NYC SPOKES COUNCIL DAY #98
Date/Time: 12/23/2011, 7:30
Location: 56 Walker Street
Facilitators: Danielle, Jeff
Time Keeper: Patrice
98.1 Working Group Report Backs
Negesti: If the whole room feels uncomfortable with us facilitating, we can step back.
Ashley: I’m feeling uncomfortable seeing the same people facilitating.
Jeff: My name’s Jeff. I have facilitation training. I am nominating my services to facilitation this meeting and I would like to have your consensus.
Ashley: I’d like to ask if there’s a woman in the room who hasn’t facilitated yet.
Negesti: I’m asking one last time if there’s any female bodied or female minded person who would like to facilitate.
Jeff: The facilitation team will also need a stack taker.
Jeff: We’re going to try not to use the people’s mic tonight. The people who are offering to facilitate tonight are going to introduce themselves.
SC: I don’t feel comfortable with what happened with Negesti and Ashley. It seems as though Negesti was bullied out of facilitating.
LOTS OF COMMOTION
SC: Ashley you are saying an individual did something to you that is very similar to what you did to another individual. I have no problem with Jeff, Danielle, or Shawn or Negesti facilitating. It was really spur of the moment when you spoke. You were not speaking in process. However when this individual spoke, this individual was also not speaking in process. So no one was speaking in process about who could or couldn’t facilitate.
Ashley: We have a responsibility to step up and step back. You have facilitated all week.
LOTS OF COMMOTION
F: MIC CHECK
F: I’m sorry. Thank you for your silence and your respect to the house and everyone else here.
F: I’m Danielle, I’ll be co facilitating with Jeff with the consensus of the group. So there’s a lot of tension in the room right now.
My name is Jo, I know tonight is really tense, and I’m offering to step back with my own opinions tonight.
Jeff: We’re going to briefly explain the hand signals. After that, we’ll do working group report backs. It’s about a minute a piece.
[DANIELLE EXPLAINS HAND SIGNALS]
Jeff: We’d like to start with the meeting. Anybody know what time it is?
Jeff: If your working group would like to have a report back, get on stack and try to keep it to a minute.
F: We’re going to start with People of Color caucus
98.1 Working Group Report Backs
98.1.1 Jodie from People of Color Caucus: Hello everyone. I’m Jodie, I’m the spoke for the People of Color caucus. I’m saying this during the report back portion, but this would not constitute a report back. What we are going to be doing as individuals assembled for people of color caucus is we’re going to convene any continuing procedure of this spokes council. We’re doing this because an incident took place on Wednesday, some of you maybe were here, some were not, I don’t really want to go into the details of that right now. We are convening the process of this SC to confer as a caucus and then we’ll come back to the body of the SC so in the mean time, there wouldn’t be any additional report backs, announcements, agenda items, whatever the case may be. We are doing this because as a caucus, we have decided that what happened on Wednesday was not appropriate, and the way that it was handled not only by the facilitators but also the body that was assembled in this room, the individuals that made up the SC on Wednesday, it was not handled in an appropriate manner, and what we’d also like to talk about is not the fact that it’s just this one incident that could be pointed out that happened on this one day.
We feel there have been dynamics unfolding in this space that have been discussed in our meetings, on our listservs, in our communication where we feel that certain issues are not being addressed in this body, which would affect how the process unfolds, how consensus would unfold, how the process is used towards, how enforcement, accountability, who it’s directed towards. We’re asking for everyone to keep themselves accountable, but we’re also asking everyone that when you think about the conversation of accountability, that you challenge yourself to think of new models. When you think of justice within this space, that you challenge yourself to think of new models of justice. That’s what we’re asking and we’ll get back to you. Thank you for your time.
Jeff: Next on stack is facilitation–
PoC: Just to be clear: the people of color’s caucus is invoking our privilege as a caucus to stop proceeding. Just to be clear. So proceedings are stopping. It’s not a report back. So we are stopping proceedings because we are agreed about what happened. And to clarify: if you’re part of the people of color caucus, and you’re currently sitting with another group, we are calling our caucus here to convene.
Jodie: Someone brought up that if you were not here on Wednesday, you did not witness what happened, and that you might be in a state of confusion as to why the people of color caucus decided to convene the operations of this SC. On Wednesday an individual had a cardboard sign that would be used to identify working groups or caucuses, and on that cardboard sign was written a statement that said the Aryan brotherhood and sisterhood and allies caucus. That sign was hidden by another sign. I don’t know how long that individual was holding that sign for. When I looked to my right, and realized what is said, I pointed it out to an individual who was the spoke on that day for our caucus. That individual introduced it to facilitation. What happened after that we feel was a break in process, or perhaps maybe this process isn’t designed to handle issues like that, but what happened is that the the individual was eventually asked to leave. A conversation took place outside and in the SC, business resumed as usual without anyone being able to process what happened. We feel that that was really inappropriate and we hope that if something like this happens again, this body could come up with agreements, with practices of how to address a situation like that, without not just moving forward, going back to business.
