SO REAL IT HURTS: Notes on Occupy Wall Street

by Guest Contributor Manissa McCleave Maharawal, originally published on her Facebook page

Occupy Wall Street

I first went down to Occupy Wall Street last Sunday, almost a week after it had started. I didn’t go down before because I, like many of my other brown friends, were wary of what we had heard or just intuited that it was mostly a young white male scene. When I asked friends about it they said different things: that it was really white, that it was all people they didn’t know, that they weren’t sure what was going on. But after hearing about the arrests and police brutality on Saturday and after hearing that thousands of people had turned up for their march I decided I needed to see this thing for myself.

So I went down for the first time on Sunday September 25th with my friend Sam. At first we couldn’t even find Occupy Wall Street. We biked over the Brooklyn Bridge around noon on Sunday, dodging the tourists and then the cars on Chambers Street. We ended up at Ground Zero and I felt the deep sense of sadness that that place now gives me: sadness over how, what is now in essence, just a construction site changed the world so much for the worse. A deep sense of sadness for all the tourists taking pictures around this construction site that is now a testament to capitalism, imperialism, torture, oppression but what is also a place where many people died ten years ago.

Sam and I get off our bikes and walk them. We are looking for Liberty Plaza. We are looking for somewhere less alienating. For a moment we feel lost. We walk past the department store Century 21 and laugh about how discount shopping combined with a major tourist site means that at any moment someone will stop short in front of us and we will we bang our bikes against our thighs. A killer combination, that of tourists, discount shopping and the World Trade Center.

The landscape is strange. I notice that. We are in the shadow of half built buildings. They glitter and twist into the sky. But they also seem so naked: rust colored steel poking its way out their tops, their sides, their guts spilling out for all to see.

We get to Liberty Plaza and at first it is almost unassuming. We didn’t entirely know what to do. We wandered around. We made posters and laid them on the ground (our posters read: “We are all Troy Davis” “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “Tired of Racism” “Tired of Capitalism”)

And I didn’t know anyone down there. Not one person. And there were a lot of young white kids. But there weren’t only young white kids. There were older people, there were mothers with kids, and there were a lot more people of color than I expected, something that made me relieved. We sat on the stairs and watched everyone mill around us. There was the normal protest feeling of people moving around in different directions, not sure what to do with themselves, but within this there was also order: a food table, a library, a busy media area. There was order and disorder and organization and confusion, I watched as a man carefully changed each piece of his clothing folding each piece he took off and folding his shirt, his socks, his pants and placing them carefully under a tarp. I used the bathroom at the McDonalds up Broadway and there were two booths of people from the protest carrying out meetings, eating food from Liberty Plaza, sipping water out of water bottles, their laptops out. They seemed obvious yet also just part of the normal financial district hustle and bustle.

But even though at first I didn’t know what to do while I was at Liberty Plaza I stayed there for a few hours. I was generally impressed and energized by what I saw: people seemed to be taking care of each other. There seemed to be a general feeling of solidarity, good ways of communicating with each other, less disorganization than I expected and everyone was very very friendly. The whole thing was bizarre yes, the confused tourists not knowing what was going on, the police officers lining the perimeter, the mixture of young white kids with dredlocks, anarchist punks, mainstream looking college kids, but also the awesome black women who was organizing the food station, the older man who walked around with his peace sign stopping and talking to everyone, a young black man named Chris from New Jersey who told me he had been there all week and he was tired but that he had come not knowing anyone, had made friends and now he didn’t want to leave.

And when I left, walking my bike back through the streets of the financial district, fighting the crowds of tourists and men in suits, I felt something pulling me back to that space. It was that it felt like a space of possibility, a space of radical imagination. And it was energizing to feel like such a space existed.

And so I started telling my friends to go down there and check it out. I started telling people that it was a pretty awesome thing, that just having a space to have these conversations mattered, that it was more diverse than I expected. And I went back.

On Wednesday night I attended my first General Assembly. Seeing 300 people using consensus method was powerful. Knowing that a lot of people there had never been part of a consensus process and were learning about it for the first time was powerful. We consens-ed on using the money that was being donated to the movement for bail for the people who had been arrested. I was impressed that such a large group made a financial decision in a relatively painless way.

After the General Assembly that night there was both a Talent Show (“this is what a talent show looks like!”) on one side of the Plaza and an anti-patriarchy working group meeting (which became the safer-spaces working group) on the other. (In some ways the juxtaposition of both these events happening at once feels emblematic of one of the splits going on down there: talent shows across the square from anti-patriarchy meetings, an announcement for a zombie party right after an announcement about the killing of Troy Davis followed by an announcement that someone had lost their phone. Maybe this is how movements need to maintain themselves, through a recognition that political change is also fundamentally about everyday life and that everyday life needs to encompass all of this: there needs to be a space for a talent show, across from anti-patriarchy meetings, there needs to be a food table and medics, a library, everyone needs to stop for a second and look around for someone’s phone. That within this we will keep centrally talking about Troy Davis and how everyone is affected by a broken, racist, oppressive system. Maybe, maybe this is the way? )

I went to the anti-patriarchy meeting because even though I was impressed by the General Assembly and its process I also noticed that it was mostly white men who were in charge of the committees and making announcements and that I had only seen one women of color get up in front of everyone and talk. A lot was said at the anti-patriarchy meeting about in what ways the space of the occupation was a safe space and also not. Women talked about not feeling comfortable in the drum circle because of men dancing up on them and how to change this, about how to feel safe sleeping out in the open with a lot of men that they didn’t know, about not-assuming gender pronouns and asking people which pronouns they would prefer.

Here is the thing though: I’ve had these conversations before, I’m sure a lot of us in activist spaces have had these conversations before, the ones that we need to keep having about how to make sure everyone feels comfortable, how to not assume gender pronouns and gender roles. But there were plenty of people in this meeting who didn’t know what we were doing when we went around and asked for people’s names and preferred gender pronoun. A lot of people who looked taken aback by this. Who stumbled through it, but also who looked interested when we explained what we were doing. Who listened to the discussion and then joined the conversation about what to do to make sure that Occupy Wall Street felt like a space safe for everyone. Who said that they had similar experiences and were glad that we were talking about it.

