NYC SPOKES COUNCIL DAY #91
Date/Time: 12/16/2011, 7:30
Location: Brooklyn Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers,) 110 Schermerhorn Street
Facilitators: Negesti, Sage
91.1 Suggestions for the night’s agenda
91.2 Agenda items
F: The people who have graciously given us this space don’t want us to eat in here. If we could eat downstairs, that would be better. Thank you!
F: We have 120 minutes. I think it would go best if nobody spends those minutes without the consent of the group. If you need to spend more of those minutes, you can request them. If the group decides we can afford it, that’s great! If not, we’ll use those minutes to look at the agenda. We cannot walk out of here without this agenda addressed.
F: Let’s come together as a body. Thank you for being here! First thing I want to say is that there was not a facilitation team for tonight and so I stepped up. But I planned on facilitating Monday night’s SC cause I planned on that and I wanted to let you know in an act of transparency. How do we feel?
[Mainly up twinkles]
Jennifer: Hi I’m with the media working group and I’m a filmmaker …if anybody doesn’t want to be filmed, let me know. I am self-employed. I have been covering this story since the beginning of the SC. If there are any questions, I can answer. I’ll probably film this for a year. Any questions?
SC: Is OWS the only footage?
F: All of the footage is going to archive.
F: So do we feel comfortable being filmed by Melanie?
Ashley: I don’t.
F: Are we comfortable with live stream?
F: Everyone comfortable with Jennifer filming?
[Mostly Up Twinkles]
F: Ok mostly looks good. In case you have any individual concerns…
SC: Last time, we didn’t arrive at an agreement. I don’t mind being filmed, but for anyone else who is a newcomer…we as a group didn’t arrive at any consensus about being filmed. I don’t mind; I just wanted to let everyone know. That is pending. We have not brought that to every meeting to be figured out. I don’t know if we have time to figure it out now.
Ashley: This is another example of facilitation sweeping over something that needs to be discussed. A lot of people don’t want to be filmed for safety reasons. Live stream is different because we own it and it won’t be distributed. I don’t feel comfortable with Melanie filming me cause she said some things to me…
F: I said Melanie first, then Jennifer so we could keep them separate. This is a conversation we need to have but we only have 2 hours, so I think we should use that time to discuss important things like Wednesday’s anti-oppression meetings. I don’t know if we should have a meta conversation about this.
Press: We found out that the police watch our live stream so if you’re worried about that, just so you know, police watch.
F: If you have a problem, talk to Jennifer. I will hear more points of process, but we need to get to the agenda.
SC: Just so we know, Jennifer is allowed and live stream is allowed and no one else, is that correct?
F: Yes unless someone else wants to?
COMMOTION [“THAT’S NOT HOW IT WORKS”]
F: I see a point of process.
PoP: In our first SC meetings, we decided we’d have it open. However, there have been people who don’t come to meetings because of cameras! If everybody here doesn’t have a problem, we don’t need to take more time. But I want us to be sensitive to people who have something to contribute, but don’t want to be here because of cameras.
F: I feel like we’re getting into meta conversations and I say we start with agenda items. I need a stack taker. Can anyone do it? Jason ok thank you. In an effort for transparency, I wanted to facilitate with Sage, but Sage doesn’t feel we want him to co-facilitate. How does the group feel about Sage facilitating?
F: Ok people look comfortable so Sage is going to. So the agenda items: one: I’d like to do a ten-minute reflection on the workshop on Wednesday. Two: I’d like to talk about community agreements based on our anti-oppression training. And three: I’d like to build on a conversation that we had on Monday about SC and what we need to start being a functioning body. I’d love to hear other ideas for agenda as well.
91.1 Suggestions for the night’s agenda
91.1.1 Ashley: Did you say 10 minutes to talk about racial injustice? I think the group wants to talk longer cause this is important and it’s alarming you’re only giving 10 minutes.
F: I’m not trying to bulldoze the issue.
Point of information: There will be another opportunity to discuss that in future spokes councils. Just cause we have 10 minutes doesn’t mean we’re not going to.
91.1.2 Jo: Are we doing working group report backs? I am only here to do an announcement about an action tomorrow.
So Occupy Wall Street Public Guild is presenting an occupy holidays performance. It’s an adaptation of a Christmas Carol. Mayor Bloomscrooge will be addressing occupy’s past, present and future. The performance will be traveling all over the city Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It will kick off at 50th and Broadway…We’ll be tweeting the whole way through. Twitter name is powertothepuppet. If you want to build a giant puppet, let us know. If you have an action, contact us and we’ll build giant puppets. We have a dream of building 50 puppets. We love all of you and sorry I have to leave!
91.1.3 nycgacouncil: For the fifth time, please. For the agenda: Mismanagement, fiscal irresponsibility from media, live stream.
F: There’s a concern this item has been put at the end of agenda and not talked about. We hear your concern.
91.1.4 Jay from Occupy Farms: We should do report backs, I don’t know if this is the time to but, yeah.
91.1.5 Nan: My agenda item regards accounting. They’re changing systems but accounting is not here yet. I’m going to request putting this at the end of the agenda list so if accounting comes, we can talk about it.