Poc: We had a chance to decompress, we want you to have a chance to decompress. And then we wanna switch and be solution oriented and not just grumble unless we know how to change things for the better. Does that sound ok?
Jeff: The first thing we need to establish is if the PoC has decided to break their caucus and to resume process and essentially reconvene. So we just need the word from this group that we can return to process.
People of color caucus: Yes.
Jeff: Ok we are going to return to process.
Jo: Hey I’m your friendly vibes checker. Can I have your attention for a second? If we could just take a deep breath, I’m not trying to do guided meditation, I’m just asking for us to take a deep breath.
Jeff: Just to explain to everybody: what happened was completely in process. Any time a caucus group, which is a member of this SC, decides to convene, what they can do is stop or freeze process. They can do that for half an hour, they can do that for weeks, months. It doesn’t break process, it freezes process. Once they are done conferring, before we can move forward, they must convene and tell us they have finished their conference. They have done that. We are going to resume spokes.
[AN INCIDENT HAPPENS WHERE SOMEONE WRITES SOMETHING DISRESPECTFUL THAT IS PROJECTED ON THE WALL]
Jeff: The first order of process is to recognize the caucus. And ask what their decision inside of their caucus was.
PoC: A lot of people have been feeling that we are not actually creating a safe space. Regardless of who you are, different people have felt different types of oppression in this space. We would like to address that and move forward from it. I’m going to speak for myself now because I don’t want to represent other people. So please take what I say as what I reported from other people with my own interpretation. We want to give people an opportunity to decompress what happened, not just on Wednesday, but also were evicted from a space and that was a vile experience. We don’t have spaces to decompress crazy things that happen in this movement. We would like to create those spaces. The second thing we want to do is brainstorm and talk about how we create a new culture in this movement that is committed to and promotes justice for all people. We have some ideas about how to do that, so I’d like to share that. First of all we want to focus on the impact of what happened on Wednesday, not just the incident. This is not just about a sign. This conversation is also about a thought process that went into allowing that to happen and letting people laugh about it. That incident was not address properly, so this is our attempt to try to address is now, and hopefully this will help us in knowing how to act or react in a way that builds the movement if situaitons like this continue to come up. We also want to point out that if other people take silence as our cue, think of the result that would have on this movement. It’s important that we excervise our right. So here are some of our ideas to change the space so that it’s safe. There needs to be equity and consistency in how systems are enforced. Currenlty the structures we’ve created do not allow us to build trust. We also need to acknowledge the history each of us brings in order to know why we are where we are. We also need to ask ourselves how do we respect ourselves, build trust, and keep everyone at the table. That means a part of spokes includes checking our own privilege and all of us have it regardless of where you come from. We need to talk about language of what would or wouldn’t be appropriate. For example, a statement many of us have heard is “We’re all part of the 99%” so racism, classicism, sexism does not exist because we’re all part of the 99% That language is oppressive in the same way that yelling at somebody is because it erases my history, it also erases yours if you don’t subscribe to that.
This movement is about human relationships. It’s about people, not processes. It means listening, and real feedback that doesn’t exist in our space needs to be a part of our space, otherwise we’re going to sink ourselves.