This is important because I think this is what Occupy Wall Street is right now: less of a movement and more of a space. It is a space in which people who feel a similar frustration with the world as it is and as it has been, are coming together and thinking about ways to recreate this world. For some people this is the first time they have thought about how the world needs to be recreated. But some of us have been thinking about this for a while now. Does this mean that those of us who have been thinking about it for a while now should discredit this movement? No. It just means that there is a lot of learning going on down there and that there is a lot of teaching to be done.

On Thursday night I showed up at Occupy Wall Street with a bunch of other South Asians coming from a South Asians for Justice meeting. Sonny joked that he should have brought his dhol so we could enter like it was a baarat. When we got there they were passing around and reading a sheet of paper that had the Declaration of the Occupation of Wall Street on it. I had heard the “Declaration of the Occupation” read at the General Assembly the night before but I didn’t realize that it was going to be finalized as THE declaration of the movement right then and there. When I heard it the night before with Sonny we had looked at each other and noted that the line about “being one race, the human race, formally divided by race, class…” was a weird line, one that hit me in the stomach with its naivety and the way it made me feel alienated. But Sonny and I had shrugged it off as the ramblings of one of the many working groups at Occupy Wall Street.

But now we were realizing that this was actually a really important document and that it was going to be sent into the world and read by thousands of people. And that if we let it go into the world written the way it was then it would mean that people like me would shrug this movement off, it would stop people like me and my friends and my community from joining this movement, one that I already felt a part of. So this was urgent. This movement was about to send a document into the world about who and what it was that included a line that erased all power relations and decades of history of oppression. A line that would de-legitimize the movement, this would alienate me and people like me, this would not be able to be something I could get behind. And I was already behind it this movement and somehow I didn’t want to walk away from this. I couldn’t walk away from this.

And that night I was with people who also couldn’t walk away. Our amazing, impromptu, radical South Asian contingency, a contingency which stood out in that crowd for sure, did not back down. We did not back down when we were told the first time that Hena spoke that our concerns could be emailed and didn’t need to be dealt with then, we didn’t back down when we were told that again a second time and we didn’t back down when we were told that to “block” the declaration from going forward was a serious serious thing to do. When we threatened that this might mean leaving the movement, being willing to walk away. I knew it was a serious action to take, we all knew it was a serious action to take, and that is why we did it.

I have never blocked something before actually. And the only reason I was able to do so was because there were 5 of us standing there and because Hena had already put herself out there and started shouting “mic check” until they paid attention. And the only reason that I could in that moment was because I felt so urgently that this was something that needed to be said. There is something intense about speaking in front of hundreds of people, but there is something even more intense about speaking in front of hundreds of people with whom you feel aligned and you are saying something that they do not want to hear. And then it is even more intense when that crowd is repeating everything you say– which is the way the General Assemblies or any announcements at Occupy Wall Street work. But hearing yourself in an echo chamber means that you make sure your words mean something because they are being said back to you as you say them.

And so when we finally got everyone’s attention I carefully said what we felt was the problem: that we wanted a small change in language but that this change represented a larger ethical concern of ours. That to erase a history of oppression in this document was not something that we would be able to let happen. That we knew they had been working on this document for a week, that we appreciated the process and that it was in respect to this process that we wouldn’t be silenced. That we demanded a change in the language. And they accepted our change and we withdrew our block as long as the document was published with our change and they said “find us after and we will go through it” and then it was over and everyone was looking somewhere else. I stepped down from the ledge I was standing on and Sonny looked me in the eye and said “you did good” and I’ve never needed to hear that so much as then.

Which is how after the meeting ended we ended up finding the man who had written the document and telling him that he needed to take out the part about us all being “one race, the human race.” But its “scientifically true” he told us. He thought that maybe we were advocating for there being different races? No we needed to tell him about privilege and racism and oppression and how these things still existed, both in the world and someplace like Occupy Wall Street.

Let me tell you what it feels like to stand in front of a white man and explain privilege to him. It hurts. It makes you tired. Sometimes it makes you want to cry. Sometimes it is exhilarating. Every single time it is hard. Every single time I get angry that I have to do this, that this is my job, that this shouldn’t be my job. Every single time I am proud of myself that I’ve been able to say these things because I used to not be able to and because some days I just don’t want to.

This all has been said by many many strong women of color before me but every time, every single time these levels of power are confronted it I think it needs to be written about, talked about, gone through over and over again.

And this is the thing: that there in that circle, on that street-corner we did a crash course on racism, white privilege, structural racism, oppression. We did a course on history and the declaration of independence and colonialism and slavery. It was hard. It was real. It hurt. But people listened. We had to fight for it. I’m going to say that again: we had to fight for it. But it felt worth it. It felt worth it to sit down on the on a street corner in the Financial District at 11:30 pm on a Thursday night, after working all day long and argue for the changing of the first line of Occupy Wall Street’s official Declaration of the Occupation of New York City. It felt worth it not only because we got the line changed but also because while standing in a circle of 20, mostly white men, and explaining racism in front of them: carefully and slowly spelling out that I as a women of color experience the world way differently than the author of the Declaration, a white man, that this was not about him being personally racist but about relations of power, that he needed to, he urgently needed to listen and believe me about this, this moment felt like a victory for the movement on its own.

And this is the other thing. It was hard, and it was fucked up that we had to fight for it in the way we did but we did fight for it and we won. The line was changed, they listened, we sat down and re-wrote it and it has been published with our re-write. And when we walked away, I felt like something important had just happened, that we had just pushed a movement a little bit closer to the movement I would like to see– one that takes into account historical and current inequalities, oppressions, racisms, relations of power, one that doesn’t just recreate liberal white privilege but confronts it head on. And if I have to fight to make that happen I will. As long as my people are there standing next to me while I do that.

Later that night I biked home over the Brooklyn Bridge and I somehow felt like the world was, just maybe, at least in that moment, mine, as well as everyone dear to me and everyone who needed and wanted more from the world. I somehow felt like maybe the world could be all of ours.

Much love (and rage)

Manissa

Are you participating in Occupy Wall Street? Send your stories to team@racialicious.com if you would like to see them published here.

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  • steve

    Perhaps, to some, this may seem trivial and meaningless, but my friend and I want to know: Is the Occupy Wall Street Movement, in fact, mostly white people; mostly white from bottom to top; mostly white from demonstrator to leadership?