91.1.6 Ashley: There is a secret meeting that happened yesterday that was improperly promoted and done at the last minute. I’d like to put on the agenda before we even talk about the agreement that we have a meeting where people are allowed to come. The racial justice meeting was planned in advance. This meeting yesterday was impromptu. It’s not fair that a clique gets to write proposals and not allow enough time for people to come. This is supposed to be a leaderless movement, but people are becoming control freaks.
F: Ok so I see a clarifying question.
CQ: What was the secret meeting about?
Point of process: I thought the facilitation calls on people to speak and people don’t speak when they feel like it and second, I thought this was the period where we suggest items for agenda. That sounded like soapbox.
SC: It was an agenda item.
F: Ashley did want that to be an agenda item. I want us to all agree that we’re not going to use abusive language with each other and we’ll be respectful of who we are. Thank you. To address your question: yesterday there was a meeting that was impromptu put together that was on how to build community values.
SC: Can I speak on behalf of this?
F: Can we wait? I’m just answering this question. It’s an item that’s being requested to be put on the agenda.
Nan: I don’t think accounting is coming. I would like to have clarification on this: we are bringing proposals here rather than to the GA and anything brought to the GA [TEXT MISSING] I think they should go to the GA first. We should not take it here first because that does not respect the GA. SC has disrespected the GA process over and over again.
F: The puppet lady forgot to say the time and it was 10 am. I feel like we have an agenda and we’re taking suggestions for the agenda, but we only have an hour. Can we consense on the agenda?
Clarifying question: Is there a set time we have to end?
F: Yes we need to be done by10:15 so we can leave the building by 10:30.
SC: I have an agenda item. I’d like the SC to talk about how we can get the GA strong again! How can we get it strong like when we had the park?
F: Ok let’s review the agenda items. A mismanagement of funds for medic and live stream has been proposed. Do we want to have this as an item?
SC: Is there someone to speak for it?
F: Looking a lot like down to me.
PoP: You’re counting people and not spokes.
F: Hello! At this point, I’d like for everyone to be in the area of their spokes. I’d like spokes to do temp checks. Can I get confirmation from spokes if they want to address mismanagement of funds?
F: We’re going to give Trish 30 seconds to frame the question.
Trish: I have requested that an issue be put on the agenda in reference to a $350,000 discrepancy in our financial working groups between media and live stream. It has been on spokes agenda the fifth time today always at the bottom the previous four times. The movement and GA are demanding accountability.
F: We should do a straw poll, not a temp check.
Point of information: I don’t know if the GA consensed upon this issue.
F: I see your point of process’s. I would like to do a straw poll to see if we can discuss this issue.
F: Wait I just noticed this is already on the agenda.
Trish: Yes it’s been on it forever!
F: Do we have someone from accounting and live stream? We do.
F: This item has been at the bottom of four SC meetings.
F: I see 2 point of process’s that I want to address.
Pop: We’re not talking about whether this goes on the agenda and even if we do, the issue of people who are not spokes speaking is an issue. So if we were to put this on the agenda, only spokes would be able to speak.
Trish: We have decided that if spokes does not want to address this issue, the GA will investigate. Council will investigate it and we will bring in lawyers and a fiscal accountant.
F: A very important issue was addressed. We have agreed in SC that if you were a spoke last meeting, you can be a spoke this meeting. So can we all be accountable please? If you spoke, don’t speak.
Sage: I have an issue with that rule…
F: I see a PoP
PoP: This is not an SC officially cause we haven’t created it by certifying the operational groups. We haven’t been following the model for a couple meetings. We need to discuss this. That’s an opportunity because the process has been suspended for a while. The other PoP is Sage, you can’t use your role as facilitation to present your position. I think we should listen to Trish, let’s just take this as a therapy SC session?
F: We had like several of those and this (points to declaration) has crawled out of the muck.
F: At this point I want to point out that we have not gotten anything done. We should continue to try to consense about this issue as spokes. I’d like to try the spokes model tonight and not the individual model.
F: Let’s get some agenda items. We have this beautiful agenda here. I’d like to read it: debrief on Wednesday’s opportunity training, diverse spaces for diverse voices, structures of decision-making, building the GA, empowering SC, Accountability and community agreements, action planning, financial accountability and mismanagement of funds.
PoP: if you have all of this in the agenda, why did you make us go through that list?
F: I wanted to hear everybody. Can we consense to these items that we consensed to on Monday.
F: Can spokes consense?
F: So from the spokes, I saw a consensus on hearing this agenda. I see media has…
Media: Yes we usually do announcements.
F: Well we agreed on Monday to not do that cause it takes up an hour of the time.
Media: Media has an announcement we’d really like to make.
F: Can you do it really quick?
F: As of late, police have been paying attention to media people for arrests. We’re asking everybody who has any camera to come out and cover what’s going on and let media know about [TEXT MISSING] we’re circulating a flyer going around that tells you how to get in touch with us and get your footage back to us. We’ve got 1000 of these flyers.
F: Thank you media!
