In all honesty, I didn’t know much about the #Occupy movements before my Facebook inbox started blowing up with invitations to different #OccupyOhioU organizing events this past week. I had seen 30 second sound bites on mainstream media outlets about #OccupyWallstreet and, after a mild amount of Googling and Youtubeing, I thought that it was something I could get behind; it makes me mad, after all, that Wall Street got this big bailout but that the average Athenian can’t afford a quarter at Ohio University. But only in a general, water-cooler, it-doesn’t-really-apply-to-me kinda way. Until #OccupyOhioU came.
I attended two of the three General Assembly meetings last week (October 10-14) which were open to anyone- student, faculty, community- who wanted to attend. What astounded me was commitment to the kind of small-d democracy that you rarely see executed in real life. A safe zone, a space void of hate language or action, was created as the first ground rule. Time was made for everyone, of any voice, to talk. Dissent was encouraged. The only finite goal continuously articulated was and is the demand for a more democratic Ohio University and Athens, Ohio. Thus, when consensus was reached that we should tangibly occupy Ohio University space with real bodies on a daily basis I decided I should do what a lot of people can’t- camp. I’m a single college kid with a negotiable job (love you OU Women’s Center) and I should be a visible sign of occupation since I have those luxury that a lot of people do not.
With three awesome fellow occupier-activists and borrowed camping equipment in tow we showed up Sunday, October 16 at 5pm ready to, well, occupy. Some things have been a surprise to this committed urbanite- being outside in October can be really freaking cold. And wet. Tents are permeable even when their packaging says that they are not. Getting dressed in a tent with other bodies and other bodies’ materials is hard. Toilets, running water, and outlets are slightly scarce. But #OccupyOhioU has surprised me and given me hope beyond measure by the community that we have managed to make in three small days. People continually are helping other people- to build tents, to keep warm, to be healthy, with homework. Donated food is organized alongside compost and recycling; we are living green, respecting the space alotted to us, and embracing one another. Community members and students and faculty are interacting not just about politics or economics but about cooking and cartoons. The types and mediums of information exchanged is amazing. Free Skool- education based on the ethos that all learning needs is a teacher and a student is happening all the time.
Some things are worrying me about #OccupyOhioU- but questioning is a big part of democracy. The term “occupy” has been chosen as the label for the movement because we feel that the majority of people do not feel like we have tangible access to the resources of our nation. Thus, we are “occupying” in order reclaim land, resources, voices, mobility. Organizers and, I think most occupiers, feel like this is more appropriate than the word “protest” since it implies objecting some singular event or legislation rather than an overall system. However, it does make me uncomfortable appropriating a term with problematic historical connotations as a white woman residing fairly freely in my mother land. But I think occupy, like love, can come in degrees and types and there is enough room both physically and emotionally to have a discussion about these types and degrees.
If you’re interested:
Like #OccupyOhioU on Facebook
Free Skool Events:
Defend Education, Ohio! (DEO) was created in winter of 2011 and has brought a new wave of education activism to Ohio University. This fall, DEO is bringing education into the streets at #OccupyOhioU with a full schedule of speakers who will be teaching on a broad range of topics, ranging from economics and debt to permaculture and gender issues in social movements.
***** IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PRESENTING A FREE SKOOL SESSI…ON, CONTACT LOUIS AT SEMBLABLE@GMAIL.COM *******
FREE SCHOOL SCHEDULE
12:30 PM Marc Scarcelli Power of Education
1:00 PM Akil Houston
2:00 PM Judith Grant Gender and Social Movements
4:00 PM Deborah Thorne Debt
5:00 PM Laura Larson Photo Workshop
6:00-8 PM Occupy OU Peace Vigil Against War at Scripps Ampitheater
12:30 PM Jackie Maxwell Occupy Ancient Greece and Rome!
1:30 PM Louis-Geroges Schwartz
The Economics of Capitalism Since 1973
3:00 PM Chris Haak Primary Education in Neoliberalism
3:00 PM Susan Burgess Queer Activism
4:00 PM Sarah Pemberton Organizating Graduate Student Unions
5:00 PM Michael Conley Planned Parenthood
Kavin Shah and Badger Food waste reduction and permaculture
John Howell and Rob Wiley Anti Corporate Personhood Amendment
John Howell Monetary Policy and the Crisis
Disclaimer: I speak only for myself and not the greater #OccupyOhioU movement.