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  • jonathan

    just thanks! i wish something like this would have happend in frankfurt/germany…

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  • Anonymous

    thank you. this is how it happens. 

  • heather

    Thank you.

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  • Pelican

    Yes something VERY IMPORTANT happened. I am so grateful that you and your friends were willing to hang in there, and that you were heard and changes were made. I’m another white woman who has been trying to get the same kinds of messages across to my white people wherever I can, and yes it is frustrating.  But how are we gonna get the changes we want, unless we keep on keeping on?  And encourage and support each other in doing it.

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  • Alex

    Er, sorry, geeky English
    major rant ahoy: This reminded me of the last line to the (at least
    partially bullshit) appendix to The Sound and the Fury: “They Endured.”
    The line is about Dilsey, the black, pseudo-slave and matriarch of the
    defunct Compson family. The line is obviously a testament to her
    strength, that she, unlike the rest of the Compsons (who would all be
    dead or disgraced within a generation) survived, endured the madness
    that inhabits Benji and eventually consumes Quinten, that she was the
    strongest by far. But there was a dark side to that too, they endured,
    they all endured, the family tableau repeated itself, the societal
    structure of Mississippi in the 1910s and 20s, which had endured a war
    that attempted to tear it apart, the racism and the “pseudo-slavery.”
    That endured too. That terrible juxtaposition that as long as there were
    those that endured, so was there something they had to endure. This is
    not meant as a veiled criticism of those that did not rise up against
    their white “masters,” just a thought that has gotten rambley and out of
    hand. And I guess (if I attempt to superimpose meaning to my ramblings)
    an indictment that 100 years on, 150 from the Civil War, there are
    still those that endure. And that 100 years is a long time. Ideally.

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  • Claire

    Really great to hear this, it give me a lot more confidence in OWS to know that folks like you are involved in counteracting some of the crusty white dude-ness. The movement’s so lucky to have folks who have the patience to keep teaching and fighting and hurting. 

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  • http://twitter.com/xaqrox Xaq Rothman

    Beautiful, beautiful. Rock on.

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  • rh

    I cried. 

  • rh

    I cried. 

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  • some white guy

    I am having trouble emphathizing with your strong emotions regarding the task you had to undertake, however I am in complete agreement with the actions you took. The lines you deleted were platitudes,unscientific, and ill considered. I understand your objections and agree completely.  The fact that I can’t even begin to relate to the  stress you felt is in of itself evidence that we are all very different people with very different perceptions of reality based on our our cultures and experiences and perhaps genetics. We all feel pain, but we are not the same.

    • Restructure!

      Does Racialicious still moderate comments? WTF?

  • http://carolaplante.wordpress.com/ Caroline

    I would like to ask you something. I’m a french speaking woman. Would you mind if I translate your text. I’m also a feminist activist. So I would like to translate the original article from Manissa and share it with my feminist circle and my Diasporia friends. This article is very powerful! (And I’m not a translater)

  • Starsmith13

    Thank you ever so much speaking up for us. IT is a good thing you were there at the right time.

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  • V.

    B. – I’m a straight white woman from a middle class background, I have the ability and qualifications to be upwardly mobile and part of the privileged class, but I choose not to engage my talents and abilities that way because I am disgusted by the 1%, and I don’t want anything to do with them.  I didn’t have to deal with any bullshit racism (sexism is another thing) growing up.  I know exactly how lucky I am, how privileged I am, I know exactly what opportunities I’ve had that have been given to me solely based on where I grew up and what color I am, and I know that I’ve never had to really struggle.  

    I’m someone who recognizes class advantages and institutional racism, and I don’t need things broken down for me the way Manissa had to with the white guy at OWS.  So I read things like what you just wrote and I feel like my perspective is not wanted.  Yes, there are class differences in the 99%.  But it’s not a myth.  1% of the country owns the same amount of capital as the bottom 90%.  We are ALL getting screwed.  

    I can sympathize (but not empathize) with what you’ve gone through, but can you turn it around and do the same for me?  When I identify myself as a straight white middle class woman, I become defined by those characteristics and not by what I know or what I do.  And when you identify yourself as a mix-raced queer Jewish white woman, you do the same to yourself.  When you call the 99% a myth, you emphasize the differences between us rather than the commonalities.  There has to be a better way to talk about race, gender, religion and sexuality with people of common cause than to say that the common cause doesn’t exist because of *this* class difference, or *that* racial injustice.

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  • Mollie

    fantastic post! i was at the same GA and in the Safer Space committee. the bit about changing the Declaration… fucking inspirational. badass. =)

  • Lbazul1414

    Thank you for this great post. It is a struggle for us as white folks to call each other out, never the less it is heartbreaking that you  or any target of oppression must teach in a moment that has such potential to imagine difference not as fear, but as love. again thxs for this piece, Tee

    • Teaching Works

      I don’t understand why it’s heartbreaking that a person—any person—must teach. Teaching is magnificent. This whole post could just as easily be a celebration of the “teachable moment.” Manissa taught and people learned. People changed! Manissa taught and people opened their minds and said yes! Why is that heartbreaking? That is spectacular!! Could Manisa have tried and gotten the same result in a corporate staff meeting or any other non-Occupy setting? Maybe. Maybe not. But, Manissa did get that fantastic result at Occupy, which is proof that Occupy is working. I hope it’s also proof that more people need to be out teaching—not beacuse it is heartbreaking—but because it is needed and it works.

    • Teaching Works

      I don’t understand why it’s heartbreaking that a person—any person—must teach. Teaching is magnificent. This whole post could just as easily be a celebration of the “teachable moment.” Manissa taught and people learned. People changed! Manissa taught and people opened their minds and said yes! Why is that heartbreaking? That is spectacular!! Could Manisa have tried and gotten the same result in a corporate staff meeting or any other non-Occupy setting? Maybe. Maybe not. But, Manissa did get that fantastic result at Occupy, which is proof that Occupy is working. I hope it’s also proof that more people need to be out teaching—not beacuse it is heartbreaking—but because it is needed and it works.

