G.A. Minutes 6-23-15

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 6-13-15

G.A. Minutes 6-13-15
Upon our arrival at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening, we observe a very long line of motorcycles lined up in front of our friend’s club, located down the street. That part of the street is overflowing with bikers.
We find it rather odd but we know our friend welcomes all types of people in his club. We’ll wait to see how the presence of bikers affects our meeting.
The weather could be referred to as lukewarm. It’s overcast with a slight east wind; the temperature is in the low 50s. It might get cold and it might not. We’ll have to wait and see about that too.
A few street folks on the back ledge appear to be waiting for us. They tell us the bikers are from the Christian biker group that passes through Duluth every year.
The group is holding a rally in the old Christian Encounter building. They have a Christian rock band performing and a big picnic meal is being served outside. The event is open to everyone including all the people of the street. They are not serving alcohol.
We’re relieved to hear this. It means the bike rally won’t be creating any problems for us or anyone else.
As we’re getting things ready, the man who is always laughing drives up. He comes over to say hello. We see that his girlfriend is in the car.
An Occupier asks, “So did you guys have your baby yet?” He responds, “Yeah, we did but the State took it away from my girl. We’re going to court about it though and I think we’ll win”.
We don’t say anything but we know this is probably wishful thinking on his part. We know that his girlfriend has serious mental health issues, a history of serious drug abuse and she has had all the other children to whom she has given birth taken away by Child Protection.
We don’t know a lot about the laughing man but we suspect he hasn’t held down a slave job for many years and he is not legally married to the baby’s mama.
We do know he really wants to do the right thing and that he feels responsible to care for his child. We hope he can work things out.
A couple who are very well respected anti-nuclear and human rights activists have come to join us. They haven’t attended any of our meetings at CJM in the past but they immediately fit right in.
A large group of regular street folks come back from the biker event carrying plates full of food.
One of the activists is writing an article about real grassroots groups. As people sit and eat, she asks us a few questions.
She wants to know how we think our local Occupy group has changed since the beginning days at our first camp at the Civic Center.
An Occupier postulates, “In the beginning I think Occupy was sort of a fad for some. A number, especially the younger people, saw the camp and its meetings, rallies and such as sort of a game or fantasy.
“Some of the younger folks were also tricked by the idea that was called Black Bloc. My personal feeling is that Black Bloc was put into the Occupy Movement by the FBI, CIA, NSA or whoever else works security for the 1%. Major media then used the phony “mini movement” to convince the general public Occupy was a dangerous and violent group.
“Some of the young ones were really attracted to the clothes, scarves and tough talking offered by Black Bloc. The first time they got their heads beat in by the cops, most changed their minds.
“It’s not like that anymore. The people who have remained over the years are serious about what they are doing. They know the basic message the Occupy Movement introduced into the general public about 1% per cent of the human population controlling the majority of the wealth, natural resources, political systems and decision making power over the entire earth while 99% of the human population is subjected to various forms of servitude or slavery in order to survive is true.
“So now days we are a much smaller group of activists. As such, we ally with various likeminded activist groups and organizers, try to assist them in a good way and while doing so we remind people that the 1%/99% fact of life is central to progressive (some say radical) change.
“As far as we can tell, that’s pretty much what’s going on with all the Occupy groups across the country”.
The activist writer asks how we ended up at CJM and we tell her the story of how we politely (mostly) stood up to the DPD and showed them the actual City ordinances and fire codes which supported our meetings and recreational fires at the Memorial.
An Occupier states, “It took us about a year and a half but the cops finally backed off. This is the fourth year we’ve been here”.
“So what’s the point of you all having your meetings at CJM?” she wants to know.
Another Occupier tells her, “Well, the neighborhood street folks seem to appreciate us giving them snacks, a fire, conversation and treating them as the valuable human beings that they really are.
“We also are making the point to the City and to its citizens that people have the right to use of public space. The subject of the people’s loss of the “commons” is too big to go into now but the use of this space and others is the right of everyone. Not just the people who can afford to pay money for it”.