Media: Even if you have a smart phone, you can get an app to video. So if you capture anything important, we’d appreciate if you can send it to us and we can work with PR to get it out there. The email is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you see anyone streaming or who has a camera, please be supportive and find out what you can do to help.
F: Ok thank you media. I think the first thing to address is the debrief of Wednesday’s anti oppression training. Can I ask the spokes to confer with their groups to see if we want to address this?
F: I’d like to take a temp check on that. Looking good from these spokes! I would like to discuss the issue of time. Would we like to spend 10 minutes?
F: I’m suggesting we can go up from there! Let’s keep in mind there will be two days of discussion on this and we don’t have that much time.
Sage: We have this meeting cause we care about what other people have to say. If you don’t care what people have to say, that defeats the purpose of that meeting.
Nan: But when you have an issue that we need to discuss…get it in your head: we need to address how this group was ATTACKED.
F: We want to have a discussion that addressed other agenda items. Can I get a temp check from the spokes on if we’d like to spend 10 minutes on this?
Stack taker: We can always add more time at 8 minutes!
F: Can I get a temp check from the spokes about this?
SC: I was trying to say something that I think would be helpful. Besides being framed as do we want to spend 10 min, maybe we could ask how many minutes we want to have? See what the spokes say? Perhaps change it from being a yes or no question? Maybe get a quick conferring from the spokes and then averaging it out?
F: I’d like you guys to confer with your spokes.
F: So as I said, I’d like to hear what you guys want to do. Can I get the spokes to raise their placard and I’ll point to you one by one to ask how many minutes you’d like to spend.
Organization: can we move to the next agenda item?
Info: spend 15 then check in at 15
OWS Espanol: don’t care
Nycga council: 15
Housing: 15, if we need more time, we should take it.
Screen printer: 20
The isms caucus: 15
F: I’m hearing 10 to 15. I’d love to hear what the individuals have to say about this. Let’s all get in touch with the stack taker and talk about this as individuals.
Agenda Item #1: Discussion of Wednesday’s Anti-Oppression Meeting
SC: I’ve been here doing GA for a while. I have always been amazed at the kind of people that I’ve met who I would have never spoken to and the changes I’ve seen in myself. I felt going into this…I would have said four months ago that I’m a privileged person and I’ve seen the change in myself. It’s so subtle how I’ve seen myself step back, but I’ve been very frustrated with this and what I took away from Wednesday is that we as a body need to be able to reflect and discuss these things and we’re not able to do that and I hate to drop poison into what I’m saying right now, but I feel that the larger body is oppressed by few voices and I would like to figure out what that is. And I don’t think that a witch-hunt or casting anger on people is the way to do it, but I do feel that we all need to reflect on that internalized racism and sexism. And I don’t think that that’s only on myself, though I know that it is also on me, but it’s also on every other person in this room, regardless of who you are or where you come from.
SC: I’ve had a lot of conversations about this. One thing I took out of the training is the tangible items built into the infrastructure where we find ourselves now. We have this structure put in place by the people first organizing it. What it did is make a structure and then those people said hey play my game, instead of asking the most disenfranchised people what they think and what system they want. So it’s not really inclusion to say hey this is my game, you have to play it. We need to do some thing to help us move in the short term but we also need to have a longer-term game plan over our values. It’s funny our movement is about causing disruption to highlight problems in a system, and then when there’s disruption in our systems, we don’t realize it’s highlighting problems in our system.
SC: I’m going to be brief. Something that was really powerful was the visuals. For exAMPLE the concentric circle. Understanding and checking ourselves and who is participating in this movement and understanding that it was started by people who are very much in the center of the ring and understanding who has power and who is removed from power. Something that is important is the point that were raised in terms of what racial justice looks like and knowing it is not racial diversity. People confuse diversity and say we’re post racial, we’ve got things together because we’re diverse. It means variation, not a distribution of equity. What does sameness mean? To a lot of people, a violent silencing to force you to act in accord with what the center is. So you expect people to…racial justice is equity and I challenge people to understand what does that mean and stop confusing yourself by looking at diversity and assuming that everything’s ok.
F: I’d like to ask if we should put 5 more minutes to add to this?
F: Ok great we’re adding 5 more minutes.
Matt: I think that Wednesday was the beginning of a long-term process to deal with racism among us. We’ve got the four levels that so and so was talking about: the individual what you take in when you’re going up, interpersonal, institutional, and then the organizing strategy and concentric circles. So what is our organizing strategy? We may have to change that. And everyone should know that. What we’ve taken in on race…we have to come up with how to get all of us to deal with it. For SC, we have to talk about that 3rd piece, which is the institution. We have the institution of OWS: we have GA’s, we have SC’s, we have to look…remember we had that exercise…we have to look at our SC and GA through that lens and look at how we need to change. We had a lot of good ideas and we need to use them!
F: We’re going to close stack on this now.
F: We have 11 minutes and 94 sec.
Nan: on Wednesday, I felt like how I felt when we started here. OWS has deep problems with it. We have separations of all kinds of racism, classicism, sexism, all kind of isms, and officism!