Sean: I just want to make you feel safe and for everybody to not feel the need to rush. We have a lot of meetings. There’s a culture of everyone wants to say something, and what we all have to say is important, but there’s a culture that’s really unspoken, and that’s rushing people to speak not even intentionally. Just by the non-verbal behaviors that rush people to speak. Some people don’t feel comfortable speaking in front of large groups. I happen to be fairly comfortable speaking in front of a group, but I was sensing that Sara (?) was feeling a little anxious because of the vibes in the room. So I just want to show you some love. So we talked about how facilitation needs to have checks and balances. As a member of the facilitation working group, I know that there are some checks and balances in place, I think there should be more. Everyone can come to our meetings. I feel that our meetings lately haven’t been going as well to help us make progress and work on the issues we need to work on. Again I’m speaking for myself. I feel like lately facilitation working group hasn’t been able to address it because of ways that we’ve restructured our meeting times. So there are some checks and balances, in the way that everyone can come to the meeting. Like when we say everyone is welcome to come to facilitate, we really, really mean it. And we spend a lot of time talking saying that there are not enough people of color here. Also: you guys should be aware that the GA has at any time the ability to, if it doesn’t have confidence in its facilitation, somebody can say that’s a PoP, that’s a real PoP. A PoP can be, “I don’t feel comfortable with what’s happening right now, and facilitation needs to address it.” If facilitation is not working for you, it’s your right to overthrow facilitation. And facilitation wants to and needs to have more training for its people. I am a facilitator and I want to know more about oppression, I want to know more about nonviolent communication. We want to do these things, we want our facilitators to be trained. We want everybody to be able to do this, and we want everybody to be a good facilitator. We want everybody to do this, and not just if you’re going to facilitate. It’s so you understand oppression and nonviolent communication. Before I pass it to the next person, I want to say that oppression works in invisible ways. You don’t see it. And it works on structural institutional levels, just like racism does. Racism is a form of oppression. Get it straight. It works in ways that you don’t understand, and you need to learn. If you think that you understand it, you don’t. None of us do. It’s in every one of our behaviors. One of the things that this movement is doing is changing the discourse in our society.
Ashley: This is bigger than just the sign, it’s way bigger. And there’s no space or way to recognize discomfort. And also when you bring up a proposal that will shift or shape the culture of OWS, you must first explain why, and then we will move into process. Take a moment and think about how it will further the movement. But it’s also the responsibility of the movement to be clear on why. If we are doing proposals that affect everyone, 24 hours is in sufficient. We need to reach out to everybody. It’s holiday season, and no one’s here, and very controversial proposals are being brought here, and no one saw it coming. In closing, it’s also really important that this sign is the least of our problems concerning racism or classicism. It has been going on for months before this. And when a lot of women of color have brought it to this body’s attention, they have been mocked and belittled, even by people in facilitation. We need to make this a safe place for dissent, for marginalized communities. I couldn’t believe that I went home and saw that facilitators were tweeting that this sign was just a joke. That is extremely offensive. We need to hold our facilitators responsible, and each other responsible. We need to make this a safe place, we can’t have bullying. We also need to understand that some of us are speaking on behalf of people who are not in this room. About people who are in Compton, who are in the hood. This movement is about a lot of other people. I think that because there an overwhelming underrepresentation of marginalized communities in this body, I feel that like some people have gone overboard. I just want us to understand that this is not an equal playing field. I know that 99% is a great tagline, but we need to understand that there is diversity in the 99th. That sign was the least of our problems.
Jeff: I want to make the people of color caucus understand that we have time constraints. We actually do have a process, and we’ve returned to spokes. At this point I want to make it clear that these are large issues and they need to be discussed, but in spokes council we have options for this. We can move this to outside discussions that happen on other days, we can set this an agenda topic inside of this SC this evening, if you feel it will be in enough time, and we otherwise have to move forward. Unless we feel that tonight we’re in an unsafe space. And if we feel that now we’re in an unsafe space, we can address that directly at the moment. But that requires the entire group to do so. Otherwise, we’re over time. Would you like to suggest this for outside discussion, an agenda topic, or do you feel that we’re in an unsafe space that we need to resolve so we can continue with process.
People of color: We convened in order to have a report back, and if we have to move forward, then we would have to convene again, and nothing will happen tonight.
Jeff: You have that option, but your report back is now over time. We cannot give you the entire…
People of color: This is arbitrary, there’s no actual set process, so you’re making it up right now. We didn’t set a time limit…LOTS OF TALKING…we just want to finish what we’re reading.
SC: I think you’re asserting a process that hasn’t been elucidated, and I don’t know why you’re doing it. And I’d like us to just temp check and give PoC caucus the floor, and just not try to intervene.
Jeff: Then we have to temperature check. I’d like to take a temperature check…
Jo: I’m just going to rephrase that really quickly because there’s tension. The question I’m asking is if they’d like to give the PoC the time to finish discussing what they’re discussing.
LOTS OF UP TWINKLES
Jo: That looks pretty good.
PoP: I have a PoP. I’m glad everybody wants us to continue this discussion but even if everybody didn’t, we’d still have the right to continue this discussion.
PoP: I was involved in the discussions about SC. When we formed the SC, we specifically talked about the roles of caucuses and I struggled with that group and the GA to make sure the caucuses have the right to freeze the meeting, and convene. We do not need to ask for permission. We do not need to request time to speak. This is our time to speak, and this is our caucus.