    • Teaching Works

      I don’t understand why it’s heartbreaking that a person—any person—must teach. Teaching is magnificent. This whole post could just as easily be a celebration of the “teachable moment.” Manissa taught and people learned. People changed! Manissa taught and people opened their minds and said yes! Why is that heartbreaking? That is spectacular!! Could Manisa have tried and gotten the same result in a corporate staff meeting or any other non-Occupy setting? Maybe. Maybe not. But, Manissa did get that fantastic result at Occupy, which is proof that Occupy is working. I hope it’s also proof that more people need to be out teaching—not beacuse it is heartbreaking—but because it is needed and it works.

    • Teaching Works

      I don’t understand why it’s heartbreaking that a person—any person—must teach. Teaching is magnificent. This whole post could just as easily be a celebration of the “teachable moment.” Manissa taught and people learned. People changed! Manissa taught and people opened their minds and said yes! Why is that heartbreaking? That is spectacular!! Could Manisa have tried and gotten the same result in a corporate staff meeting or any other non-Occupy setting? Maybe. Maybe not. But, Manissa did get that fantastic result at Occupy, which is proof that Occupy is working. I hope it’s also proof that more people need to be out teaching—not beacuse it is heartbreaking—but because it is needed and it works.

  • Yudamaan

    What an awesome testimony by Manissa… But let
    us not miss the point here. The courage of Manissa was buoyed by years of
    growing consciousness and by the space she was in: a space of boundless
    opportunity, provided by the open hearts and minds of hundreds of people
    gathered with the burning desire to recreate this world – the young and the
    naive, the old and the seasoned, the 99% – the Occupy Wall Street movement.

    And
    even though the person she talked to was male, and even though the person she
    talked to was white, and even though she was a female, and even though she was
    South Asian – he listened, and not only did he listen, this white male changed
    the declaration according to the suggestion of the Asian woman and the
    congregation said amen. It should tell us something about the moral fiber of
    the movement we are building. And Manissa is right: it is less of a movement
    and more of a Space to Become a Movement. And a moment like the one Manissa
    described in a most magnificent way, is a moment of truth, a moment in which a
    movement is forming its character. Thank You Manissa, and thank you ‘white
    male’ for TOGETHER building OUR movement. Whose movement? Our movement! Whose
    streets? Our street! Whose hearts? Our hearts!

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  • Anya D Night

    Thank you. I plan on attending Occupy SLC tomorrow night and as what I’d like to consider an *aware* white woman, I’ve had a lot of unspoken anxieties. I haven’t wanted to criticize something that hasn’t necessarily happened, but I also remain aware that race and gender in this infamously homogeneous state are a thorny topic that the majority is often dismissive about. As a university student I’ve experienced so many times where I went to liberal spaces or participated in classes where males felt entitled to a majority of speaking time and where gender and race were erased. Unfortunately, I have rarely if ever had the courage to say my piece in those spaces, but this gave me a little confidence. I hope that tomorrow night and in the coming days as SLC feels this movement, myself and others will have the strength to speak up if white men (the primary organizers, as far as I know) are dominating a space. 

  • Anonymous

    Dear Manissa,  First, thank you for posting such a personal, moving, and well-written essay and for letting us look inside your heart.  As a 63 year-old white guy who’s too fat, and too crippled to be useful at Liberty Plaza, but who wishes he was there, I’m sorry you had to fight for such an obvious inclusion into the statement.  From a purely scientific viewpoint, the fellow with whom you were arguing (who defended the ‘one race – human’ position) was wrong.  The concept of “race” as a scientifically valid classification, is highly debated.  What would be right, is to say we are all one species; Homo sapiens.  And, while it may be too early to say this with complete certainty (as much as anything in anthropology is ever ‘certain’), it is highly likely that we are all descendents of our ‘’African Eve’’ and are, in a real sense, brothers & sisters.  Unfortunately, those superficial differences which have evolved between stable human populations (and which have been held to be ‘racial’ differences) however significant they may, or may not be, have been given sufficient weight as to create the worst abuses mankind is capable of.  To deny they happened, or to omit them from our memory, is to pull wool over our own eyes.  I’m glad your position won the day.

  • Ramdust

    Thank you Manissa.  That was really interesting and engaging.  You’re a good writer and a brave person.  I’m sorry we white people are so dense about some things.  We need people like you to get in our face!

  • Ben

    As a white heteronormative man I appreciate you fighting against the echo chamber of our ignorance. It is an important aspect of this movement that will not exist without your assistance. These things, as you so clearly identify, are not observed without education. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/andrewkb andrewkb

    The part about explaining privilege to the man made me cry. Thank you Manissa.

  • Tony

    Right On.

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  • Yangshenmen

    You rock Manissa!  Blessings on you for your struggling. I have been wondering myself if the movement was all white dudes, and you describe sort of what it feels like. I am encouraged to speak up this Thursday here in Portland, OR when I get out there, so not another person of color has to say the hard things. I can say racism is still here, I can say that we much not let go of the past injustice just cause we want it to go away and by putting words on a page we can wave it all away.  I hope that you are getting some more support now that you have spoken out.  There has been much movement in the city level through the creation of the office of Equity, but we are not cured, not by any means.
    Again, blessings and courage for your journey!

  • robert wood

    I didn’t mean to ‘like’ this, and there doesn’t seem to be a way of undoing it.  I like Foucault’s work a lot, but I don’t see why you need him to get to the positions taken here.  If there is an influence, I’d suspect something more on the line of Audre Lorde, bell hooks, or any of the Black Feminist tradition.

  • Tracey

    A very powerful piece. Thank you for sharing. Keep fighting the good fight!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lasara.firefox.allen.mpnlp Lasara Allen

    Thank you. You are occupy wall street!

    It’s a heart-breakingly beautiful piece of absolutely brilliant writing. Thank you thank you thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lasara.firefox.allen.mpnlp Lasara Allen

    Thank you. You are occupy wall street!

    It’s a heart-breakingly beautiful piece of absolutely brilliant writing. Thank you thank you thank you.

  • Rasikananda

    Recognizing that we’re all spiritual beings having a human experience, or an animal experience or a bug experience or a fish experience or a plant experience or a bacteria experience is the basis for actual equality.

    Materially speaking there are always differences and those will always be obstacles to finding equality, because we’re not all the same size, shade, sex or mindset, but we are all fully spiritual persons who have the need to love and be loved.

