A friend and I visited the 4th day of Occupy Philadelphia yesterday. We couldn’t stay long – not even long enough to be part of any events like the daily General Assemblies, trainings, rallies, marches, etc.
But even without any of those which are so much of the action of the movement, I experienced something important there outside City Hall that needs to be shared.
We arrived early and many people were still sleeping. People are inhabiting around 80 tents now. Many others are sleeping on the ground, on benches, or wherever else they can find rest (alongside the many homeless occupants that have been in this space for so long).
Since my photos show the early morning scene (and I wanted to respect those sleeping out in the open), you won’t see many people. But the people were there – sleeping, waking, getting ready for another day. (There are many other places to see more of the people, including here.)
There are many people saying many things about the Occupy movements (and many others saying nothing). Here’s what I want to say, for now:
In the settings of this movement, people are learning, experimenting with, and working hard at communication, collaboration, consensus, and community. For many of these folks, it may be their first opportunity to deeply experience this.
I don’t know how to say this strongly enough, but I believe that is of the utmost value.
I see education on white privilege, on the pre-existing occupation of this land that was taken from native peoples, on the history of uprisings, on class, on language, on permaculture. I see cooperation forming between activists for women’s rights, LGBT rights, disability rights, immigrants rights.
I see people experimenting with the idea that there are other ways to live, that we have unexplored power as individuals and as a group.
I quickly found work at the food station yesterday. Mere moments after arriving to volunteer, I was meeting the others and pulling on gloves to serve food. Having only just met and exchanged names and smiles, we were immediately working effectively, side-by-side (One person exclaimed “If only the welfare lines were as organized as you all!”)
We served breakfast to person after person. Many were members of Philadelphia’s extensive homeless population, many were demonstrators. We fed everyone. Food donations kept arriving almost out of the blue. Sandwiches, homemade cookies, a fruit bouquet, a beautiful apple pie – everything came in and was handed out.
There was so much kindness in the air and a sense of meaning. Kindness and meaning…isn’t that something so many of us are starving for?
There’s too much to say, but perhaps this is a start for me.
As my friend Douglass said: “This is worth nurturing.”