We Once had a Dream Called Occupy Wall Street #7

Okay, ya’ll, I just spent a little bit of time going over some notes, having some conversations, and scanning some other stuff that came out of that meeting for Aug 2nd. I volunteered to be a police liaison. I should mention that, because it’ll be a big part of post about August 2nd . Also, Isham was making the flyer, and people were waiting on the flyer so they could do outreach. I’d say it’s around July 27th, 2011 now. So, we have about 4 days until the Rally/General Assembly. I also wanted to state that this blog is an idea, that as it progresses, it will be expanded on. I plan on building in an optional user experience that goes past reading. I want the reader to choose if they just read the blog, or if they interact with it, or even if they make suggestions that maybe be entered into the blog. I’m writing a novel. That’s the end plan, but I want to get to that end of the novel with you. So, in a way, we’re going to write a novel together. The first thing I want to do is move this blog off wordpress and onto it’s own website. I own the domains, but not the host space. I guess? Where’s a good place to go? Ideas?

I’d volunteered to be a police liaison for the August 2nd general assembly/rally. I’d chosen to be police liaison on purpose. New York, was new, it was like eight days old to me at this time. So far, I’d spent most my time trying to find local spots with cheap food, a dollar slice here, a 3 dollar gyro there, trying to figure out how to feed myself as cheaply as possible, so I could continue to exist. So, the idea of organizing seemed a little distant to me. I didn’t have a community in NYC, besides the house on Bedstuy, so I figured I’d fill in the gaps, and continue to find my away around. Now, I did flyer. I flyered and talked loudly about what was to come in various places with various people. See flyers aren’t about handing them out, their about starting a conversation. I remember walking into some coffee shop and asking the 20 something behind the counter if I put up the flyer. He took it from me and was like, what’s this about, and I said something like,

“Oh, I don’t really know. It looks like some people are going to camp outside of the stock exchange.”

The barista laughed, “Wo’ah, that seems pretty dumb. You think they’ll do it?”

“I don’t know.,”I shrugged, “I know I’m going to check it out.”

After about 20-30 minutes of talking, I scotched taped that flyer onto the window and the guy told me he wasn’t going to come.

And, I think some people would consider that a fail, since I didn’t recruit him to come, or whatever you want to call it–but when the 17th came, and if it went off, that guy would be sitting around eating with friends and someone would look at their cellphone and turn it waving the screen at those eating with him, “Oh look, some fucking tourists set up a camp outside the stock exchange”

And that dood, who wasn’t gonna come would be like, oh I heard about this, this guy walked in the coffee shop and said something about Occupy Wall Street, I think he gave me a flyer.

Anyway, so my goal was to leave as many nuggets of that in as many different people as I could. I wasn’t from NYC, so figured, at least for now, this was the best I was capable of, and early on, had come to the conclusion, that all that really mattered was that I was going to go, and that I made that decision because I felt something needed to happen, something needed to break the flow of everyday disasters. I wanted to open a rift in the perceived world, and I wanted that rift to filled with us… the people? I guess. With you?

Waitwait, one more thing. You also have to understand that at this point of my life, I was completely politically dead. I’d watched riot police spray away crowds with pepper spray and tear gas, and watched marches melt away under a barrages of rubber bullets. I’d organized and…

So, I was flyering before august 2nd, right? Well, the last time I’d flyered for a protest event, my flyering went something like this. I’d extend my arm with the leaflet towards a passerby, and smile. They’d grab it from me and I’d say,

“Hey, could you throw this away for me.”

Needless to say, something had changed…

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We Once had A Dream Called Occupy Wall Street #6

We Once had a Dream Called Occupy Wall Street #6:

I’m looking back, you know? Sometimes it’s clear, and sometimes, the haze settles on a little too thick two recall. The past, though, the recalling of it keeps following me. So I feel I need to keep working on this, even if I never finish it. First, the person who suggested the General Assembly, wasn’t named John, he was named Isham. I recently got the “Okay” to use his name, and by recently, I mean months ago. Now, I want to note that all the important people of OWS were not at that meeting. By important I mean most of the self-described founders, and makers, every book seller—the graebers, micahs, justine’s, and justins. Everyone who seemingly catapulted themselves into some sort of notoriety wasn’t at that meeting. And maybe that doesn’t matter. I don’t think a meeting starts a movement, shit I don’t even think the internet starts a movement. I sort of always fall back to the people, and at least at that time, the people, weren’t those people.