    Until that is recognized and upheld, inequality and abuse and exploitation and ignorance will continue to have it’s effect.

  • lenorebeadsman

    Was it “formerly divided” or “formally divided?” If the former, I completely agree with what you’re saying; if the latter, I’m not even clear as to what the original draft was trying to get at.

  • Lorenzo Komboa Ervin

    I went to the 2nd GA of Occupy Memphis last night, with intention of joining the movement. What I was confronted with as 60 white people, and no peoples of color other than ourselves, two old school Black Panthers.  The city of Memphis is 65% Black, We were not liking this at all, but did not feel that we had any voice to protest this at the event. We came home prepared a statement, and blasted them on the Facebook page of Occupy Memphis. Predictably, the reverted to defensiveness, evasion, and then hostility. So we said our goodbyes, and let as many activists online as we could know of our encounter. What is clear is that this movement has a problem with internal racism, what is equally clear is that this movement needs POC caucuses to fight for their rights, against internal racism, and to link of communities of color and its activists into this movement.  This article by Manissa clearly points this out. Until these caucuses are built, and POC activists can move inside Occupy Wall Street and its solidarity movements from a position of organized strength, they will be forever be marginalized.  If you think that you could get changes with 5 comrades of color, what could happen with 500 or 1,000 in a national structure?

    • Vjsother

      I’m wondering about how people get involved with groups like this. Was anyone invited or did they just go? If few are invited, the majority going like just about everyone I’ve read about, then who is responsible for the composition? If you went and didn’t see your ethnic/racial reflection and you wanted to how do you address that?
      If the cause is right why not make a presence rather than going home and complaining? Go home and bring your friends, let YOUR voices be heard just as she did. If you choose to not be there by leaving it is on you that your voice isn’t heard. I’ve seen this over and over. If you KNOW there is a problem and you don’t confront it, it isn’t going to be addressed. If you are waiting for the other guy to address your concern it isn’t going to happen. The other guy has is reasons that may not be yours. Why should someone else speak for you? You have a voice and it is up to you to come to the party and not sit home feeling sad that you didn’t get a special invitation. I can suggest others go but you know what, that is up to them too. If they go it is on them. I don’t ask others to go with me because they might not want to stay or I might not want to stay. I suggest others go and it is up to them, no engraved invitation. We each choose our presence and our voice.

      • Spirit

        Would you attend a hostile environment?  Would you try to be part of a movement that reacts with anger when you suggest that they be inviting to people like yourself?  “If you don’t like it, change it” is not good enough.  It’s not up to POC to convince white people to stop alienating them while also claiming to represent them.  And yes, if a city is mostly POC, but their Occupy movement is mostly white, there is clearly a disconnect happening that the organizers need to address. 

  • addycarp

    wow, just thank you so much for your generosity and courage and for the telling also.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nasira-Miller/100001108875299 Nasira Miller

    This is one of the most important pieces of writing I’ve read. I feel like I could have written this. I was so peeved at what I thought was the spoiled children of the wealthy elite co-opting the economic disaster in some sort of temper tantrum.  Then I came out to City Hall and saw for myself…. Thanks for this, Manissa.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marshall-Getto/683093668 Marshall Getto

    Amazing article. Linked into our OccupySB.org group! We stand united with you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marshall-Getto/683093668 Marshall Getto

    Amazing article. Linked into our OccupySB.org group! We stand united with you.

  • Steve

    Uh oh… as I’m reading this… I’m slowly having my faith in humanity restored! You really deserve credit not just for standing your ground, but for actually believing in people. I would have seen that circle of privilege and said, “Heck no, I’ve had my fill of alienation for one day!” instead of trying to explain what was up.

  • Steve

    Uh oh… as I’m reading this… I’m slowly having my faith in humanity restored! You really deserve credit not just for standing your ground, but for actually believing in people. I would have seen that circle of privilege and said, “Heck no, I’ve had my fill of alienation for one day!” instead of trying to explain what was up.

  • Radical WoC

    Michel Foucault “borrowed generously” from black panther philosophy ….

  • guest

    Thank you so much for this. 

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  • Fatima Arain

    thank you thank you thank you.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501674711 Deborah Gambs

    i thank you for being willing to work so hard. 

  • Anonymous

    Thank you!! No one said movement building would be easy. And sadly, while it shouldn’t be the oppressed’s job to educate the oppressor, it nevertheless is the task placed before us on our path of growth in times like these. I appreciate some conscious brown folk being there to represent.

  • Anonymous

    Curious bystander here: can someone explain the goals of the Occupy movements? Thanks.

  • dissent[h]er

    Dear Maybe it will be different this time,

    It WILL NOT be different until indigenous women from the
    most marginalized and environmentally devastated communities are the organizers.

    • Ontological

      I hear you. I wrote that before I had been down to my local “occupation”. I might be a little less hopeful now. I’ll leave it at that.

  • Anonymous

    Many of us have been warily watching as events unfold on Wall Street. I really want to be able to continue supporting it, but I refuse to be an enabler of those who would ignore our concerns and treat them as if they are a side issue. It feels good to know that we have someone down there holding their feet to the fire, so that they don’t inadvertently make it impossible for people like us to support their movement.

