G.A. Minutes 9-23-14

G.A. Minutes 9-23-14

Summer is back for at least the next week, or so the weather forecasters tell us. At this rate we’ll be able to collect on the days of summer that we were cheated out of in June. Sweet. We must be doing something right.

A couple of Occupiers have agreed to arrive a little early tonight. The president of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial BOD has asked to meet with them before the regular meeting starts.

When they arrive, the president is nowhere to be seen. An Occupier says, “While I was driving over here I noticed that the streets are just teeming with people. I bet everyone is out enjoying this beautiful day”.

A few more Occupiers arrive and everyone begins setting things up. A regular woman from the street takes one of the Occupiers aside and asks, “Do you know where we might get a tent and a couple of sleeping bags?” The Occupier doesn’t have any secret information so can only suggest contacting the main outreach worker at CHUM or asking the people at Loaves N Fishes. The Occupier thinks to herself “Oh, she and her man must have lost their housing. That’s too bad. They don’t look like they’d be adept at camping and I know she has kids”.

The CJM BOD president still hasn’t arrived, people are beginning to be seated and the fire has been started. Oh well….. If he arrives later he’ll just have to join the circle.

An Occupier tells a story of how she has been having on online conversation with some regular people from West End. They are discussing the fact that they find used syringes with needles still in them all over their neighborhood. Most are frightened and asking what they should do.

The Occupier has been explaining to them how a Needle Exchange Program operates. The conversation has been going on for about a week and all the participants have been serious but pleasant. She goes on “Except today some guy from Park Point logs in and says to tell mayor Ness and all his socialist cronies (everyone cracks up when they hear this) to cut all the welfare payments they give these undesirable people from other cities, down to the bare bone. He says this will stop all the undesirables from coming to Duluth’.

“I just couldn’t help it”, the Occupier said. “So I wrote back to him and said: ‘I hate to have to be rude but you sound pretty undesirable yourself. We don’t need any haters in this conversation. We’re trying to solve real problems.” Everybody has to laugh. The Occupier continued, “As far as I know, the Park Point guy hasn’t returned to the conversation.”

People are about to comment on the story when our friend, the pretty street woman who tells really good stories arrives. We can tell immediately that she is not in a good mood. She’s also quite messed up on some type of substance. Alcohol is usually her drug of choice.

She appears to be very sad. We’ve known her long enough to know that she expresses any strong emotion by using anger. She begins her usual diatribe about how come blacks have a Memorial and Natives don’t have one…..blah,blah,blah. Then she says, “My grandmother died a few days ago. She was 97 years old”.

She goes on to tell us some things about her grandmother. We try to convey empathy to her. She is not having any of it and says, “I don’t cry. Oh no, I never cry,” She starts to sob but catches herself. She just sits, looking miserable. One Occupier says to another, “Sometimes when people are having their grief and their pain, there’s nothing you can do. They just have to be allowed to feel it”. That comment seems to calm the sad woman a little.

An Occupier explains to the others about the expected visit from the BOD president. He states, “I received a call from one of our Occupiers who told me the BOD president wanted to talk with me. I met with him at a coffee shop yesterday. It seems like the president is on the same page as we are but the rest of the BOD members are not.

“They want us to stop meeting at the Memorial and they want all the neighborhood people to leave also. They want no smoking, drugs, drinking, drug or sex trafficking and no whatever else you can think of.

“If we continue to meet here, they expect us to enforce these rules. They want the Memorial to be a quiet, empty place where they can bring the wealthy potential donors to their scholarship program. He told me he would meet me here before the meeting but he didn’t show up. He’s a pretty nice guy. I hope nothing bad happened that prevented him from being here”.

Another Occupier responds, “Well it’s a good thing the BOD has absolutely no legal jurisdiction over CJM. I say the hell with them. They’re just a bunch of country club wannabees. They think being a BOD member is some sort of status symbol. They have no clue about the lives of the guys up on the wall or of any of the people who live around here. I say we just ignore the BOD. If they have anything they want to discuss with us they can join us here at a meeting”.

Something the Occupier said has rubbed the woman of the good stories the wrong way. She jumps up saying, “I’m outta here! You guys have bad spirits”. She staggers off.
Suddenly all the street people in our chairs leave. Then all the people on the street disappear. We have witnessed this phenomena in the past. We have no idea what it means.

A conversation about the 1% begins. An Occupier comments, “I don’t understand why they are so blind. Why can’t they see they are destroying the lives on their own generations to come also? Why can’t they see that their own lives would be better if only they allowed the rest of humanity to just have basic needs met.

