in Ferguson, Missouri. We attempt to imagine what it must be like to live under the constant pressure of racism. Although we can’t really imagine we do empathize.

An Occupier states, “I was reading an article the other day that said we have to really hang on to the Ferguson event and not let up. Ferguson could be the spark that ignites a nationwide civil rights movement. The article said that we can’t let Michael Brown’s murder be just another flash in the pan like Trayvon Martin and all the countless multitudes of young black men who have been murdered in this country because of racism”.

Our friend, the retired man from the neighborhood, passes by and stops to talk with 1 of the Occupiers. As has been his custom for years, when he leaves he gives us a generous monetary donation. This contribution will help us to purchase a new load of firewood.

As the next band prepares to take the stage, an Occupier comments, “When I remembered our friend’s celebration I figured we’d have a pretty quiet G.A. with mostly just us. I forgot about the part where we wouldn’t be able to hear each other talk”. We all laugh.

A street man who had been sitting with us returns to our circle. He had tried to sneak in the front entrance to the party but 2 members of the DPD were guarding the entrance. He then tried to sneak in through the side entrance but no luck there either. “Oh well” he says, “I can hear the music just fine from here and I can get a six pack of beer down the street for 4 bucks so I can drink too”. He settles down with us to listen.

The older woman from Mississippi has been listening and lightly dancing on the corner for a while. When we met her years ago, she was very humble, soft spoken and overly polite. Her manner of dress was that of a country churchgoing woman. For the last several months we notice she has taken to wearing a lot of makeup, tight and revealing clothing and standing alone on the corner late into the night.

We don’t know what is going on with her and we’re not gonna ask but she sure has taken us by surprise.
The fire is dying and an Occupier makes movements like he is preparing to pack up. Another Occupier says, “Just 1 more small log? It’s really nice out here with the fire and the music is good”. The other Occupiers agree and so 1 more small log it is.

When the log is finished, 1 other Occupier says, “I wish we could stay. Charlie Parr is just about to come on”. Unfortunately, the Occupiers who carry most of the G.A. supplies in their vehicles have an early appointment tomorrow so must leave. They say, “Well you guys can still stay. Everyone in the neighborhood knows you. Just set yourself down on the back ledge and listen to Charlie”.

As one of the departing Occupiers goes toward her vehicle, Charlie Parr begins his sweet soul, back porch, foot stomping, strumming and singing.

The Occupier says to Mississippi Woman, “There you go. Now you got you some REAL music”. Mississippi Woman laughs and nods in agreement.

See you all next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 8-16-14

G.A. Minutes 8-16-14

The sun is shining and it looks like a typical warm summer day. However a pretty strong east wind is cooling things down considerably. Of course, we’re at CJM again. We set things up quickly and start the fire right away. No one is dressed for cool weather; the fire will allow folks to sit comfortably.

A few street people are actually waiting for us. They seem in need of refuge tonight. The formerly homeless Native artist who we have known and respected for years stops by. He’s on his way to do something and says he’ll be back to join us soon.

A Native woman who appears to have been waiting for us comes to sit. She appears to be upset but doesn’t say much. Although we’ve met her occasionally, we don’t really know her.

Something is going on back on the ledge. We hear a loud conversation between an infamous Native street man who uses a wheel chair, a large, mannish, well known Native street woman and a young woman whose face is familiar to us. Several African American men are also on the ledge. They do not appear to be at all connected to the loud conversation.

The young woman is chastising the man in the wheel chair. She tells him it is never o.k. for a man to hit a woman. The young woman walks over to the Native woman sitting in our circle and says, “So what happened?” The sitting woman says, “He hit her in the head with a board. I think she has brain damage”. The young woman goes back to the ledge and continues chastising the man. The large Native woman takes out her cell phone and makes a call. As she does this, the young woman heads up the hill alone and in a hurry.

Soon we see our Native artist friend arrive. He questions everyone involved, takes the young woman’s purse off the back of the wheel chair and heads up the hill. Sadly, we realize he probably won’t be coming back to sit with us tonight.

As all this has been going on, we’ve been involved in our own conversation; keeping an eye on the ledge goings on at the same time.

We’ve been postulating the theory that the 1% are planning on leaving the planet and moving to Mars or some other planet. This is why they don’t care what happens to our planet or the rest of humanity. They figure they won’t be here when the planet becomes toast.

An Occupier is attempting to figure out how many people can fit in a space capsule and how many space capsules it will take to get the whole lot of them to their new homes. Others are telling about the latest scientific things they have heard about other possibly habitable planets in the universe.

The Occupier says, “I think they have a problem. At current speeds it will take them 36,000 years to get to the nearest planet”.