    • Share Yourself

      How about instead of “warily watching” you go down and actively teach? Racism and privilege are not things that every person upset with this country’s government understands. It is possible to be upset about the financial crisis and yet not have ever had a discussion about privilege. What folks who know about privilege have here is the opportunity to enlighten a sympathetic captive audience. There are myriad issues in this world that matter to me but most people around me don’t know about them, understand them, or have any sense that they should know about them. I am constantly teaching folks about the things I think are important. Every encounter I have with a new person is an opportunity to talk about something they may have never heard about whether that’s privilege, feminism, animal rights, biodiesel, solar panels, community activism, veganism, the reasons for the outrage represented by the occupy movements, or a number of other issues. I am grateful for every opportunity because each time, I get to plant a seed. Sometime after I’ve had my way with a person’s mind that seed sprouts and they discuss my issue with someone else or they seek more information. I don’t resent having to educate folks because I don’t expect everyone to know what I know and have the same opinions and/or experiences I’ve had. The beauty of this thing happening now is that folks who are willing to think outside the mainstream are gathering in a square with a willingness to have their minds stretched and opened. There is time to talk and discuss and hear each other and find common ground. Most people I talk to about something new and uncomfortable are able to get away pretty quickly. Folks are sitting all day and night at Occupy actions all over the country. Anyone with knowledge to share, or an issue to advance, has a large, captive audience, that is for the most part, friendlier than the general public. Don’t go “down there to hold “their” feet to the fire, so that “they” don’t inadvertently make it impossible for people like [you] to support “their” movement.” There is no them, they, or their. This is your movement. Do with it what you should. Embrace it for the opportunity it is and go educate people—teach them what you know. Occupy is not an organization with  a history and a board and mission statement. Occupy is people. Any and all people that will go down there and contribute are Occupy. Don’t make the mistake of missing out on an extraordinary opportunity to stand up for what you know to be right. I don’t love everything going on at my local Occupy, but I know it won’t change if I’m not there to contribute a different perspective and voice. But I’m fully aware that is my responsibility not a painful chore I resent and am hurt by because I’ve had to do it before. Until it’s all fixed, we all need to work at enlightening each other. Understanding and compromise are the conduits of healing.

    • Share Yourself

      How about instead of “warily watching” you go down and actively teach? Racism and privilege are not things that every person upset with this country’s government understands. It is possible to be upset about the financial crisis and yet not have ever had a discussion about privilege. What folks who know about privilege have here is the opportunity to enlighten a sympathetic captive audience. There are myriad issues in this world that matter to me but most people around me don’t know about them, understand them, or have any sense that they should know about them. I am constantly teaching folks about the things I think are important. Every encounter I have with a new person is an opportunity to talk about something they may have never heard about whether that’s privilege, feminism, animal rights, biodiesel, solar panels, community activism, veganism, the reasons for the outrage represented by the occupy movements, or a number of other issues. I am grateful for every opportunity because each time, I get to plant a seed. Sometime after I’ve had my way with a person’s mind that seed sprouts and they discuss my issue with someone else or they seek more information. I don’t resent having to educate folks because I don’t expect everyone to know what I know and have the same opinions and/or experiences I’ve had. The beauty of this thing happening now is that folks who are willing to think outside the mainstream are gathering in a square with a willingness to have their minds stretched and opened. There is time to talk and discuss and hear each other and find common ground. Most people I talk to about something new and uncomfortable are able to get away pretty quickly. Folks are sitting all day and night at Occupy actions all over the country. Anyone with knowledge to share, or an issue to advance, has a large, captive audience, that is for the most part, friendlier than the general public. Don’t go “down there to hold “their” feet to the fire, so that “they” don’t inadvertently make it impossible for people like [you] to support “their” movement.” There is no them, they, or their. This is your movement. Do with it what you should. Embrace it for the opportunity it is and go educate people—teach them what you know. Occupy is not an organization with  a history and a board and mission statement. Occupy is people. Any and all people that will go down there and contribute are Occupy. Don’t make the mistake of missing out on an extraordinary opportunity to stand up for what you know to be right. I don’t love everything going on at my local Occupy, but I know it won’t change if I’m not there to contribute a different perspective and voice. But I’m fully aware that is my responsibility not a painful chore I resent and am hurt by because I’ve had to do it before. Until it’s all fixed, we all need to work at enlightening each other. Understanding and compromise are the conduits of healing.

    • Share Yourself

      How about instead of “warily watching” you go down and actively teach? Racism and privilege are not things that every person upset with this country’s government understands. It is possible to be upset about the financial crisis and yet not have ever had a discussion about privilege. What folks who know about privilege have here is the opportunity to enlighten a sympathetic captive audience. There are myriad issues in this world that matter to me but most people around me don’t know about them, understand them, or have any sense that they should know about them. I am constantly teaching folks about the things I think are important. Every encounter I have with a new person is an opportunity to talk about something they may have never heard about whether that’s privilege, feminism, animal rights, biodiesel, solar panels, community activism, veganism, the reasons for the outrage represented by the occupy movements, or a number of other issues. I am grateful for every opportunity because each time, I get to plant a seed. Sometime after I’ve had my way with a person’s mind that seed sprouts and they discuss my issue with someone else or they seek more information. I don’t resent having to educate folks because I don’t expect everyone to know what I know and have the same opinions and/or experiences I’ve had. The beauty of this thing happening now is that folks who are willing to think outside the mainstream are gathering in a square with a willingness to have their minds stretched and opened. There is time to talk and discuss and hear each other and find common ground. Most people I talk to about something new and uncomfortable are able to get away pretty quickly. Folks are sitting all day and night at Occupy actions all over the country. Anyone with knowledge to share, or an issue to advance, has a large, captive audience, that is for the most part, friendlier than the general public. Don’t go “down there to hold “their” feet to the fire, so that “they” don’t inadvertently make it impossible for people like [you] to support “their” movement.” There is no them, they, or their. This is your movement. Do with it what you should. Embrace it for the opportunity it is and go educate people—teach them what you know. Occupy is not an organization with  a history and a board and mission statement. Occupy is people. Any and all people that will go down there and contribute are Occupy. Don’t make the mistake of missing out on an extraordinary opportunity to stand up for what you know to be right. I don’t love everything going on at my local Occupy, but I know it won’t change if I’m not there to contribute a different perspective and voice. But I’m fully aware that is my responsibility not a painful chore I resent and am hurt by because I’ve had to do it before. Until it’s all fixed, we all need to work at enlightening each other. Understanding and compromise are the conduits of healing.