Anyway, like I said earlier, and feel compelled to mention again. This is my view of the beginning of the movement, and I assume that many people were doing the very same things in their own places. Meetings and what not…

So I returned to where I was staying in Brooklyn and found myself planning with my roomates the upcoming general assembly. The usual—how, when, what, where,who, all that same stuff that happens anytime you organize an event.

@ reader You know what. You’re reading this. So tell me, do you want more descriptions, or just general outline of events with some names dropped in.. Like, Should the previous be written:

After the meeting Isham and I, with a couple other folks jumped on the 4 train to L to the G. Subways were a brand new thing to me and by this time I’d spent enough time whirling around the city to have an idea how to get back home on any line. Though, I still easily got lost. I just used the subway lines as maps back home.

“You think anyone will show?” Isham asked.

I curled against the hard plastic seat, shifted, and tried to spot other trains lights flicker by as we sped the tubes.

“I don’t know.” I said.

@reader Now here’s the thing, the next person to speak wants to remain anonymous. For always, they don’t want anyone to know their involvement, and I respect that. But I think I’m going to let squeak out that she’s a woman. And this woman walks among all of you, and she’s one of the most amazing organizers I’ve known. In 2011 I refereed to these type of organizers as powerhouses. She was a powerhouse. She told you something, and she made it happen. I knew that if she said she was going to do something. It would get done. And she had the same commitment from me, and Isham.

Samantha(made upname) said, “Something has to happen!” We reached the place I was staying in Brookyn with Isham, and Jeremy, both from North Dakota,. We stayed up late and just talked about why? The financial collapses. The furor of movement and revolution speeding west from the middle east. What would the United States do? We were in the belly of the beast after all, at least that’s we were told, that the United State’s is the beast, and Wall Street it’s heart.

 

We Once had a Dream Called Occupy Wall Street. #5

It’s taken me a long time to start writing about this meeting. I mean it was just a meeting, but it feels more complicated than that. Right? I’m all washed into NYC suddenly trying to organize. I’m wasn’t there alone. But I don’t know exactly how to speak about the other people. How they play out. I’ve decided to try.

It was the same Union hall that New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts met in, but a different room. We filed in, long table, centered, folks scattered around the edges. And we talked. Folks told their tales of what the Debt default really was, what we should do about it. The meeting went on ,twelve or so folks spoke, I listened. Eventually, the idea seemed to start revolving around organizing a rally. Despair. I didn’t want a rally. Already they were making a list of speakers, of which I had little space to add any input. It was like they were playing out a script. I’d died politically because of rallies. I’d felt disempowered because of rallies, and now I was helping organize a rally.

The guy who pushed the rally, was part of a communist group. You know? Workers power, organize the workplace sort of stuff; laced with anti-oppressive frameworks and the minority empowerment line. All the right rhetoric with a touch of know how. The sort of group that has a political organizing manual with an easy flowchart that’ll get you to selling newspapers on the corner. I knew little about them, besides that they knew how to throw a rally.

The guy holding the fire about the rally was balding. His scalp flushed red as he explained that what we needed was to rally, march and to write up this list of “particulars”. You know? The big list of all the things we want. He’d followup with a twelve step liberation document ready to be marched to the steps of liberty hall. I’d planted my face against the table.

I found myself helping orchestrate littering. Somehow my civil disobedience would have to do with throwing some paper on some steps, and expecting that the world would snap it all in with a deep breath. Liberation! Confetti! Success! I’d been to a million rallies and marches, worn my toes to bloody stumps. Here I was in NYC, organizing the exact same events that I’d seen countless times.

I looked around the table and watched this thin lanky man with flowered shirt raise his hand. Everyone looked to him and he suggested something like, hey, why don’t we organize a General Assembly on August 2nd to talk about Adbusters call for the occupation of Wall Street. I instantly agreed. I backed him as did a young Spanish couple and a young women. We spoke about it a little bit longer and the group broke it down into 2 events for August 2nd. The rally, organized to be a fiery denouncement of the Debt default, followed by a march to deposit the particulars on the steps of liberty hall.