Danielle (F): We’ve taken a temperature check. Really quickly, as facilitator, as a way to acknowledge this space, and check that it’s a safe space, we have tears, we have a lot of frustration. The reason this is happening is because most have felt that this is not a safe space. So we’re talking about this issue and dealing with it because it feels like a fire in the room, it feels unsafe. And if part of us is harmed, then we’re harmed. We can’t make a movement unless we all feel safe. That’s what’s happening here. I apologize for my energy level right now.
People of Color caucus: The next point we talked about is having a check for equity in terms of the proposals that are brought forward. We should really be looking at all of the proposals that come before the SC, as well as the GA, as well as any other meetings that we’re at and look at whether those are equitable in terms of race, gender, gender identity, sexuality, and based on class. That should be part of the criteria by default for anything that we’re passing. And then the next point is that a caucus should not have a requirement for the number of people in the room, because it creates an uneven playing field. Meaning a caucus by default is a minority within the larger movement and to marginalize a group based on its minority when the group is created to be able to speak for the rights of minorities is really problematic. So I’m going to pass it on.
People of color caucus: I’m an active member in a number of working groups, and I assert myself, I’m very assertive, I assert myself wherever I go and in many ways, I have felt that I function and contribute to this movement in many effective ways. I am heartily disheartened every single day and every single day, I reach valleys every single day and mountaintops every day. I am highly functional, and I function despite what I see going on here. What is so shocking and amazing to me is that despite being graduate school educated at the London School of Economics, that I still face so many barriers. And that is so disheartening but at the same time because I function, the things I’m able to do make me feel like I reach mountaintops every single day. So we stopped this and convened because this pained us. There’s a lot of pain that goes on here and it’s so disheartening to me; I can’t understand how blind people can be, they can’t see what is so clear to many of us in the PoC caucus in particular. There is so much denial of the privilege that exists for some people, that is granted to some people, that can be destructive, that can be rude, oppressive and can stop process using very neat, polite, pretty language, but still be very destructive. I’ve seen it in this space and working groups. I have seen a highly respected, someone that left, thank God, a member of facilitation, who actually stopped a meeting. His name is Dan Seder. He’s known to many in here. He’s very bigoted. And people that know him, some of his best friends said he’s bigoted. And he’s one of the members of the group who made the SC. He said to me that one of the intentions of forming the SC was to exclude west siders form being able to come into rooms like this. So these are not things I’ve created in my mind. Anyway we stopped this because the pain is too much, SC cannot continue if this oppression continues. And that’s why we convened. If a working group has closed meetings, does not post meetings, etc we should hold them accountable. The system created no longer works, given what has changed. We need to reevaluate what we’ve defined as working group and caucuses and how they are made official. What is the grievance process during a spokes meeting? And in here, we propose that caucuses come together to develop a new spokes, perhaps. We need to hold each other accountable, and recognize when we are taking advantage of our own privilege.
I’m Jodie, I’m gonna quickly speak on behalf of myself. There’s a paper in front of me here with some items we spent time talking about together, and we took the opportunity to convene today, to include more people in the conversation. Before I do that, I want to address the fact that I’m to the point where I’m going to cry. I’m going to try to mitigate my emotions. The fact that we have to bring an agenda on what we feel is offensive, that’s offensive to me. So right now I’m trying to be in process, while still trying to manage my emotions, decompress, process, heal myself over what happened not just on Wednesday, but also elsewhere. No matter how hard we try to be in this movement, we still have to experience those experiences we’ve brought from outside. I’m disgusted by the fact that this movement hasn’t tried to hold itself accountable. So I witnessed something that was racist on Wednesday, and to the best of my knowledge, the facilitator broke process by telling us that we couldn’t do what we thought we were able to do. He told us we can bring this back later, maybe another day! We don’t even know how we’re supposed to respond because we haven’t been empowered! We haven’t been empowered on how we would operate when something like this comes up. So I’m holding this long list of paper that we sat down and put together. We decided we wanted to leave it open to other people in the caucuses. Now we see down twinkling! Not only as ourselves a member of this caucus, but within this space, people don’t even know or care to educate themselves on why there is a woman’s caucus, or transgender caucus in this movement. So people are sitting here confused and uncomfortable, maybe because they think we’re wasting time. I feel like we’re wasting time because I don’t even know what we’re supposed to do now. Besides read these bullet points on this piece of paper. THAT is oppressive. And I’ll do it anyway, even though people were mostly finished up until this point. I’ll bring up something that wasn’t completely fleshed out. What I want to bring forward is that moving forward, not just for the rest of this meeting, if the movement is going to be gathering people to come together and operate together, it needs to come up with an accountability system. Those systems need to be new. I want to clarify a perception that I don’t care about accountability. I care about justice. Because a lot of people here have been point of processing, threatening to leave the movement, and A, B, and C because they’re upset about what happens in these meetings. I will say not on behalf of the PoC caucus: if the best of what this movement has to offer (in terms of changing the dialogue in society) is coming up with a justice system that’s only based on petty instances, ejecting people, removing people that is not deeper, I will leave the movement. The reason for that is because that system is based on punishment. What it’s called is the punitive justice system. Where does this happen? In this country. In thi state. Who is most affected by the punitive justice system? Individuals who are others. Individuals who don’t conform to gender norms. Individuals who when they walk down the street, and a police officer needs to fill their quota, they look like they have some marijuana so we’re going to stop them and empty their pockets. If this movement can’t challenge itself to create an accountability and justice that can incorporate the histories of people who are, for example, in our caucus, who are people of color, who may be native born or immigrants…what is the justice system for immigrants? It rips them apart! I don’t think I mentioned everything else on this piece of paper, can you please forgive me, I’m going to pass it to someone else.