Another Occupier agrees, “Yeah and they wouldn’t have to hire university think tanks to research why the masses revolt”. We all laugh.

Our friend an occasional Occupier arrives. He’s come for some good coffee and a chat. He doesn’t usually have time to attend our meetings as he’s running his own cab company out of our neighborhood. He’s well acquainted with all the street folks. We catch up on his latest news, he makes an appointment to meet one of the Occupiers later and then he’s off again.

The Native man on crutches who has been showing up to the circle lately arrives. He brings his girlfriend and introduces her. She’s pleasant and friendly. He offers each member in our circle a pinch of tobacco. Some put the tobacco in the fire with a silent prayer, others roll a cigarette.

As usual, the man talks of good things. He tells us his father was a Lakota spiritual advisor and created a shelter for men who were batterers. He says the idea was when the men came home, acted violently with their wives and got thrown out of the house; they would not come back and try to kick in the door etc. They could go to the shelter. We think his father was a very smart man.

Two young boys who we recognize slightly arrive. They are holding the story telling street woman up by her arms. She appears unable to walk; her speech is incoherent. They sit her down in a chair and one of the boys makes a phone call. He tells the woman he has found a place for her to sleep for the night and attempts to get her to stand. It’s not working.

The man with the crutches says, “Leave her alone. Wait a while and then she’ll be ready to go”. It appears that everyone listens when the man with crutches tells them something. The boys leave. We continue to talk and then the man and his girlfriend also leave.

The fire is dying, the hour is very late. We know we can’t just pack up and leave while the story telling woman is passed out and alone. We are wondering what we should do. We know we can’t just take her to one of our houses for the night. She has a lot of paranoia so if she wakes up in a strange environment she will probably freak out, think she’s been kidnapped and try to kill anyone she sees.

The street is empty of people we know are her friends. We sit for a while and then the two boys return. One says to an Occupier, “Will you talk to her?”

The Occupier gives it a try. “Honey, we’re packing up now. We don’t want to just leave you here. You’ll probably end up in Detox. Please go with your nephews. They have a place where you can stay”. The woman agrees and the boys carry her off.

We quickly pack up. It’s probably after 10pm but the DPD don’t seem to pay much attention to us anymore.

On Saturday we’ll be going to a belated Fall Equinox celebration in the country. We intend to be back to CJM on Tuesday. Maybe it will still be summer.

G.A. Minutes 9-16-14

G.A. Minutes 9-16-14

It’s another evening where we haven’t been at the CJM Memorial for an entire week. We were rained out last Tuesday and on Saturday we attended an IWW event put on by one of our occasional Occupiers at the Jefferson People’s House.

The weather has been chilly for about a week but today temps were in the low 70s. It looks like this evening will be pleasant too.

When the 1st Occupier arrives she sees a DPD officer getting out of his car and approaching the Memorial space. A few people are hanging out. They leave quickly. Only 1 regular neighborhood guy is left sitting on the back ledge. The cop walks up to him and they talk. The Occupier tries to sit unnoticed so she can listen to the conversation.

She can hear what the officer is saying but the neighborhood guy’s voice is too quiet. The cop asks the guy for an ID but he doesn’t have one with him. The guy has an ethnic sounding name; the cop asks him if he’s “legal”. He then has the guy stand beside the squad car while he calls in the guy’s name and address. Everything checks out so he gives the guy a citation, thanks him for being cooperative and drives off.

The Occupier says, “So what happened?”

The guy says, “He gave me a citation for being a public nuisance. I’m so pissed. I gotta go home. I’ll come back and talk to you later”.

The Occupier has seen this game played many times. The DPD give street people citations for non-existent reasons. The cops know the people are poor, feel powerless and won’t show up in court to fight the charges.

The people can’t afford to pay the citation fines so after they accumulate enough unpaid citations, they can be sent to jail for a few months. The people then lose their government subsidized housing and are discharged from jail into homelessness. On average, it will take them 3 years to be able to get housing again.

The Occupier wonders what the point of all of this is. To keep the jails full? To create more homeless people? It doesn’t make sense.

A few more Occupiers arrive. An Occupier who can’t be present tonight drops off a bag of hot dogs and buns. We set things up and get the fire going. The air is still warm so we won’t have to sit close to the flames right away.