    • Share Yourself

      How about instead of “warily watching” you go down and actively teach? Racism and privilege are not things that every person upset with this country’s government understands. It is possible to be upset about the financial crisis and yet not have ever had a discussion about privilege. What folks who know about privilege have here is the opportunity to enlighten a sympathetic captive audience. There are myriad issues in this world that matter to me but most people around me don’t know about them, understand them, or have any sense that they should know about them. I am constantly teaching folks about the things I think are important. Every encounter I have with a new person is an opportunity to talk about something they may have never heard about whether that’s privilege, feminism, animal rights, biodiesel, solar panels, community activism, veganism, the reasons for the outrage represented by the occupy movements, or a number of other issues. I am grateful for every opportunity because each time, I get to plant a seed. Sometime after I’ve had my way with a person’s mind that seed sprouts and they discuss my issue with someone else or they seek more information. I don’t resent having to educate folks because I don’t expect everyone to know what I know and have the same opinions and/or experiences I’ve had. The beauty of this thing happening now is that folks who are willing to think outside the mainstream are gathering in a square with a willingness to have their minds stretched and opened. There is time to talk and discuss and hear each other and find common ground. Most people I talk to about something new and uncomfortable are able to get away pretty quickly. Folks are sitting all day and night at Occupy actions all over the country. Anyone with knowledge to share, or an issue to advance, has a large, captive audience, that is for the most part, friendlier than the general public. Don’t go “down there to hold “their” feet to the fire, so that “they” don’t inadvertently make it impossible for people like [you] to support “their” movement.” There is no them, they, or their. This is your movement. Do with it what you should. Embrace it for the opportunity it is and go educate people—teach them what you know. Occupy is not an organization with  a history and a board and mission statement. Occupy is people. Any and all people that will go down there and contribute are Occupy. Don’t make the mistake of missing out on an extraordinary opportunity to stand up for what you know to be right. I don’t love everything going on at my local Occupy, but I know it won’t change if I’m not there to contribute a different perspective and voice. But I’m fully aware that is my responsibility not a painful chore I resent and am hurt by because I’ve had to do it before. Until it’s all fixed, we all need to work at enlightening each other. Understanding and compromise are the conduits of healing.

  • Anonymous

    If that’s what you got from her statement, then you really need to reread the article, because it’s apparent that you missed the entire point of what she said. Asking her to break this down for you is extremely privileged behavior. You’re asking her to do the work that you need to do yourself. You are doing exactly the same thing that she just finished saying she shouldn’t have had to do for the other white people who asked her essentially the same thing. Good grief!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=672547889 Andre Seward

    awesome story! thanks! i hope you understand how much affect this wording will have on those who receive this message and use it to further the movement. you are amazing! thank you! power to the people

  • linda

    thank you, your strength and vision is beautiful!

  • AR

    beautiful, just beautiful

  • AR

    beautiful, just beautiful

  • AR

    beautiful, just beautiful

  • AR

    beautiful, just beautiful

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=767890051 Sonia Davida Pina Rosenzweig

    I’d like to thank the you posting this and most importantly the author for writing it. I’ve been sitting with the same thoughts from the beginning but also feeling extremely attached to the movement. I’m extremely proud to hear of women of color standing up for their beliefs, especially one that could affect so many people. I thank you for your strength, and for your words.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=767890051 Sonia Davida Pina Rosenzweig

    I’d like to thank the you posting this and most importantly the author for writing it. I’ve been sitting with the same thoughts from the beginning but also feeling extremely attached to the movement. I’m extremely proud to hear of women of color standing up for their beliefs, especially one that could affect so many people. I thank you for your strength, and for your words.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=767890051 Sonia Davida Pina Rosenzweig

    I’d like to thank the you posting this and most importantly the author for writing it. I’ve been sitting with the same thoughts from the beginning but also feeling extremely attached to the movement. I’m extremely proud to hear of women of color standing up for their beliefs, especially one that could affect so many people. I thank you for your strength, and for your words.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=767890051 Sonia Davida Pina Rosenzweig

    I’d like to thank the you posting this and most importantly the author for writing it. I’ve been sitting with the same thoughts from the beginning but also feeling extremely attached to the movement. I’m extremely proud to hear of women of color standing up for their beliefs, especially one that could affect so many people. I thank you for your strength, and for your words.

  • A Maceacheron

    I don’t understand the purpose of this protest. So we want occupy wall street, tear down Capitalism and replace it with what exactly?? Communism failed and doesnt work, Facism isnt making a comeback any time soon, so what other options do we have? Capitalism has its flaws but in reality its the best system because put simply it is the fairest. The fairest in the sence that anyone has the opportunity to succeed, its just a matter of the will to do so. Sometimes I feel like people are protesting simply for the sake of protesting, even though there truly is no rational grounds for doing so.

  • A Maceacheron

    I don’t understand the purpose of this protest. So we want occupy wall street, tear down Capitalism and replace it with what exactly?? Communism failed and doesnt work, Facism isnt making a comeback any time soon, so what other options do we have? Capitalism has its flaws but in reality its the best system because put simply it is the fairest. The fairest in the sence that anyone has the opportunity to succeed, its just a matter of the will to do so. Sometimes I feel like people are protesting simply for the sake of protesting, even though there truly is no rational grounds for doing so.

  • A Maceacheron

    I don’t understand the purpose of this protest. So we want occupy wall street, tear down Capitalism and replace it with what exactly?? Communism failed and doesnt work, Facism isnt making a comeback any time soon, so what other options do we have? Capitalism has its flaws but in reality its the best system because put simply it is the fairest. The fairest in the sence that anyone has the opportunity to succeed, its just a matter of the will to do so. Sometimes I feel like people are protesting simply for the sake of protesting, even though there truly is no rational grounds for doing so.

  • A Maceacheron

    I don’t understand the purpose of this protest. So we want occupy wall street, tear down Capitalism and replace it with what exactly?? Communism failed and doesnt work, Facism isnt making a comeback any time soon, so what other options do we have? Capitalism has its flaws but in reality its the best system because put simply it is the fairest. The fairest in the sence that anyone has the opportunity to succeed, its just a matter of the will to do so. Sometimes I feel like people are protesting simply for the sake of protesting, even though there truly is no rational grounds for doing so.

  • A Maceacheron

    I don’t understand the purpose of this protest. So we want occupy wall street, tear down Capitalism and replace it with what exactly?? Communism failed and doesnt work, Facism isnt making a comeback any time soon, so what other options do we have? Capitalism has its flaws but in reality its the best system because put simply it is the fairest. The fairest in the sence that anyone has the opportunity to succeed, its just a matter of the will to do so. Sometimes I feel like people are protesting simply for the sake of protesting, even though there truly is no rational grounds for doing so.

    • http://twitter.com/AndiRoberts Andi Roberts

      What is important is not having all the answers, but being in the question. The questions are being formed, the answer is change. That’s it. We want change.

