Winter light... and Community Calendar
Weak winter afternoon sun filters into my office bathing it in cool light. Deep cold is settling in on Burnside Park, where Occupy Providence remains one of the few continuous residential Occupations in the country. Folks are adding layers of tarp to "the domes" and layering cardboard on the ground with plans to huddle together tonight for warmth. As I write some are meeting with their lawyer to discuss their demand that the city provide a day shelter for homeless people so that they have a safe, warm place to go during the day with access to services. They are working with local homeless advocates and agencies to develop a proposal that the city will be hard pressed to refuse to support. The homeless people who have made the occupation their home have had a major voice in developing the proposal. Occupy Providence folks understand that the city is strapped for resources. They also legitimately question the priorities when new positions with salaries in the six figures are created but then the city insist there are no resources for helping people who have no homes, who struggle with addiction, who spend their days in to cold (and often the nights as well) as the shelters are terribly overcrowded. The relationships that have been forged over the past couple of months have changed lives - both of the young occupiers and the people who are homeless who stay with them. And they are working together to insist that there be resources made available to address their needs. They feel the power of their moral arguement, feel the power of their solidarity, and feel the power of a larger community behind them. May the city listen. And may they all be safe tonight.
Elsewhere the Occupy Movement is shifting gears to what some embraced from the beginning - a regular presence in the street mixed with events focused on specific (often local) issues. There seems to be a decided lack of interest in electoral politics, based on the understanding that, at this point, changing who sits in those seats makes little difference - corporate control/influence is complete. There is an understanding that at least now that is not going to be the place where the substantial system change that people want is going to occur. It has to start at the local level, building coalitions, bringing the new energy to work that has been going on for a long time, addressing the class, race and gender issues that have kept the 99% from working well together. It is hard, messy and wonderful work and far more profound than changing a few laws, even if they are important ones.
Martin Luther King Day is approaching. I am collecting a listing of local events and will post them later this week and include a link in this document next week. It is well worth rereading some of his speeches - it is uncanny how they feel even more true now in some ways. You might start with the Letter from a Birmingham Jail or the Riverside Speech. Then find an event near you and join with others in efforts to build the beloved community.
May the coming year bring renewed energy for building a world that is more just and peaceful, and may you each be enriched by an abundance of moments to treasure.
In Peace Martha Yager, SENE program coordinator