An older Native man we haven’t met in the past staggers over. He appears quite drunk. We greet him and he sits down.
More folks come over. We notice everyone is quite drunk… or something. Some are people we are acquainted with, others are not. They are all in various states of zombie like condition. This is unusual for this time of the month. Something out of the ordinary is going on but we’re not gonna ask what.

Fortunately, with the exception of one young couple, no one is acting aggressive or angry. People are just stumbling around waiting for the hot dogs to finish cooking. When they’re cooked, everybody eats. They are grateful and they say so.

The young couple is having an argument that carries up and down the hill. Apparently she is throwing him out of the house and he’s calling on his phone trying to find somewhere else to stay. They’re not interested in hot dogs.

One of the women from the pair of twin sisters who are long time homeless people arrives. She tells us about a homeless conference in Rochester. She has just returned this conference and seems decidedly pleased. She speaks to a woman sitting in the circle saying, “The main homeless outreach worker has been looking for you. She very worried about how you are doing”.

The conference goer gets some coffee and says to the Occupiers, “You know I work for CHUM now?” We congratulate her.

A middle class appearing man walks up and says, “I have some pizza left if anybody wants it”. We accept his gift and thank him. No one is particularly hungry any longer; but we know he meant well and the pizza is from one of the top of the line pizza places.

The other half of the twin sister duo arrives with her daughter and grandchildren. She gets her coffee and asks how things are going. An Occupier quietly tells her, “The only person I’ve seen all night who wasn’t messed up on something was your sister”.
People are wandering off but the older Native man remains. He stares into the fire.

An Occupier reminds every one of the Idle No More meeting on Friday. She also reports that a free stove has been found for the Duluth Indian Center. Several other Occupiers discuss plans for picking it up in the morning.

The Occupiers discuss their impressions of the Jefferson People’s House. We know we need to find a suitable place to hold our meetings during the worst of the winter months. We also know that JPH allows groups to hold meetings in their space.

An Occupier says, “I’ll stop by there soon and ask about their normal business hours and such”.

We discuss the fact that tomorrow night we have 2 events we need to attend. Our friend the government official is having his monthly Equity In Hiring meeting at the CHCC at 6pm. Another friend and organizer is holding an event about mercury pollution in the St Louis river at Clyde Iron. This event is also at 6pm. We decide to split up with some going to one meeting and others going to the other.

An Occupier reports Idle No More has been given permission to visit the Penokee Harvest Camp on October 13th. Of course we have been invited to go along. We say laughingly, “The fact that we’ve been there before and know the way might have something to do with the invite”.

Another friend from INM is planning to attend the “Not Your Mascot” event on November 2nd in the Twin Cities. He’s looking for others to go with him.

The Native man looks up from the fire and says, “Can I tell you a story?” We say sure and he begins.

“I’m from LacCourte Orielles Tribe. When I was about 12 years old they built a dam and flooded our entire land. They didn’t even ask, they just did it. We lost our homes, the graveyard was flooded too and bodies were floating in the water. This was in the time of AIM. Do you know what AIM was?”

We nod yes. one of the older Occupiers was acquainted with folks from AIM.

The man of LacCourte Orielles Tribe went on, “My dad was a demolition expert. He knew how to blow up the dam. Some guys from AIM came to him and asked him to blow up the dam. My dad asked me and my brother if he should do it. “My brother said yes and I said no. My dad decided not to do it. He knew some innocent white people would be killed”.

Our friend the infamous street woman arrives. A man is following her and trying to argue with her. She sits with us and tells us she expects to get housing at the beginning of next month.

She looks good. Her skin and eyes are clear. The man stomps off. She says, “I’m under so much stress but I think I’m going to make it”. We offer words of encouragement.

The clock strikes 9:15pm and the fire is down to coals. Time to pack up. The older Native man would like us to stay. It seems he hasn’t had a chance for serious conversation in a while.

We tell him we’ll be back on Saturday and invite him to join us. We drive off as the night shift arrives.