Another Occupier responds, “They’re not gonna be able to take the whole 1%. Each space capsule only holds about 7 people”.

Still another states, “The 1% is so dumb. Sooner or later they’re all gonna die. They’ll certainly be leaving the planet then. I guess they haven’t thought of that”.

We’ve really just been killing time until the police arrive. Then……. THEY’RE HERE…… A squad pulls up, a cop gets out and the large Native woman waves him over. Another squad rolls up and another cop gets out.

They bring the woman over closer to us and we can hear her telling them, “She had a knife behind her back and she started to pull it out and said she was gonna stab me. She’s wearing a grey sweatshirt and blues jeans. She went up the hill. I don’t know her name”. The Native woman is obviously very drunk.

The cops don’t seem to care. They’re just smiling and writing down stuff. Maybe it’s because the woman is pretty well known around here for this type of drama. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to look bad in front of us. That white privilege thing you know. Whatever.

The officers come over to us and ask us if we know what happened. An Occupier says, “Not exactly, we were just observing from here but all that stuff about a knife is definitely not true”. One cop says, “Yeah we figured that”. They get back in their cars and drive away.

The Memorial is empty. During the lull we have our meeting. An Occupier reports our supply of wood is running low. She asks permission to take the rest of the money in our treasury and buy more wood. Everyone agrees this would be o.k. to do.

Several Occupiers report on the Equity In Hiring and the Human Rights Commission meeting they have attended. One has concerns that the EIH group may be about to be taken over by NGO hustlers. The other says she’s impressed by what she’s hearing at the HRC these days.

The people who were on the back ledge are back and they’ve brought friends. The back ledge is really crowded and it appears some of the people are smoking something. It’s probably synthetic. We hear some mild arguing between some of the Native people and some of the African American men.

A small older African American says, “Hey, give the m’f’er some, give him some!” They give some to a young Native man in a red shirt. The red shirted man makes loud, sucking noises and the small man says, “Hey, give it back. Give it back!”

Within less than a minute, the red shirted man is lying flat on his side on the ground behind the ledge and the small man is on his knees, hanging onto the fence and talking gibberish. The small man’s friends are almost falling over with laughter.

Back at our fire circle we continue to talk while keeping an eye on things. We especially are watching the red shirted man as he doesn’t appear to be moving at all and his friends aren’t paying any attention to him. A developmentally disabled man, who lives in the neighborhood, joins us. Many people are coming up to get snacks the quickly leaving. It appears no one wants to be involved with what is going on at the back ledge.

Eventually both men attempt to sit up and their friends assist them as they sit very shakily on the ledge. Both of them talk in some unintelligible language. The red shirted man staggers off and the large Native woman slides up next to the small older African American man. She begins to threaten him, shoving him, closing her fists and acting as though she will punch him.

His friend says, “If she’s gonna come at you like a man you should come back at her like she was a man”.

The small man mumbles something that sounds like, “Nah, I can’t do that”. The woman’s friends all leave. They appear disgusted with her. One young man who is generally pretty rowdy looks at us and smiles, then looks back at her and shakes his head.

The woman continues to harass the man until suddenly….Wham! He throws her to the ground and holds her by the wrists. She gives up quickly. He lets her up, she takes out her phone, starts talking and staggers off.

We notice it’s after 9pm and completely dark. We figure that’s enough for one night so we pack up. We make plans to be here again on Tuesday but we know it might rain. If it does, we’ll go to the Occupier couple’s house to make new signs for the Idle No More NdN taco sale later in the month.

As the last Occupier is getting into her car, she sees the Memorial is empty except for the small man. He is standing unsteadily on the sidewalk. She says, “Hey man, you better split. If the cops come they will surely take you in because you look really f’d up”.

He says, “Yeah, I’m going home. Thank you.”

Just as she starts up her engine, 2 squads come around the corner. They scope out CJM but it’s empty. They slowly cruise down the street, looking to see what they can see. The Occupier follows them at a distance for a block or so. She doesn’t see the small man anywhere and hopes he is safely out of sight.

G.A. Minutes 8-12-14

G.A. Minutes 8-12-14

It’s been hot with no wind all day. As we arrive at CJM the temperature is still around 85 degrees. We expect to be somewhat uncomfortable during the first hour or so of our meeting but we’re in luck.

The days are getting shorter and the sun lower so a large part of the Memorial space is shaded and there is a gentle breeze blowing throughout. Sweet. The place is empty except for one woman sitting in the shade on the back ledge.

As soon as the chairs are set up she comes over to join us. She says, “Boy is it ever hot! I’m completely exhausted and all I’ve been doing today is trying to cope with the heat”.

She’s carrying a big paper bag which she tells us contains food. “Can I trade some of my food for a cigarette?” she asks.
We give her a smoke and explain that she can just have it; we don’t need to take her food.