Nan: My working group is an all woman working group and we don’t put up with crap. We tell it like it is. Because of that, we’ve been blocked a lot by people at 50 Wall Street. They made us feel too [TEXT MISSING] to have us have access to the office. Yes other people didn’t fill out the proper forms and got access! If this is not officism, racism, and sexism, I don’t know what it is. That’s what I meant by officism. A lot of people have privileges and we forget how it feels when you have nothing. We forgot how it feels when the things you used to have are taken away from you. A lot of people have lost the things they earned. Some of OWS look at them like they’re dirt, like they’re carpets, and I’ve had homeless people coming up to me asking me…[she starts to cry] “Did I done something to those people, because I thought I was part of this movement.” Every time they were at that park fighting, having hope, we’ve ruined that hope, how dare we? And yet we’re sitting here making decisions on their behalf when we never questioned them? What happened to you? How did you end up where you’re at? We have a classicism in this country and we brought it into OWS and we need to deal with it. As a black person who’s mixed, I know how to deal with racism. During the summer (one time we were in Germany, one time in Ethiopia), when I was in Germany, people told me I was the wrong skin color. When I was in Ethiopia, people would say you are beautiful. I grew up learning how to be white and black. I have people in my family who are poor. I know how to walk in their shoes. Until you learn how to walk in other people’s shoes, you can’t make decisions for them! How dare you sit in this room making decisions when you haven’t experienced that? What exactly do you want? What is your voice? Because everybody has a voice.
Jason: SInce I was a very young man, I knew that things were very wrong. One of my first experiences had to do with the hood I lived in. It was very clear that there were huge disparities. Immeasurable amount of oppression. As I grew up, I realized these ideas just extend and extend. What I saw at the meeting: it put some facts and figures that I already knew, for me, I was a little bored but very, very happy to be in a room full of people put together to address these issues. I know no one here is perfect. I come here looking for process on a system that’s very broken. The depths of the problems I don’t think we’ve started to scratch the surface. I know that I am here because I am finally sitting around a group of people who have come to this thing willing to hear, learn, listen, to everything everyone has to say. I look forwardsto it every day. I’m learning as I go, and I’m hoping people are learning about my struggles as well. I do not think that there is anything productive about us attacking us. I know that there will be other problems that come down the line; I hope that we can be mature enough so that when the next one comes up, we can handle things more smoothly. I will say that I cannot take the personal attacks, the unsubstantiated accusations, I cannot sit here and watch people that are becoming my close friends attacked for the work they do on a daily basis because of things that other people (whether it be gender, education, race class)…people have to check themselves, people have to work on themselves and deal with the pain that this world has caused us all. This is not an open forum for talk about how the world has hurt us all. I’m hoping we can start to find the thing we have in common, as opposed to the things we have in different.
F: We’ve run out of time on this item. But we do have stack, so I’d like to hear the rest of the people on stack. Ok? Ok let’s do that.
David: Halfway through the meeting, Trish spoke and said that people form different cultures communicate in different ways and there’s potential for misunderstanding. So that made our group start to think about how to understand. I, for example, come from a culture where we step back more than we step up so it’s difficult for me to talk in this setting. While I always got frustrated by the break in process, I never thought of it as disproportionately silencing those who, like me, don’t speak up. And so, we depend on following the process because we can’t yell over other people. I can’t do that and I don’t think I ever will! We’ve had some take away’s from our group. We want to find one person who feels silenced in GA’s or SC’s and talk to them, see what needs they have, what they felt, and if they were getting met or not. Thank you.
SC: The energy in this room is really good and I think what we’re doing here right now is building understanding and it’s important to talk about how to address people who need to speak out. So that’s really important to have it in the same room and I’m not sure that’s happened yet. On Wednesday, I thought it was amazing how many people showed up. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I think in a way it’s a good thing that we recreated everything that exists out in the world because here we’re determined to fix it and we need to make sure we can recreate it fully and I think we have. [LAUGHTER.] So it’s good that it exists because we’re all ready to dismantle it and conversations like the one we had Wednesday, doing anti opportunity training, let’s do it every weekend in January! So we can deepen this conversation because I agree that we have a lot of issues, not surprisingly cause we got them from society! And I also want to talk about classicism especially because it is the most stigmatized and accepted in our society because we agree in this false meritocracy that people can lift themselves out and that’s always been a lie. So I think we need to be aware that that is true, that that is culturally accepted and there’s nothing ok with that.
Ashley with women occupying nations: I’d like to recite this quote from the woman who closed the meeting Wednesday: is talking about racism divisive? Not it’s not. What is divisive is racism. Talking about it is actually the opposite of divisive, it is uniting, it is liberating and I’m so happy she ended on that quote because I’ve seen women of color getting bullied, manhandled, censored, character assassinated and it’s very alarming and appalling. Like Trish said, a lot of women of color present themselves in a more assertive tone and the dominant class deem it aggressive, but we need to understand that people from other cultures may talk in a specific way and maybe the reason why so many people dispute these meetings is because they feel the meeting should come to a halt because we feel we’re being belittled or mocked. Another thing I want to address: we need to be careful that this movement doesn’t get co-opted as a movement for the white middle class. We need to understand that the 99% are not all playing on an equal playing field. This Declaration of Independence of OWS was written by a particular class by the 99% and we need to have more outreach and go to these communities and enroll them, not just say we’re open but go out there and perhaps we may need to start over. Some marginalized communities do get assimilated and colonized…so moving forward, we need to be forgiving of each other and understand the past is the past. … There is a clique in this movement and a lot of times they do make these decisions and the majority of them are white. And there was an impromptu meeting yesterday. That is very disturbing to me. To me, that meeting is void. We need to set 2 weeks to make sure everyone can come, not just the middle class white people, so that people of color can come. We’re going to start creating hierarchies in this movement. This movement is not about the cliques in this movement. We need to be more understanding of people coming from marginalized communities.