G.A. Minutes 9-2-14

G.A. Minutes 9-2-14
It’s been a pleasant day with temps in the 70s and a moderate breeze. We’re expecting the same for this evening however the sky is covered with angry black clouds as we arrive at the CJM Memorial.
We stand watching overhead to decide if we should set up or run for cover. The clouds are moving really fast and off in the distance we can see they are being followed by blue sky and sunshine.
An Occupier says, “You know, it’s moving so fast I think everything is going to pass right over us. We should just set up”. So that’s what we do.
As we are setting up another Occupier comments, “I just saw the infamous street woman up the hill as I was driving down. She looked like she had been drinking”. “Oh crap!” says one other Occupier. The infamous woman had been talking about wanting to get into treatment last spring and into the summer but was unable to find an opening. After that we didn’t see her at all for over a month and had hoped she had gone off for long term alcohol abuse care. The first Occupier responds, “At least she appeared to be happy instead of angry like she usually gets when she’s drunk”.
Over the years we have developed affection and concern for some of the regular street folks.
Many regulars are here tonight. They begin arriving as they see us enter the space. Among them are the developmentally disabled man, the older Ho Chunk man, the mature, very pretty Native woman who tells great stories, the young Native guy who thinks he’s a gangster, the angry, aggressive but strangely religious African American man, the heavy set woman of mixed ethnicity and the kind hearted middle aged African American man who watches out for everyone on the street.
The Native man on crutches who we met a few weeks ago is also waiting and tonight he has brought a friend.
As the Occupiers are bustling about the man on crutches begins to start the fire. The Occupier who is a fire making wizard is the person who always makes the fire so another Occupier signals to him with her eyes. He whispers, “Just wait a while. It looks like he’s going to be able to get it started”. It does take a while but the man on crutches finally gets a fire going.
An Occupier has brought a large amount of hot dogs, buns, ketchup and mustard. We put a grill across the fire and he begins to cook them. Everyone around the fire has one and quickly word spreads up and down the street. Soon there are at least 30 people standing around looking hopeful. The Occupier says, “Anyone who wants a hotdog come and get 1. We have enough”. We do, many people have a 2nd helping.
When the food is gone, many of the folks wander back down the street or to the back ledge. All the chairs around the fire are full; people sit and chat about many things. The heavy set woman talks about her permanently injured foot, the angry man tells about a talk he had with some potential developers concerning planned renovation of the Old Kozy and the man on crutches, his friend and some of the Occupiers talk about planning for the 7th generation and the meaning of life.
When there is a lull in the conversation, an Occupier reports that her computer has eaten the minutes from the last meeting. She says, “I can see the file sitting there but the program won’t let me open it. It says it’s corrupted. I even talked with our friend the major computer expert but he couldn’t open it either. I must have saved it wrong. Sorry”. Nobody particularly cares. We don’t know if anybody ever even reads the minutes.
Another Occupier says, “Our friend from Water Legacy asks if we will help him petition again. This time it will be on Saturday at Bayfront during the Bridge Fest.” Everyone agrees we should help him again. We talk about the pleasant time we had helping him last Saturday at Pride Fest.
Still another Occupier tells about her trip with a member of Idle No More to an all-day meeting with some Anishinaabe elders on the FDL rez. At the last INM meeting the people discussed some problems they had been having with getting their projects off the ground. They decided it was advisable to confer with the elders about what they should do. The Occupier and an INM member from Duluth drove out to the FDL rez, met up with some INM members who live out there and they all spent a day listening to the wisdom of Mary and Leonard Moose, 2 elders in their 80s. The Occupier says, “It was a very enlightening experience. I couldn’t possibly explain everything tonight but I’ll tell you about it when we have more time”.
Someone mentions a book, “Capital” by Thomas Piketty that seems to be all the rage right now. Several Occupiers are currently reading it and finding it to be rather dry. A discussion begins about the stupidity of the whole concept of money and the incredulousness of an entire world that follows the dictates of a system of exchange of goods and services that isn’t real.
The fire is winding down and the sky has been dark for a while. We are thinking of calling it a night when our friend the grey haired woman appears. We are always pleased to see her so decide to stay a while longer.
She is happy to find us here as she can never remember what the days are that we meet here. If she did remember, it wouldn’t matter as she can never remember what day it is anyway.
She tells us she’s been hanging out at CJM every night and making new friends. She says she’s still trying to find out where she fits in. We know she has lived in Duluth for at least 4 years but has always continued to believe she just arrived about 6 months ago.
She says, “It’s really rowdy and there are lots of fights except on the nights that you guys are here”. We have been told this by others too.
The grey haired woman spent most of her life living in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of the Occupiers also lived in the same area for many years. Each time they meet they spend time reminiscing about their time there.
The grey haired woman suggests an Occupy Exchange be created. Various Occupy groups could then exchange locations from time to time. The Occupiers think this is a marvelous idea. They fantasize on the concept for a bit.
Now it’s really time to go. It seems the street folks sitting around the fire wish we would stay longer however; we all have things we have to do tomorrow.
We invite everyone to attend the Bridge Fest. on Saturday and tell them we will be back at CJM next Tuesday.