The woman makes small talk as she smokes and then she leaves. After she is gone we notice she left her paper bag sitting under the table.

The street is fairly empty. The people who do walk by are traveling solo or in pairs. Most are trying to figure out where their friends have gone.

A street man who has visited with us in the past comes over to say hello. He too asks for a cigarette.

An Occupier remarks, “We have a pack of community cigarettes tonight. A friend left them in my car and said to just go ahead and give them away”.

The man responds, “Does that mean I can have more than one?”

The Occupier replies, “Take as many as you like”.

The man scoops up five or six and says, “This is great! I’m going to go up the hill and give a cigarette to each one of the brothers”. Off he goes.

An old man who we see almost every time we meet at CJM comes to talk to us. He is the minister of the storefront church a few doors down. He tells us he has some baked goods and asks if we will take them. We tell him of course we will. He leaves and returns with a tray of assorted muffins which we put out on the table.

The minister then says, “I really appreciate you folks being here and appreciate the things you do”. We thank him.

After he leaves an Occupier confides, “What a surprise! All this time I thought he didn’t care much for us”.

One Occupier reports that our friend, the main organizer for Water Legacy, is asking if we will help them with petitioning at the annual Pride Fest on Saturday, August 30th. Most of the Occupiers want to do this.

The same Occupier also reminds us that Loaves N Fishes will be having their 25th Annual Block Party on Saturday, August 23rd from 3pm-7pm. She suggests, “We could all meet up there and ride back up the hill for our G.A.”. Everyone thinks this is a good idea.

We are also reminded that the next Idle No More meeting will be this upcoming Friday at 1pm. We’ll be meeting at the new office which two of our Native organizer friends have just opened at 320 E 2nd St.

A woman from the street who we have known for years comes to sit with us. She begins with her usual rant about the unfairness of the black people having the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial when there is not a memorial in the city for Native people.

However, tonight she is less angry, more accepting. She says, “Maybe it’s because white people are afraid of us. We’re a very strong people you know”. Then she tells us a story.

She begins, “When I was a little girl living on the rez, there was one crow that could talk the same way that people talk, the same way we are talking now. There was only this one crow that could do that.

“One day me and my sisters were playing and we started throwing rocks and sticks at that crow. When we got bored of doing that we went and swung on the swings that we had.

“While I was swinging that crow flew down and bit me on my face. I was bleeding and crying and when I got home the grownups got a gun to go shoot the crow.

“Me and my sisters were crying and saying to don’t shoot the crow because it was our fault for throwing rocks at it. But they shot the crow anyway. That was the only crow that could talk like people do”.

As she is finishing her story a man calls to her from across the street. As she leaves, she says, “When I come back I’ll tell you another story”.

Our friend the city official comes walking up the street. One of the Occupiers has edited some documents for our friend and the two of them discuss a new project. When he leaves he says, “Thank you for being here”.

We feel a few raindrops and as we look at the sky, we see a big black cloud coming over. We sit and let the light rain fall on us. When the rain stops we see a big double rainbow over the back of CJM. Lovely.

Folks are stopping by now. They’re getting lemonade and coffee and going about their business. We decide it has cooled off enough to light the fire.

A man with a prosthetic leg sits down. We offer him a beverage and some baked goods. He eats heartily and says, “This is the first thing I’ve had to eat all day”. When he gets up to leave we give him more baked goods to take with him.

As he walks off, the second wave of rain showers down on us. It’s not enough to put the fire out. When it stops, the hungry man returns and we gladly supply him with more food.

Another street friend, the grey haired woman appears. We’re glad she still remembers where to find us. We haven’t seen her in several months so have things to catch up on.

As we are chatting with her a third batch of rain clouds cross over us. These clouds carry more rain than the previous two. One Occupier says to another, “So are you timing them?”

“Yup” says the other Occupier, “They’re coming about every fifteen minutes”.

Now we’re all fairly wet. An Occupier says, “I think by now we’ve proven to the neighborhood we’re just as crazy as they are”.

As we begin packing up someone notices the big paper bag that had been left under the table. She opens it and finds a large container of fresh fried rice and egg rolls.

We offer it to our friend the grey haired woman and she is delighted. It means she won’t have to go and stand in line at the feeding center tomorrow.

We’re just about packed up when the fourth band of showers passes over. It’s fairly strong but still not enough to put out the fire. We have to do that ourselves.

We say our rather wet goodbyes and plan to be back here on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 8-5-14

G.A. Minutes 8-5-14

Well, we were rained out last Tuesday and we attended the FDL Pow Wow on Saturday so again we haven’t been to CJM for an entire week. Tonight is the annual National Night Out throughout the city. We stop at the Chum Center to share in their yearly feed and then we head over to the Memorial.