SC: I’ve been doing public speaking for a while and I hope that I don’t dig myself into a pit. Although as some in my group may know, I’d like to make a joke out of race. Being a white man, I really can’t relate all that much to some of the things that are being discussed. I’m a writer, I’m a playwright, I’d like to think I have empathy. I still cannot and do not have empathy sometimes. So therefore, I find myself busy, but find myself having to develop trust. So I can do my work while other people do theirs. One of those things is the sensitivity to racism and such. I feel I have nothing to contribute because I can’t relate so therefore if it came to me and someone else, I would defer. I think I’d defer to what this group has in mind and on this particular issue. I need people in these groups to be responsible because I am delegating my voice to them. In order to be real and understand what we’re doing here, I have to acknowledge that I can’t make decisions for what I can’t relate to. So I’m on auto pilot cause I trust them and know it’s necessary. However, I do get perturbed when it comes up continually because I’ve developed a radar for people who do work in this movement. I see people who are working hard and doing work for this movement. I don’t see color or sex. People talk about hierarchies. There’s a hierarchy in my head of how many people do the most work in this movement. I want to conclude by saying I desperately need these groups that discuss and are responsible for these sensitive issues to take the bar and raise it in terms of how they discuss these issues, how big a priority it is, and understand that I have no input.
SC: In regards to the talk, I thought it was academic and dry. I think people thought it would be catharsis but I guess that’s what this space is doing now. What I wanted to say was…I’ve had a wealth of experiences growing up in a third world setting, living in Harlem and then being fortunate enough to go to college. Then growing up in Fairfield, the 3rd richest town in Connecticut. I thought I understood what it felt like to be marginalized and I think I do in some respects, and not in others. I have some privileges and don’t have others. This is me speaking to my brothers and sisters, especially to the ones who have had these kinds of experiences: we are the vanguards of this discussion because it is ever present in our dialogue. I am a little disappointed in our discussion here. … please, please let us be real with each other and put aside our egos. Let us not be so full of ourselves that we allow our own personal experiences to get the better of us and to change the dialogue into something that it’s really not about. And I’m happy we’re having this discussion, let’s continue it. We need to make the time for everything. Thank you.
F: We allotted 20 minutes and we have used 40 minutes.
F: Let’s take a minute and be silent and reflect on all the wonderful things we just heard. I’d ask us to take a minute to reflect.
F: I just want you to know that there are more people who wanted to get on stack. So if these are more people… I wanted to lead into and take a temp check on…there was a feeling that this leads into accountability and community agreement really well. But I’d like to continue one thing on my own: in my opinion, maybe we don’t make community agreements that we don’t feel comfortable helping others keep to. We have a lot of ambition but if we don’t feel comfortable saying hey, maybe we can understand we’re going to have to keep people accountable it. More to the point, to help each other with these community agreements like hey: I saw you had a hard time with point a, if you would be…[TEXT MISSING]
F: I want to point out to you guys this concentric circle for something to be thinking about. The center is the power and privilege so each ring is more accessible to that power. So we should do our best to include the people out here. Because if we start there [POINTS TO CENTER], how can we hear what they’re saying. We have to be open to that.
F: If you think you’re going to the furthest rings, you can’t in this movement because the outside rings aren’t even here! We have to figure out who is not here and how we bring them here.
Point of information: One of the most interesting things about my time at OWS is that people make assumptions. Don’t make assumptions that there are people who are not or haven’t been in those outer rings here.
F: We have to make a hard decision right now. We’re going to do it as quickly as possible. Should we jump to accountability? As facilitation we’ve really sold this to you guys.
Nan: We cannot have accountability without everyone here. We cannot force our ways and our wills without them being present here. First of all this place is too far away and people couldn’t come here cause it’s too far away.
F: Really quickly: this is a temporary starting place to start the conversation. This is not going to be a solid set in stone place to start this conversation.
F: I feel like we’re at an impasse right now because part of the conversation is going to be how we include the people who are not at this conversation. In order to have that conversation, we have to decide to start talking about how to get those people here. Is the group willing to do that?
Point of information: The GA also has powers over the SC as far as what has been approved. We should disempower the GA and make rules without their consent.
F: Ok I see some hands. I want to address them.
F: It’s an excellent point that how to get those people involved is inherently middle or center circle.
PoP: There wERE a lot of hands up, then people put their hands down when facilitation moved on.