The other half would be a general assembly to discuss September 17th’s call for occupation of wall street. The general assembly would be to see if their was any interest to organize for September 17th. I don’t know why I was so ready to help with the assembly. I think it was mostly because I was rallied out, or maybe because I just felt that I wanted to hear other voices. I left that meeting and bummed tobacco from John, the flower shirt guy, and we smoked cigarettes with the smokers, went to a local bar and discussed our expectations. I just expected to be there.

 Audio recording of post: 

We Once had a Dream called Occupy Wall Street 4/28/13 #4

 

It gets hazy, the haze solidifying in that space between points of memory. I want to say that I started traveling New York City. That I started to mark off all the– must sees– of NYC. I didn’t. I had moved to NYC to live there, and figured that I’d see it as I proceeded to live. You know? I was in no hurry to see the Statue of Liberty, so much so, that I’ve yet to see it up close. I settled into Bedstuy, in my small room and proceeded to just walk around Brooklyn. I’d moved from a city of 60 thousand, which was in a state that was about 700 thousand people. New York, is pretty much everything you’ve heard NYC to be…

 

I spent those first few days walking to all the local Bodega’s, and searching for food spots near where I was staying. I knew nothing of where I was at, so started doing slow spins around the area. It was laundrymats and corner stores. It was sparkling Jewish groceries and take out Chinese restaurants that all sported the same menu.

 

I was in New York, like so many other people were in New York. I was overeducated, unattached, and had nothing to do but kickass. I laugh at that now, but look back recalling my anger after applying for over a hundred  jobs…. “Could you imagine what I would have done for someone if they’d have hired me,” I’d say to my roomates. I don’t know if it was rejection, or cockiness, but I’d ramble on about how any place hiring me would have had an improvement. Maybe I was just pissed.

 

I’d also come to New York through layers of ancestral struggle. Maybe that’s the point of this post. I’m still uncertain of what I’m trying to say here. When I was in New York, I’d tell people I had my Masters in English. It was met with different sorts of acknowledgements, but very few big reactions. Maybe, it’s because I never told anyone what that meant to me, what it meant to me to achieve this sort of mile marker in society. Right now some reader somewhere is rolling their eyes and chucking at my inability to see how societal expectation was a created myth.

 

Well, the past for me was not a myth. The struggles of those who I identify with–is not myth. My mother’s recalling’s at white teachers scoffing at her for believing she’d go on to college–is not a myth. I carry those facts with me everywhere I go. The fact that the small city in Texas where I spent my childhood rose up to fight back against racism, against created blocks to my people’s advancement. The brown girls and boys beat in the streets during the Chicano movement,(current) are no myth. And maybe, the myth, or the naïve thought was that I viewed their struggle, and heartbreaks and successes their failures as my own. When I told people I had my masters in English, I was trying to tell people that all those unnamed folks in history fought for me to able to achieve that education. What I was trying to tell people was how my brother locked away in prison would write me and tell me how he was rooting for me and his Mexican friends were cheering for me….how I viewed myself as connected to all of it.

 

I’m getting to Occupy Wall Street, but I want you to know who’s telling you this story. And when I tell you I have a Master’s in English, I’m not telling you I’m educated, I’m telling you what point I’m at in a the long history struggle. I guess thats the point of view arrived at that July 22nd meeting to talk about the August 2nd debt  default action.

 

 

 

 

We Once had a Dream Called Occupy Wall Street. 04/19/13 #3

Now, i’ve been thinking about my previous posts and all the claims of what I did. I organized this, I did this, blahblahblah,..but when I really think about it, I was always part of organizing, amongst organizing and never alone organizing. I might just be trying to say that “I” can be deceptive and hope that it in no way omits anyone elses involvement in organizing and participating in the various events I may reference. I suppose that memory may be like that, placing you in the center of the event as though it revolved around you… anyway.. my first day in NYC, my first meeting in NYC, “New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts.”

I’m trying to recall the walk. The path that I took to get to the union hall, and what we talked about. I can piece a little together. Maybe I can’t, at least I can say, that I’d heard of New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts(NYABC). They recently organized an encampment against Bloomberg’s, you guessed it, budget cuts. They’d camped outside of city hall for weeks, been pushed around by the police, drums, and music, and finally a final push to stop the budget cut meeting from happening–arrests. New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts had also been part of a large coalition….(do I look up dates) which had marched on wall street earlier in 2011. From my understanding 10’s of thousands of people circled the area, but no one was able to get to wall street. That’s what I knew about NYABC, or what I have come to know.