Nan: As a member of the PoC caucus, and also the board member of the ism caucus, we’re backing up the PoC caucus. The ism caucus is requesting that starting January 27th until February 27th, we want SC to be halted until the continue of education on ism’s. Just wanted to make that announcement. So for a whole month, there will not be a SC. Everyone in here must go to an ism meeting and be educated on all kinds of isms: racism, sexism.
LOTS OF COMMOTION
Ashley: Just as a point of clarification. This is a break of what was supposed to happen. An individual has gone rogue and is talking about something that was not discussed.
Jeff: Mic check. We are still in process. This group spokes council, this community has been sent to give the people of color caucus the time necessary to finish the discussion. I would like to bring us all back to the discussion. A member of the PoC caucus is now speaking. If the people of color caucus would like to retract that member, that is their choice.
PoP: I’ve had a PoP up for a while but facilitation didn’t acknowledge me. The PoC caucus convened our caucus and we were speaking and somebody who is a member got up to speak but that person wasn’t speaking about the things that the group we’re speaking about, and spoke as a member of another group, and I just want to acknowledge that the things she said we’re not agreed up on by our caucus.
Jeff: I would like to ask the PoC caucus if they would like to retract the person they put forward to speak.
Nan: I felt that on Wednesday, facilitation was not doing their job, especially when they brought that lady to do meditation. That was disrespectful to those who have different religious beliefs. I’ve always had concern about it. When I went to sit with my friend on Wednesday, this gentleman who is sitting right there, hid the sign. He saw me coming and sat in front of me with the sign. I raised my hand to address the sign. She (facilitation) did not put me on stack, and so I started raising hell, saying I did not feel safe in that space. I was raising hell, and someone finally let me speak up. I was shot down by facilitation over and over and over again. After I was talking, I got so frustrated with her I said forget it, I’ll just stop talking. My friend moved his chair because he felt uncomfortable. I said please move to the guy, you’re invading my space. Finally he got up and went back to his seat. Less than five minutes later, he came and sat in front of me again. So I texted people I know about what was going on at that time. Next thing I knew, people started walking out. That’s when the lady facilitating pretended she cared. She didn’t care when I was pointing it out before! People disrespected my race, my skin color.
SC: It’s because you’re an a**hole!
SC: Woh woh respect each other!
SC: I have been sitting here with my mouth shut and everyone who’s seen the video of me knows how I am. I’m getting angry at the way you adults are acting. The world is watching you. She’s a human being, I don’t care how you feel about her. She is a human being, we will treat her as such. We keep saying it: why are you here? The first thing we have to do is start treating people like human beings, start giving people respect.
Management of the building: All that yelling is not going to happen.
SC: I apologize. I don’t want to act irate. The disrespect you show these people is who you are as a person. Don’t try and disguise your hate with me. I treat everybody with respect, and you need to give that to the next person. I don’t care how you feel about them. So stop perpetuating all of this nonsense and stop snickering at people and making jokes about their oppression. I love you all I really do, but ya’ll got to wake up. We are the foundation. I love you, peace.
Jeff: We’re going to bring it back. We had someone speaking as part of the PoC.
Nan: I also felt that facilitation owed me an apology. Facilitation posted something on the website to ask someone to remove me from this movement. For me that’s policing. And that was on the website. If people are going to go forward with this movement, they need to go back to the website and apologize because I took this very personally. [notices someone smiling] oh you’re smiling.
LOTS OF COMMOTION
Jo: We have an item that needs to be addressed immediately. The house is uncomfortable with the fact that we are consistently getting into these arguments. The information that I just received is that this meeting is now adjourned and that we have to leave because of the disruption. That means we are possibly suspended from this space.