Thursday, May 2, 2013

May 1, 2013. Criminal Journal Entry

MAY DAY. A group of university seniors have been meeting in the bookshop all year, planning a big statewide May Day Event in Raleigh. God knows there’s plenty for them  to protest: huge classroom increases, fewer faculty, too many students, much higher fees, emphasis on sports and de-emphasis on The Humanities, tuition increases every semester, inflated administration salaries. You name it! The state legislature is planning Draconian cuts in education budgets!
     So a big rally has been planned for today. In the Occupy Movement and other exceptional activist meetings in which I have taken part thousands of times, time is strictly observed, usually two hours. One starts on time, say 4 p.m. and one ends at 6 on the dot. It’s part of the solidarity discipline. But these Milleneals, as today’s young people are sometimes called, are different. Because of the Cell Phone Revolution, this is a “fly by the seat of your pants” generation. Meetings are arranged and changed at a moment’s notice, all with the smart phone, with texting and its ilk. Nevertheless, the rally organizers met pretty consistently. Another difference is that students talk for hours, meetings last all day.  How much organizing do you have to do? For four months, I’d say the six or seven seniors and graduate students met for a full day about twice a month. To plan the Greensboro contribution to the May Day Rally in Raleigh. Much of the meetings were efforts to be made to get a large turn-out.
     A couple of weeks ago, Alyssa emailed me, “Could those going to the May Day Rally park their cars in the Bookshop Parking Lot?” The students wanted to car-pool, to pile into just a few cars and go together. Hey didn’t have enough people or enough money for a bus. Of course, I was happy to have the bookshop chosen as the gathering point for the cadres. Alyssa said the cars would be there from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
      Got up early. Perhaps the students would want to use the bathroom in the bookshop? How about complimentary coffee? But no one came. At 10 a.m., three of the organizers arrived. That was it. One automobile in the parking lot. The other with three kids driving to Raleigh to protest all these detrimental changes to what was once a pretty good state university system.
     One year ago, exactly one year ago, OCCUPY had been a pretty vibrant group. And, looking back, it died that week. May Day, 2012.
     When I say a pretty vibrant group, that’s an understatement. No fewer than 50 people attended “general assemblies” that were meeting twice a week. In addition, there were six active Working Groups that met weekly, that never had few than six in attendance and sometimes eight or ten to each meeting.
     Amendment One won heavily that first week of May, 2012. The women who had bottom-lined Occupy disappeared. Four of the six active working groups, a large gaggle of over 50 people who had been in the movement at that point for  9 months, dissolved instantly. They had been bottom-lined by the talented women who had become engaged in the Amendment One fight. But they abandoned their working groups without notice and without handing on responsibility of leadership, which meant the groups disappeared, never to reappear. Attendance at the general assembly (G.A.) dropped from 100 a week to less than 20. Finally, the General Assembly dissolved altogether. A few valiant souls kept two of the working groups–Energy & Foreclosure–going, and they are extremely active and successful to this day; although just four women pretty much killed Occupy in a single May Day ‘12, a blow from which Occupy never recovered. Were they burnt out? Were they so disappointed at the disgusting success of Amendment One anti-gay legislation? But why did they all . . . just disappear? No notice. No warning. Worst of all, no handing on of the baton they had assumed. Aside from numerous journal entries about this extraordinary betrayal that I have doused, not a single word has ever been said or written about this. The women were very popular and, to my knowledge, remain so. None of them has ever entered the bookshop since May 1, 2012, although they were in here two, three, four times a week for 9 straight months previously.
     Well, that’s my May Day ‘13 reflection. The working groups that were destroyed were: Education/Enrichment; Employment/Unemployment; Civil Rights; and Process/Access. It would take a book in and of itself to describe these incredible undertakings, what we members hoped from them, the benefits that would have accrued to the community. I think the story of their dissolution belongs in the Criminal Journal. And it seems to go, I’m not sure exactly how, with the invisible turnout sans students of May 1, 2013.
     When I was in Columbia in the 50s, one of the big international events was the U. S. assassinations of Patrice Lumumba and, immediately afterward, Dag Hammarskold, engineered bv the CIA.
I organized a rally on my campus, a march from New York’s West Side to the U.N. building. There were 2,000 undergraduates at that time at Columbia College–and another 20,000 students at the entire university, excluding Barnard. Plus a huge college staff and liberals in the adjoining neighborhoods. It was a pretty important issue, perhaps the single starting point of U. S. postwar oppression? But there were only nine (9) of us who attended the March.
     My disgust with Academia starts with that disappointing turnout. Hadn’t thought about that for a long time. Until today.

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1 comment:

  1. I was a psrt of the Occupy Greensboro Movement. It was beautiful. Why people left, not sure and I'll not try to guess. Others could have picked up where these folks left off. We all could hve done more but it is not over. The conditions that lead to Occupy still exist and the movement will come back (even if under a different name). All the great work that was done and is still being done will not be in vain.