I sat in meeting with rows of chairs, and folks started filing in. The folks who came in circled the chairs, I remember that, because it made me smile. It made me feel a bit more comfortable to be in a room that projected mutual respect, played at the idea of it. Uneasy at the meeting I didn’t plan on saying much. I was new to New York I couldn’t imagine adding to a conversation when I knew nothing about the context, or history, around various issues. I sat silent and listened to report backs and ideas being flung about a group of thirty or so people.

“What about this call from Adbusters?” someone said that. If I try to recall the text from the call now, A flood, Wall Street, tents, sept 17th, 20 thousand people will. I didn’t think much of it, but the room burst with conflict. Things like, “whose going to plan this, whose going to do this, whose going to do that, and the answers were: no one, no one, no one.” Eventually someone announced they’d contact Adbusters and let them know that they need to have organizers on the ground, that they shouldn’t just put out calls and expect people to do the work for them.

What came out of this conversation was a committee to plan an action around the August 2nd, debt default. And somewhere during this first meeting I had said 2 things. The first, I don’t call, but remember when I said it, the whole room grew quiet and nodded. I remember feeling like the whole room just noticed I existed. I also felt like I hit a right note. You know, like when something reverberates after mentioned. It felt good to be noticed, and good to feel like I’d added something to the conversation.

I also volunteered to be part of this planning committee. A committee to talk about what could be done around the August 2nd debt default, a meeting was planned for Friday, 7/22 to plan for August 2nd.

Arriving in NYC dead to politics, here I was, organizing. I wonder if I could place blame for the next year and a half of my life on this one meeting. Maybe it was coming from the Midwest and seeing 35 people gathered together and working together to accomplish something. Every meeting in North Dakota had been 5 people, or so, and now, well maybe it was scale. Regardless, I was excited. My roommates and I started watching M15 documentaries.

We Once had a Dream Called Occupy Wall Street. 04/09/13 #2

Yes,

 

I said yes… and here’s where I’m going to do this rewind and catch up on who I am, or was, or thought I was at this time. My name is Lorenzo Serna, and on July 19th 2011, I was politically deceased.  I had spent years organizing around issue after issue, tar sands, war, and war, and war, and immigration, and sexism, and racism. I saw the whole world just writhing in front of me and I wanted it to stop. I organized rallies and marches, I organized terrible events that flopped on their faces, but I kept at it, until graduate school. Where I decided that all i really wanted to do was tell stories. Tell the story of this and that, tell the story of an older brother much smarter than I locked away in prison, of a family struggling to keep what they’d gained, of a brother so in love… of a childhood spent working fields, and of  distant memories of adventure.

I’d reach New York as a man who’d watched thousands of people march endless circles waving flags, and banners, flanked by riot police and every march indiscernible of message. I remember watching waves of riot police fire tear gas into a crowd and the crowd just melt away into a poor neighborhood where folks offered water to the mixture of people who tried once again to defy direction. That’s all it ever was, just one more moment of defiance, one more time saying, no, I will not listen to you. I will not follow your command. I tasted tear gas, and panicked in coffee shops recounting sprinting from police who started dropping their batons into journalists. I reached New York no longer an activist, but just dead. Because, after all the pain and suffering I’d witnessed, the countless acts of defiance and belief that the world could be better, might be better. I still reached New York, with 2 wars I’d rallied and marched against continuing, the tar sands still being developed, immigrants being treated as some sort of cattle and all conversations everywhere muted of meaning. I reached New York, tired, and spent, and just wanting to share what I’d seen. That was the person who said “Yes” that day.