F: I will not allow this to go forward until we consent to the fact that we’re moving forward. LAUGHS.
F: The concern from Sage is we didn’t do a full temp check. I’d like to do that one more time.
F: So I just spoke with people of color caucus and they have something they want to address and I think it’s really important.
People of Color’s Caucus: What I want to suggest is we frame this conversation about accountability as temporary measures in terms of how many more meetings that are already scheduled, like how to carry forwards, and then include in that conversation next steps in terms of how to be engaging the individuals who aren’t here, and don’t feel comfortable sharing this opinions here. Like viewing it as a temporary meeting and then encourage us to start thinking about it, what it means when we talk about personal responsibility and accountability. I feel really upset hearing people say things are disruptive in ways that are to them. They say things like 3 strikes. Maybe you shouldn’t say things like that when we discuss what we’re doing moving forward.
F: What I’m hearing from this room is that we really need to have this conversation.
SC: I want to get a time check and see if we have a structure or plan for how we’re going to move forward.
F: So it’s 9:33 and we want to be out of here by 10:15. So we did the debrief on Wednesday’s anti oppression training….right now we’re thinking about having the accountability community Agreements conversation. Also on agenda is financial irresponsibility. I’m not sure how much of this we can get done realistically. Now that I have listed these things should we have a temp check on how much time we want to create for each item?
F: I have 11 people on stack and I’m not sure why they’re on stack, but I feel it’s really important that they be respected and be heard.
F: I do want to address the stack but I want to address this woman.
SC: I want to recognize that we have limited time. I think the work we just did was fabulous, and maybe we could spend the last 15-20 minutes on the rest of the agenda.
Trish: I was under the impression that we decided to take this last item off of the agenda and it will go to the GA to be addressed.
F: Now that we’ve acknowledged that we have stack, can I get a temp check on if we’re ok on continuing the community values discussion. I see a mix but it’s mostly up.
SC: It really upsets me when I hear people saying that other people are racist, I would much rather hear the ways people are racists. I think that when people use the ism, it doesn’t allow us to think about it. Second point: I also feel we’re all representatives of this movement and we all have to work in different groups and…I want to encourage everyone to feel empowered to cross collaborate and for everyone to build a culture.
SC: Some of us engage in nonverbal communication, the energy in our faces, and I think we need to be mindful about what we’re communicating. The second thing is that I hear a lot of accusations and assumptions (about secret meetings) and I think that when it comes out as accusations, it’s not helpful. So I want to be careful about accusations and how we feel excluded about it.
Stack: Are there any concerns putting Sage on stack?
SC: As a really loud person, I was touched by what [TEXT MISSING] said before, it’s really easy for me from my class privilege to feel really comfortable talking. I talk a lot, probably more than I should. So maybe we should just promise ourselves that we will let the other people talk. I think in conversations I found that really helpful.
Jefe: Hi my name is Jefe. I think that there’s a lot of interesting things about accountability, but if we don’t have enforcement, we don’t have accountability. I know dozens of people who have been at SC’s at some point from the beginning, and have refused to go anymore. Because there are people who are obstructionist and I want to say their names. I mean people who do not believe SC should function and do everything they can to stop it from functioning. If we don’t think about what that means and how we change that, what are we doing here? If this keeps happening, maybe SC should happen twice a week and GA should have more space. I think SC is good cause some of us are lazy and don’t come to GA’s. Unless we don’t talk about the elephant in the room, how people just want to obstruct the process, we can’t move forward. The first 3 weeks, the Spanish assembly had 9 people here. Where is the direct action working group? If we don’t talk about enforcement, we can’t do this.
Ashley: That was passionate, so let’s not react to it, let’s honor stack.
SC: I came to OWS cause I wanted to protest the financial situation. I encountered people who wanted to have different types of conversations. It’s changed my perspective on it. I knew that racism was a problem, and now I’m more open to it and that’s a period of transformation I’ve gone through. But I think it’s reasonable at meetings to talk about what people want to talk about. If people want to talk about race, they can talk about race. So if people want to talk about making SC operational, we should talk about that. We can’t keep each other accountable if we don’t respect each other. If we can’t have a respectful conversation about accountability, we should look at that.
SC: As far as accountability goes, I think it starts with yourself. I’ve seen the same people interrupting the process and it really gets to me because I feel those people are disrespecting the entire group. We’ve all agreed to go by this process and we have stack too it’s so disrespectful when people go off stack and hold the rest of the group hostage because they feel like they’re being disenfranchised. I don’t think it’s cool. They say they represent these people, who I’ve yet to see express their views. I’ve seen the same people come out and block every proposal without knowing what it is. Like I said, it’s about yourself and holding yourself accountable.
F: It is currently 9:47 and we have 14 people on stack.
F: I’d like to close stack and get out of here on time.