It’s a warm evening, even though it’s after 7pm the temps are still in the 70s. A slight east wind gives needed comfort.
A Native man on crutches approaches as we are setting things up. He politely asks what we are doing. We just say we’re going to sit around and talk for a while.

We generally don’t identify ourselves as Occupiers when meeting new people of the street. Most have never heard of Occupy so we don’t like to lay a lot of political analysis on their heads upon our first time meeting them. Life on the street is basically about day to day survival. Folks don’t discuss deep issues until they feel comfortable.

The man sees our sage bundle burning, sits down and requests to smudge. He tells us he is a Dakota warrior.

It’s common for people who don’t know us to assume we are a group of Christians holding a prayer session or something. The man begins to speak about his deep faith in Jesus. He and the Occupier who likes to talk about the Bible get into a conversation.
Many more people arrive; most are familiar faces. We go to our truck and get more chairs.

Groups of 2 or 3 begin conversations. A regular street man who is generally angry and aggressive is debating the use of the N word with the drummer from Senegal. The Native man on crutches, the Occupier and another young Native man are debating the differences and similarities between Christianity and traditional Anishinaabe belief. A woman who has acquired extensive sunburn and an Occupier converse about natural healing. The many people on the back ledge are making a lot of noise about something.

An Occupier whispers, “I think we should light the fire. People need to focus”. We start up the fire, everyone in the circle turns toward it and a group conversation begins.

The Native man with crutches and the man from Senegal remark upon the sacredness of the Memorial space. An Occupier reminds everyone about the 2 commemoration ceremonies to be held this week concerning the World War ll nuclear bombing of Japan. One will be held on Wednesday at Enger Tower and the other on Saturday at the Veteran’s Memorial on the Lakewalk.

The Native man on crutches begins to cry. “I really miss my younger brother” he says. We ask about his brother and he tells us his brother was drunk driving and was killed in a car accident. Everyone offers words of comfort, except the angry aggressive man who says that men should not cry. Everybody else in the circle disagrees with this and a conversation begins concerning all the reasons it’s o.k. for a man to cry.
More street people arrive; we have run out of chairs. Some remain standing and others go back with the rowdy folks on the back ledge.

An Occupier reports she attended the mayor’s town hall meeting yesterday. The town hall was set up in place of the August and September last Tuesday of the month open office hours. She says the mayor came all prepared to defend himself regarding his perceived lack of action on homeless and equity issues, however the meeting was sparsely attended. The audience consisted of herself, 2 local environmental organizers, the City Human Rights Officer, a well-meaning middle class community organizer and about 10 or 15 of the mayor’s friends and supporters.

The Occupier continues, “They talked a lot about new bike trails and eventually he admitted the City has plans to ‘revitalize’ East 1st Street. He said the plan was to build moderate income apartment buildings for young professionals. When I asked him what he planned to do with all the people who already live here, he didn’t seem to be aware that any people did already live here. His aides coached him about the Skinner Apartments and others and then he assured me that none of the current residents will be displaced. I guess he thought I was gonna believe him”. We all laugh.

“When he said the heart of the plan consisted of purchasing the old Kozy and various other decrepit properties owned by Dr. R, (the owner of our previous homeless camp) getting various types of tax credits and turning everything into apartments for up and coming youth I thought, if you think Dr. R will comply with government regulations or sell you his buildings for the low price they’re actually worth, you are seriously nuts! There were lots of cameras there so I didn’t say it. I can’t afford to be sued for slander”. We laugh some more.

We can see the street folks are in a talkative mood tonight and it is National Night Out so we decide to just let things roll.
A conversation about legalizing marijuana gets going. Everyone supports the idea however, one Occupier has reservations concerning the potential for addiction and driving under the influence. It seems he’s had bad experiences within his family.

The sunburned woman tells a story about her ex-husband kidnapping, beating and molesting her 3 children. Her children are safe now but much traumatized. She is also traumatized. We offer our condolences.

An Occupier gives a questioning look to another Occupier and she responds by whispering, “Just wait until the big clock chimes one more time and then we’ll pack up”. We know we are cutting it close time wise but we also know that the people seldom get these types of safe circles in which to express themselves.

The big clock chimes 9:30 pm. We begin packing up. One Occupier agrees to drive the badly sunburned woman to her home. Another will bring a drunken older woman from the back ledge to her daughter’s home a few blocks away. We had initially resolved not to drive the street people places so as not to create expectations. As time goes on, we find we are breaking that resolution more and more.

On Saturday some of us will be attending the annual Bayfront Blues Festival. We plan to be back on Tuesday.