The Spiritual Man has been sitting in the circle for a while. Usually he has many good things to add to the conversation. Tonight he just listens. He probably hasn’t heard the Occupiers speak about these things previously.
We hear a male’s falsetto voice singing a Broadway show tune from across the street. We don’t have to look; we know who it is.
Our African American, gay street friend brings his plate and comes to sit. He shows us a new store purchased sewing pattern that he’s going to use to make a shirt.
One of the Occupiers jokes, “Man you are so intelligent and you have so many skills. If you ever put down that bottle you’d be a force to be reckoned with”.
The gay man responds, “Yeah, I know”. He then begins a conversation about animal factory farming, pollution, climate change and the possible destruction of our Mother Earth.
Shortly after the large group of regular street folks joined the fire, a big flock of seagulls descended upon the roofs of the surrounding buildings.
The man who always feeds the birds is in this group. He is laughing as he runs up to the table, grabs a few pieces of good whole grain bread and waves it up in the air. “Here you go guys!” he hollers.
We feign alarm, pretend to grab the bread away and say, “Oh no you don’t! That’s for us”.
One Occupier comments, “I swear those birds know who you are”. The bird man says, “They do”. He walks off down the street. Within seconds, all the birds fly off after him. We crack up.
The street lights come on. It will be dark soon. The activist couple say goodbye.
It’s time to pack up but we want to watch the fire die out.
The crowd has wandered off. Most Occupiers, the Spiritual Man and a street couple are all who remain.
A woman arrives; the Spiritual Man introduces her as his girlfriend. She is a different woman than the one he introduced us to last year.
He says, “We’ve been arguing for the last two days. I’ve been feeling bad and I’ve been taking it out on her. That’s not right. You know, when a man speaks hatefully to his woman, it’s the same as if he smacked her in the head”. He and his girlfriend say goodnight and go off together.
The bikers are leaving in groups of three and four. Their loud noise breaks our contemplations.
Time to go. If we don’t have to make a run for firewood, we’ll be back on Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 6-9-15

G.A. Minutes 6-9-15
The weather is excellent (low 80s, clear skies and little wind) when we arrive at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening.
A few of the regular street folks are basking in the sun on the back ledge. The young man, who is generally in charge of throwing chunks of old white bread to the seagulls, is doing just that.
Once the bread is gone, the folks on the ledge wave and nod our way then wander off up the hill.
We slowly set everything up. It’s much too warm for a fire so we just set the fire pit up and plan to light the fire later.
The space is empty except for the Occupiers. A group of just blossoming adolescents accompanied by a few adults come walking down the hill and in to the Memorial.
We think they may be from the church youth group program that has been bringing small town kids into Duluth each summer for some years. The kids get the chance to see life in the “big city” and are then expected to help out in various City community projects.
We ask the adults if they are part of that church program. They answer that yes they are. They appear surprised we know of their program.
The young people with their clean clothes and freshly scrubbed pink faces noticeably stand out in this neighborhood.
Besides, we met people from this project at CJM last year. We are in the loop.
The kids are wide eyed as they look at the sculptures and read the writings on the wall. The adults…..not so much. The adults appear unhappy and attempt to hurry the kids along. They tell us they are from Avon, MN.
When they leave, the space is empty again. A few walk through on their way to somewhere else.
Another youth church group arrives. They all look about the same as the last group but the adults are more relaxed. They say they are from Grand Forks MN.
It looks like we’ll be having visits from these church folks for most of the summer. At least when we hold meetings on Tuesdays.
We’re alone again and then the minister who has the storefront church down the street joins us. This is a first. He doesn’t say much but gets juice and a sandwich. He sits for a while, leaves and comes back with a large half-filled box of frosted commercial bakery sweet rolls for our table.
If any of the street folks ever show up, they’re really gonna love them.
The main CHUM employment counselor appears. We ask him, “So where is everybody?” He answers, “I was hoping you were gonna tell me”.