Sage: it’s easy to draw a line between things I can’t talk about and things I can because I’m co facilitating this meeting. But I’ll try to keep it to a minimum: the reason I’m co facilitating is because I hold facilitation accountable for their job. I do feel like there are a lot of problems that the upper middle class people in this room are not able to see. First of all, race is a part of this but class and nationality and culture really play a role. If you want to do some research on how people of color speak with an English accent…I’m Puerto Rican, I’m from NY, it’s a complete lottery whether I’ll be treated black or not. It has more to do with the culture I come from and what I’m comfortable with. Someone said, hey why don’t you say you felt you weren’t included. And its like no, maybe I don’t feel comfortable putting myself in that vulnerable position. Like hey guys, maybe I don’t feel comfortable saying hey, why didn’t you invite me to the party? I’ve been homeless, I know how to not get wet in the rain…there are so many skills I have that have been looked over by people who say, I’m a trained medic! So let’s continue this conversation.
Daniel: I think one of the ways I like to frame what’s going on is that this space can’t handle the energies we’re bringing up in it. And I think we need to investigate creating bodies that can handle those energies. In the mean time, we need to understand how to change this system if we’re not making agreements that we can enforce. So we cannot leave feeling really frustrated. I just want to have a space where we can come together and make decisions like that.
Sage: I don’t feel safe.
Daniel: I don’t feel safe either!
F: We need to talk about that statement.
Sage: I know this is a volunteer movement, there are a lot of people working, and I think your aggression is linked to your work and how you feel about your work. I am not your work. I don’t feel safe cause I know you want me to feel safe. I just hope there’s this road we can travel so that your work is what you care about.
F: I know we have stack but if someone says they don’t feel safe, I’d like to address that. Nan can you tell us why you don’t feel safe.
Nan: I don’t feel safe because some of us are sitting here making decisions, focusing on their work, are focusing on everything but human beings. F*** work. Work comes, work goes. Don’t focus your energy on work, focus on we are here, we have a racist problem a sexist problem, then afterwards we can deal with accountability. We started to address the problem we had on Wednesday and now we’ve jumped to another item and skipped everything. This is ridiculous, I don’t feel safe because facilitation is leading us in a way that I don’t feel comfortable with.
F: I would love to continue with stack.
Drew: I wanted to say that I hear a lot about accountability and I want to say we need to think about our priorities. The priorities to me have been process over accomplishment and so having a conversation about this is an accomplishment. Also we prioritized being transparent and being inclusive and the only way we can do that is to have this conversation. And the people who say we need to move on, we can’t do that unless we talk about this. We also can’t unless half the movement is here.
F: Yes I’m middle class, but there are various kinds of oppression. There’s oppression due to race, due to class, due to gender, etc. But then there’s also the kind of opportunity that is bullying and taking up space, taking up time, taking up of people’s emotions, that are deeply…and I recognize that everyone is deeply invested in this movement. And I just want to say that it is the first time in my life that I have felt so oppressed that I…what’s weird is that I keep coming back for it. I’ve never felt this oppressed in my life, including when I first arrived in this country. There have been assumptions that have been made because we’ve all been taught to make assumptions. That’s what society does: it teaches us to make assumptions. I agree with Daniel when he says we need a space for this conversation to happen, otherwise we’re not going to move forwards. I love this movement and I’ve gone out of my way getting people to come to these meetings. But they’re all f****ing gone! They’re gone because they can’t take this anymore and none of us can expect to take this abuse, it’s abuse, it’s direct abuse of an open movement that has committed itself to being open and to being inclusive and it is abusive of that inclusivity. That’s what’s happening here. I know I’m not the only one who’s saying this but I’m ready to go and I will be the one to convince people to come back. And it will be because of people who will communicate something when they think something has gone wrong.
F: It is now 10:01 and we now have 14 minutes.
SC: The first thing I want to say is about the types of abuse that go on here that are related to understanding folks from different cultural backgrounds, and how they speak in different ways. There’s covert ways in which people communicate that is a problem. The other thing I wanted to talk about was in response to something someone as a white male said about race because I think we right now lack the ability to call out oppression when it happens and therefore when it does happen and it doesn’t get called out, it’s normalized and not addressed. So I want to address that here. And this is with utmost respect. I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis and I grew up thinking that everyone in the world had 3 cars and a happy family. The first 7 or 8 years of my life were sheltered by that reality. We are taught (especially people of privilege) to not see the privilege around us. So for someone to say racism doesn’t affect me, that’s exactly how racism works because I don’t HAVE to deal with not getting a house. So it DOES it does so dearly affect all of us. So acknowledging that our society is telling us we’re colorblind we have to be patient with each other and understand that it is about these behaviors, and not us as people. Because I have a lot of respect for people in this movement, even the individual who triggered me. We have to space out these conversations in order to break these things down. Whatever community agreements we create, we have to create a space because ALL of us are responsible for calling out racism, sexism.