So it’s important that you realize that as we go through this journey together… I won’t be sharing anyone’s real name. Unless they allow me too, and also it’s all based on memory. For all the talk of being a writer, I never wrote anything down. I lived it, i breathed it, I fought it and wept it, but rarely did I take the time to reflect on Occupy Wall Street.  Even as I write this it seems somehow new and foreign to me, I can recall the subway line over my head, my friend hugging me and laughing at my TMNT suitcase….I never wrote anything down to the extent that when I saw someone all cushy in their sleeping bags, a journal on their laps and them reflecting on this or that thing that happened earlier. I would get pissed. “How the fuck does that person have anytime.” I know now that my strange work ethic caused that, and that maybe I should have taken some time, but who cares. Everything is watery and uncertain… This is my recalling.

I said yes, and we went to his place where I dropped my bags into the room he’d let me stay in. It was this tiny little offshoot from his apartment that fit a small futon I’d sleep in. I told him it was perfect, because I didn’t really want anything but to live, and that tiny amount of space was enough for me to do it at that time.

            We jumped on the subway to head to a union hall. I’d never been on a subway or in a city like New York, but it also always took a lot to impress me. Well, I guess I remember being impressed. We strolled down the G line and a gentlemen was sitting under some stairs playing a cello. It was beautiful and something so strange, just to have anyone playing music so openingly.. I guess that was new, and I didn’t drop him any money, but I remember writing him a note. Which I never left either.  It said something like, “I’m sorry I don’t have any money to leave you, but I figured I’d share this poem with you because it’s all I can give…” I can’t remember the poem I wrote, but didn’t give it to him, because I felt so nerdy. We got off the train  eventually, A train near the Patriot bar. We went to a meeting called by the coalition “New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts.”

We Once had a Dream Called Occupy Wall Street. 04/02/13

We once had a dream called Occupy Wall Street. I don’t know if it was a dream, but it had the qualities. You know, that New York feel of importance as the sun broke over the buildings and spread it’s warmth across a small concrete park.This blog will be about this event, as it happened to me, as I experienced it. It’s going to be quick and dirty, a lightening recollection timed to the beat of meeting minutes which I attended. It’s going to be critical. I want to critique it, because it wasn’t what I wanted, or expected, but in the end many of the problems came from just that. Everyone wanted something, something built in their own vision, but our visions are just scattered fragments laced with our societies garage. Our perceptions of the poor, of money, of relationships.Love and battle. When the hundreds of people gathered there on the first day, and when that number climbed to the thousands we each brought our own stories, and we each brought our own garbage.

Occupy Wall Street wasn’t the Utopian dream that I hear many refer to it as…maybe to some it awoke that thread, that thread that the world we come from can be better, that somehow we can overcome the sickness, the death and starvation, the many many forms of suffering and oppression that surrounded us. The built-in controls in our everyday life. The points of power colluding to shift reality.

I believed in Occupy Wall Street, because I was there. I’ve told this story countless times now, and I figured it’s time I write it down.

July 19th, 2011 my plane landed at Laguardia Airport. I’d just left Grand Forks, North Dakota. I told myself for good, and as the plane decended I saw the Statue of Liberty flash by, I thought that my new life would be good. When I disembarked I waited for my luggage to spin out and this man walked up to me, he was jerk on the plane, he stopped next to me and said, “You know what I mean, I can see it in you. We got to stick together.” I grunted, out of fear or confusion, i can’t remember, and grabbed my bag and walked out to try to figure out how to get to Harlem to meet a friend.

I was wearing my favorite pearl button shirt and a skateboarding backpack I bought for traveling when I was eighteen years old. I was now 30. Attached to that backpack by carabiner was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles suitcase. It was filled with books. Books on organizing, books of poetry, and my favorite novels. I’d come to New York to be a spoken word poet. I figured a city this big had to have a community to support me doing what I wanted. I guess I still had that forever dream of sharing my views through poetry to an audience who was there to hear it. Back home I’d done spoken word at open mics where crowds of drunks proceeded to drink. Maybe here there was a place that people went to hear poets. That was my goal. I never achieved it.

I bought a metro pass at the airport and jumped on a bus to Harlem. My friend was waiting on the corner for me. We hugged and he said, “Hey, there’s this meeting tonight with some folks i’ve been organizing with, want to come.” I said “Yes.”

 

Audio recording: https://soundcloud.com/uneditedcamera-1/we-once-had-a-dream-called

(This blog will be updated weekly as a sort of serial novella. It also have an audio recording link to each addition. If you enjoy what you’re hearing please, support my media collective work at bit.ly/uneditedmedia)