We find it strange that, given the absolutely gorgeous weather after a week of fog, cold and rain, the street is not hopping with cavorting people. Apparently we are out of the loop on this one.
We light a small fire and someone starts a conversation concerning the fact that Barry Saunders has announced his candidacy for U.S. president.
This topic barely gets a yawn out of anyone. Although most of us do vote, we know the 2 party=1 party system is a waste of our time. Everything will need to be completely restructured before we have any chance at peace and justice.
An Occupier reminds us that this upcoming Friday, June 12th will be the yearly anniversary of the opening of the CJM Memorial. The NAACP and friends will be having a ceremony at noon.
She also comments the Superior African Heritage Community is sponsoring its 1st annual Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday June 20th from 1pm-7pm in Kelly Park, across the bridge in Superior WI.
The Occupier says, “I think we should attend. Several people we work with will be among the organizers and it’s important they have a successful event”.
Only one of the Occupiers, who attended last Saturday’s Tar Sands Resistance March in St. Paul, is present at tonight’s meeting. He tells us, “There were so many people that I can only tell you about my own section. The march was successful and even received some press coverage”. We hope that this is just the beginning of a serious battle on the part of our side.
A couple of young African American guys are pushing a baby in a stroller. They are watching us from across the street; they decide to come over.
One of the young men is the father of the approximately 2 year old boy child. The child is immediately friendly and talkative. The young men are nervous at first but quickly relax.
Tonight our table contains coffee, apple juice, PB+J sandwiches and animal crackers. Everything is organic. We think the child will be in for a real treat however, he prefers a frosted sweet roll. His Dad hands one to him.
After we assure the very thin young men they would be helping us by eating our food, they chow down. They appear to be quite hungry.
Over the past hour or so, several men, each traveling in a different direction, have been passing by on the sidewalk. They are each carrying on an animated conversation, presumably with themselves. We imagine these men have passed by on other nights but because of all the usual activity around the circle, we had failed to notice them.
One of the men comes to sit in the circle. This spooks the young men with the child. They shake our hands and say goodbye.
We can’t really make out what the guy’s continuous speech is about, but as long as he doesn’t get threatening or violent we might as well just let him roll.
The next guest at the circle is one of Duluth’s premier elder musicians. He is a friend of one of the Occupiers. He glances towards the talking man and gives a questioning look to the Occupier. The Occupier says, “I have no idea”. They laugh without malice.
The musician is trying to find a person skilled in hand drumming and percussion. The Occupier who is also a drummer explains, “I don’t play much anymore; I’m just too old and beat up”. She gives him the contact information for someone she thinks will work real well with him and he goes off to find that person.
Then out of the blue, the Spiritual Man appears. This is a pleasant surprise. An Occupier yells, “He lives! He lives!” Another says, “I put out tobacco for you, man”.
The Spiritual Man looks like hell but he is alive. We know he was in a coma and on life support for 4 days. He tells us that during that time he was talking with his mother. His mother passed from this world many years ago.
A group of regular Native street young men arrive. They are all friends of the Spiritual Man and there is more conversation able his latest ordeal. The man’s phone rings and he limps off to another destination.
The Occupiers are almost alone again. Remaining in the circle are 3 middle aged men, the first talking man and now there are 2 more.
Each man is talking rapidly to himself. An Occupier whispers, “Is this the Incoherent Olympics?” Several of the older Occupiers have had previous experience working in various mental hospitals. They quietly comment on the similarity between what is going on right now and what it looked like in the patient lobbies of the mental hospitals.
Another Occupier points to the sky. A big black cloud is rapidly rolling towards CJM. We feel the first drops of rain.
Everyone jumps up, begins packing up and putting out the fire. The 3 men all feel the raindrops and appear to be somewhat aware of their surroundings. We say, “A big storm is coming, better find shelter”. The men run off.
We know it will be only a brief shower but find it a perfect excuse to call it a night.
The weather is supposed to be good for a while. We plan to be back on Saturday.