SC: This is such a large conversation; I wouldn’t know where to begin. First I’d like to say as part of a working group that tries to get stuff done, our working group needs this SC to be operational. It’s absolutely imperative that that happens. The reason we left our jobs and our apartments was to make a statement to the world. For a long time, I have been very frustrated that bodies like this have not been functioning. There have been discussions about why this body has not worked, I can accept it, I can give it time, but eventually I’d like to come together and move forward. A number of times, I’ve heard the discussion come back to racism and classicism. This concerns me. I do not come from a heterogeneous community; I do not come from a homogenous community. I am concerned people are confusing racism with differences in races. Culture are thousands of years old, if you go to a white church, they function differently from a black church or a Mexican church. I believe these people have come together and have not come together to practice overt racism over anyone. We need to become aware of inherent covert racism. I want people to understand that sometimes people just do things differently, there’s going to be an advantage…if you look at the NBA, you’re going to see a lot of black people there. It doesn’t make us disequal just because we’re different. I want to say that our process has been accused more than one time. Every time that our process is too academic and it’s not allowing people who are too emotional to be heard…I’m not saying that one way is better than the other, I’m simply saying there needs to be a balance. I think there needs to be a medium and we need to find that medium to move forward. I’d like to acknowledge that there will not be a perfect system.
F: If you’re on stack, can you just raise your hand? We have 5 minutes.
SC: I do want to hold us accountable to the people who have given us this space. Despite whatever your spiritual affiliation is, we should feel gratitude and have respect for their religion for giving us this space.
SC: What I’ve been hearing is people who come from privileged backgrounds feeling oppressed by people who are underprivileged. The type of abuse that I don’t like to talk about is how privilege people called secret meetings. Yesterday there was a meeting about how to remove people who don’t beat to the drum of a particular clique. Today we have people who are not being transparent, who are not being democratic. We must have meetings that include everyone. I also do believe that classicism is different from racism and a lot of times we say race but mean classicism. A lot of times we have people trying to belittle people from talking about classicism. I’m tired of being bullied by people who fancy themselves leaders of a leaderless movement.
SC: I want to ask what you were just saying: accountability, secret meetings, that is what this body was meant to alleviate. It is not perfect. The race and class thing, it is very serious…but also we are an organization that has half a million dollars that are doing things. Not only are we exclusive because we work in a realm that some cannot reach but we are also inclusive because we reach out to people we don’t know. We need something that functions and right now, it’s do I know this person’s phone number? I desperately want to be transparent and I feel that my comrades in my working group are leading the way in transparency and we have a lot more work to do and we want to help everyone be transparent. And we want to make decisions in a body where everyone can come, and that’s why I keep coming back here to be abused because I hope that we’ll get to that point. To end it: we have three days, why don’t we have one day where we get stuff done and then another idea where we talk about the issues we need to talk about?
SC: This didn’t go how I thought it would go, with people just sharing things. I was hoping getting a conversation of something temporary and then in the mean time getting people to participate in this conversation. What I’m hearing is there are two different sects of people. But there are some folks who feel oppressed in a certain way and are using terminology that’s uncomfortable for certain people if they’re coming from a place of privilege and using words that wouldn’t be applied to them. I want to find a way so that when we use words like oppression, we know what we mean. I want to define violence and what violence means, and abuse, besides overt abuse. The archetype of the angry black woman, people are talking about how people feel uncomfortable and don’t want to come in that space. If you feel you are being abused by certain behavior…however, let’s talk about things that aren’t obvious, we’ve been conditioned through media to more easily recognize certain behaviors as being worthy of demonization. Let’s talk about all the black and brown people in the prison for petty crimes. So when we have a language of accountability, let’s not use terms that may trigger people? Can we also talk about how forms of oppression manifest themselves in covert ways? Individuals don’t need to be blatantly racist. No one thinks that anyone’s going to say the n word. ….so when we talk about people who are loud and yelling, let’s recognize that and recognize that there is micro aggression.
SC: I have tons of patience. I have two days where I start skipping but really I’ve been called a white nigger, I’ve been micro abused I’ve been straight up abused, I’ve been talking to some people that are trying to explain the experience that I have and I think this is great. But in talking to people, I know that when I walk down the streets, I see people that are so sick that they could never make it in this room. They are consumed. They can’t stop buying their goods; they really are completely sickened and consumed. And that goes on many levels. The people that I’ve met in this space are digging at the truth; they are really starting to dig at what we need to do on this plant. There are some people that are so beaten up and so hurt by this society that they cannot function at this level. And I think that one thing we’ll see more and more are people who try to come in here and can’t function at this level because of the pain and the hurt and the ass whooping that this world has given them, whether it’s black women fighting for the rights of black women, etc. people of different religions fighting for people of different religions. They are so traumatized that they are not ready to come in here and fight …I think it’s imperative that they check themselves and ask themselves if they are ready, if they are ready to function on this level without constantly expressing it. An American Indian man I talked to said that they are too spiritually hurt that before they deal with that, they can’t change the world [TEXT MISSING]. I’ve heard paranoia, I’ve heard conspiratorial things, and I don’t know what to do with that anymore. I know that there are strong black men, strong black women, strong white men and there are a very small group of people who cannot… We have to be able to do something about that. The other day the worst thing that happened was when I felt intellectually held hostage by a working group. It was a sideshow. Everybody just sat through it and I felt like screaming. That was worse than obvious disruption. We are going to have to deal with that type of behavior. We can’t accept that and expect to move forward. I don’t understand why we’re not more proactive and not reactive. To me, this is getting to the point where it negates common sense. We’ve got to create a space where people can come do this to ourselves.