Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Drumming Up Support for Occupy Baltimore

ANNOUNCEMENT: One of the things at OB that "sometimes, almost accidentally, went right" is that a group has decided to target the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) as being one of the sources of Baltimore's many problems. This group has planned a public meeting with the BDC today. The meeting is at 5 PM, outside the BDC's offices at 36 S. Charles Street. There is a letter you can sign at anotherbdcispossible.org.

It should be interesting to see how the meeting goes. Some of the people planning it seemed more or less ignorant of the fact that the BDC is running the governmental pageant in Baltimore, and telling the Mayor and City Council what to do. They were definitely underestimating the extent of the problem going in, so we'll see if they realize it as this process unfolds, or get snowed by diplomatic platitudes.


My series on OB continues:

After that very first General Assembly we attended in McKeldin Square, buddy Revo and I saw the proverbial wolves of FAIL chasing down the OB sled. The crowd we joined was meager, mostly young, mostly (but not exclusively) white, and mostly visibly bored by the didactic approach of the Callow Crew.

“This movement needs more diversity, or it will fail,” declared Capt. Revo, the wannabe revolting protester. He noted that he and others of his generation had come to the 1960s anti-war protests for the music, the drugs, and “hippie chicks,” but had their social consciousness raised once they got there. His back in the day experience in drum circles taught him a healthy respect for the uniting power of music. “We need to get a buncha drums and shakers down here FAST,” he opined with wide-eyed resolve.

The next morning my phone rang way too early, and I regretted answering it in a second. Damn, it’s Revo! He’s had his coffee and is ready to roll. He then loads up my car so jammed full of drums and other percussion instruments that it’s like I have blinders on, as we drive down to the square, clanking and ringing from a plethora of sound-producing devices. “None of which need a power cord!” I was reminded three times.

Revo staked out some turf, laying the massive Yellow Submarine banner over a substantial portion of the square. He set up his percussion playground, and began playing a pet djembe, festooned with Tibetan prayer flags. Shortly after the call to battle rhythms began, a few musicians and dancers emerged like mushrooms, seemingly from the very earth, and joined in spontaneous improvisation. The impromptu band of musicians, dancers, and spectators were a more diverse crew all right, with a wide variance in age, ethnicity, and background. Soul shakes and fistbumps, as Revo beamed with delight.

We were getting into the Occupy swing of things. I met Revo’s new bro, Jaythebusker, and Laconiclion, among others. A good time was had by all, and a certain spirit began to emerge, which was noticeably absent from the square the night before.

The diverse influx that day wasn’t entirely due to the drums and melodies, yet it served as a spark to what was emerging at the OB site.

It also helped that the smell of food was beginning to waft through the air – food being cooked up and served to all by OB volunteers.

McKeldin Square now looked a whole lot more representative of Baltimore City, and more representative of the 99%, who have been so adversely impacted by the predatory criminals on Wall Street.

A few days on, the influx of new OB participants was beginning to join in the nightly general assemblies, making those meetings more diverse as well.

This was all very exciting, but there continued to be some palpable friction between the self-appointed leadership clique and the new arrivals. Most of the wannabe leaders appeared to be young, college or graduate school age students, and many of them were visibly put off by the considerably more diverse group that had now swelled the ranks.

The leadership clique seemed to take keenly intellectual interest in the dynamics and procedures of the “consensus” model at the nightly general assembly, yet they were decidedly not focused on the overarching economic issues that seemed to bind the others in protest. The earnest young “Callow Clique” were more oriented toward radical leftist and tangential agendas. I soon concluded that many of them may not yet have had any significant direct experience of actual day to day economic hardship, unlike the more diverse crew that was now arriving, some of whom were homeless.

The newer arrivals appeared, in many cases, to have suffered considerably from the harsh economic and employment realities of the worsening recession that the government-fed media often won’t admit exists. Many new arrivals did not leap to engage in the GA meetings, marches, or setting the OB agenda. They lingered on the periphery, slept in the square, drummed and danced, and ate the food that was offered. Some helped in preparing and serving food, and others took on and dogged the basic tasks associated with a growing new community’s survival as a physical occupation.

The leadership clique was also expanding, and they continued planning teach-ins, education about gender and LGBTQ issues, discussions about consensus democracy and even, in some of the more radical cases, talk about socialist, communist, or anarchist revolution. Unlike the expanding cast of regulars like Jaythebusker, Godblessu, Laconiclion, Redbeard, Drunkchic, Pfloyd, Jazzcap, Bbark, Sweetdreams, Revo and others, the GA participants generally showed up at 7:15 PM or so, then milled about, conferring and fidgeting, until the 8 PM GA. Anywhere from 2 to 4 hours later, they broke it off, and mostly went home to their beds every night (as did I, thankfully).

During the GA meetings, a few of them sometimes threw hissy fits regarding the folks on the margins of the square, who were living on site, eating, cleaning, hanging out, playing drums, dancing, helping make signage, and marching on occasion, but were not People’s Mike users or GA participants, and mostly did not join in meetings to be “educated and involved.”


Part 1
Part 2
Part 3


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Blogger Craig Purcell said...

Nice reporting. Where is it going do you think?

November 09, 2011

Blogger Laura Serena said...



Nationally, I hope it's going toward a realization by our elected officials and by corporate officials that they need to be responsive toward the non-wealthy majority.

I want to see real, concrete reforms such as an amendment to the constitution, clarifying that corporations are not people. Also I want to see reforms in regulation of the financial industry that prevent in the future some of the abusive behaviors that have led to this, efforts to help people keep their homes, and fair taxation that requires those who benefit the most from our society to put the most back into it.

Locally, I suspect it's going nowhere at all, unless the crew of earnest student types with an intellectual interest in alternate forms of government and economic structure can come down to earth, and face the fact that the economic issues we're actually facing have reality to those of us who have been in the working world for decades and have friends and family who are actually suffering. Some of us want real reforms from this movement, not endless theoretical discussion, but the folks who have so far dominated Occupy Baltimore don't seem to have their feet on the ground in that regard.

November 10, 2011


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