TOWN BIZNESS: Some thoughts about the Oakland General Strike

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Photo by Kerri-Ann Borja-Navarro
This is a repost from Jack's tumblr. Jack coordinated the Young Men's program at ACRJ this past summer.

by Jack DeJesus

A couple days have passed since the Oakland General Strike, and I’m still in the middle of processing all that I saw and experienced. Now there has been a lot of opinion about the strategy, effectiveness, and purpose of the Occupy “movement,” from critique about direction and demands, to questions about whose voices are being most resonated in this space. It almost makes perfect sense that Oakland, with its history of resistance and organizing as well as police repression, became the focal point of this struggle, especially after a clash between cops and protesters, highlighted by a young Iraq war veteran being carried away from the melee with a fractured skull for all of youtube to see. Despite the tear gas and rubber bullets, the protesters returned, set their tents back up, and continue “occupying” as we speak.

I arrived the morning of the strike to meet up with a the LeftBay99 contingent, which consisted of several POC/white ally orgs, many of whom have been holding it down in the Bay for a good minute: Causa Justa/Just Cause, POWER, SOUL, and Youth Together, to name a few. BAYAN USA/ILPS (of which I’m a part of) were part of the contingent as well. The AYPAL youth had the drumline going. We had the boomin sound system. We had security. And we had our demands. At the state building to call for more education funding. At Wells Fargo and Chase to call out the 1% for foreclosing on the working class. In front of city hall calling for an end to police brutality and gang injunctions. Our intent was clear and the spirit and energy reflected that.

Now, there were times when it felt more like a carnival than a protest, which made it hard for me to take it seriously at times. And the planning process itself, with the mixed bag of personalities in one space, made it challenging to reach agreement on things. But the humbling part of it for me, as an organizer, artist, and Oakland resident, was that ALL these people are impacted by the 1%, and despite ideological and political nit-picks, we were all in solidarity with one another. And the fact that this movement is being identified by a number, the 99%, tells me that there is a deeper analysis being introduced here, that people are beginning to connect capitalism to the root of why people are suffering. That in itself is pretty major to me.

Sure, I have some reservations about some things. I definitely have problems with the use of the word “occupy.” I have issues with those who carry privilege WITHIN the 99%—white people, men, straight people, more educated folks, etc—taking up HELLLLLA space at meetings and assemblies. I’m suspicious of conservative/pro-police elements infiltrating and having influence. I don’t know about Oscar Grant plaza being the best and most strategic place to have an encampment. I have questions about what the demands are, about people’s ideas for an alternative to capitalism, about strategy.

But damn yo, this strike closed down the Port of Oakland (a MAJOR U.S port, $8.5mil in cargo/day) for a day. Despite media estimates, there were at LEAST 50,000 people. Our alliances, especially in the East Bay, have been strengthened through this process, not to mention the connections to global, anti-imperialist struggles that are also being made. And I think as organizers, it gave us a broader sense of the larger work we need to do, an amazing challenge to usher in a fresh mass base off of the momentum built from these actions. As an artist, I’ve been reinvigorated to focus, to not just write about the stuff I saw, but do so with a deeper perspective and humanity.

it’s town bizness / puttin them outta business
they took our homes from us, and put us out on benches
we settle for the crumbs, they keepin all the riches
a whole movement started just based on the percentage

the 99, the majority of us on the grind
a system meant to put the people down by design
they go and grab the money, and so we seize the time
it’s the beginning of the revolution redefined

organized or not, the people hear the call
we at the front of the big banks and city hall
hella pigs lined up tryin to build a wall
might get a couple of us, but can’t get us all

we got nothin to lose, that’s why we stayin here
we got the future of our kids to replace fear
whether you black, yellow, brown, or your straight or queer
it’s our story, the world premier!

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