    • Ada Wyz

      Well, when you stated: “Communism failed and doesnt work”, have you thought what you said? I just wonder if you are just repeat other people saying (or media saying), or you really have deeply thought about that sentence. To make such a big and bold statement should not be easy. In fact, capitalism only worked for a few hundred years. Perhaps, communism in some forms worked much longer.

  • Nichola Torbett

    Thank you so much, Manissa, for your gutsiness and for sharing your story. I will carry your words with me as I go to the initial organizing meeting for Occupy Oakland today.

  • Professor Paley

    I have been trying to articulate that exact moment… of explaining race – history – oppression in the same moment I am attempting to get relief and protection from the very same and having that request dismissed…  Thank you for healing my heart a little bit today…  I will be using your writing in class today… 

  • marg

    Thank you! As a queer white veteran activist woman (I’m now 63) I’ve had my share of fighting for gender/queer equality in the left. Now I’m a person living with an invisible disability, and a disability rights activist. Having to fight ableism hurts. You inspire me.

  • Aden

    thanks for this

  • Avalos

    Hi, I am a Latino born and raised in New York City and I would love if you and yours made yourself more visible downtown so that we can all show solidarity and maybe prevent you from ever having to be in such a horrible situation alone again.  

  • Lardo Liar

    “Interrogating” universalism as a way to perpetuate privilege is all Foucault

    • http://twitter.com/Andy_Bonar Andrew Bonar

      You are using Foucault to understand; not the other way around. 

    • toska

      I didn’t need to read Foucault to get this. 
      I learned from my life as a woc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/look.mother.no.hands Shayne O’Neill

    Yes lardo, indeed Mr Foucault was a white french male.  But to his credit, he was more about theorising the areas where privelege wasn’t working out in his favor, that being his queer identity. I’m not as read up on Foucault as others, but I dont think the man was presumptuous enough to just assume it was OK for himself to theorise ethnic identity (other than perhaps his own whiteness) in any great detail. It wasn’t his theoretical focus. Foucaults method of interrogating hetrosexual privelege as a historical and biopolitical phenomenon however has been a great template for other thinkers to start their own investigations into identity, discourse , privelege and power. Feminism has done a great job of adapting the mans ideas on sexuality , and others have taken his geneological method to explore the concept of race and identity within a historical framework of biopolitical identity.

    With all that said, I don’t really see anything other than a fairly common-sense exposition of the issues that people of color face in modern progressive movements. These are not  new observations. African American activists (for instance)  where articulating similar observations long before foucaults ascendancy. And , for that matter I’m not actually seeing any foucault in this anyway.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cindy-Bourgeois/560256861 Cindy Bourgeois

    Thanks so much. I wept.

  • http://twitter.com/queerboiii David Preciado

    i literally fell to tears when I read this. thank you so much for sharing your strength, rage and fears with us.

    get it fierceness !

  • http://profiles.google.com/robynherself Robyn Bray

    God bless you and strengthen you.  If it’s not for all of us, it’s going nowhere.

  • http://profiles.google.com/robynherself Robyn Bray

    God bless you and strengthen you.  If it’s not for all of us, it’s going nowhere.

  • inallsincerity

    Very powerful writing.  It meant alot to me personally, as a trans person. I too experience many of those feelings when I have to educate cis people or cis straight people. It’s good for me to read 1st person narratives of other people who are fighting similar battles in similar ways. Gives me strength to keep it up myself. 

  • inallsincerity

    Very powerful writing.  It meant alot to me personally, as a trans person. I too experience many of those feelings when I have to educate cis people or cis straight people. It’s good for me to read 1st person narratives of other people who are fighting similar battles in similar ways. Gives me strength to keep it up myself. 

  • BrandonS.

    So let me get this straight…racialicious is in full support of this whole Occupy wall street nonsence?

    They say it is a leader-less movement. BULLSHIT. It must have come from somebody. SOMEBODY must have started it. Im sorry but I wont support a movement that has no clear lead. If Im risking getting arrested by police without any protection…only some damn stranger calling me out and asking me my name whil they fit the cuffs on in front of dozens of people filming this and putting that shit on youtube. And zombies? What the hell is this, a WALKING DEAD event? Is the fuckin comic-con convention nearby? If there was a leader who had stated hisher true purpose and has a fundalmental vision and goal behind it, then maybe it would have been acceptible. I like the ideas behind it, but i will not, IN ANY WAY, contribute to this. Just a bunch of people with signs walking around in only for the feds to show up and havend decay into a dissary of MADNESS!!! I even feel sad for that drunk hobo who one day might see crowds of people walkingshambling around in all that fake-ass zombie makeup and lose his shit thinking that the zombie apocalypse is happening (and, in worse case scenario, grab some guns and go around killing people).   

    • Craig Blaylock

      Lol.

    • Drew

      My god, you’re right. We better call this this movement off before confused homeless people start shooting zombie protesters. Excellent point.

    • Drew

      My god, you’re right. We better call this this movement off before confused homeless people start shooting zombie protesters. Excellent point.

    • Drew

      My god, you’re right. We better call this this movement off before confused homeless people start shooting zombie protesters. Excellent point.

    • Drew

      My god, you’re right. We better call this this movement off before confused homeless people start shooting zombie protesters. Excellent point.

    • Drew

      My god, you’re right. We better call this this movement off before confused homeless people start shooting zombie protesters. Excellent point.

    • Gray

      the idea is that we can all be the leaders we want to have. its actually very empowering. A lot of groups came together to get this started, and then a lot of people joined and now our numbers are well into the thousands. no one single person did it, we are working collectively and trying to create a system other than the politics that we know today. Hence, this group of people are responsible, not one person.

      We have legal protection, the national lawyers guild. thats a lot of protection. as well as the thousands of people watching the livefeed.
      i think you might need to check out what is going on a little more closely. try the nycga.org

      • http://www.facebook.com/Al.Nava.Progressive.Leader Al Nava

        http://www.adbusters.org/ is the group that directly created & started “Occupy Wall Street”. Other groups, people, etcetera, joined afterwards.

    • Gray

      the idea is that we can all be the leaders we want to have. its actually very empowering. A lot of groups came together to get this started, and then a lot of people joined and now our numbers are well into the thousands. no one single person did it, we are working collectively and trying to create a system other than the politics that we know today. Hence, this group of people are responsible, not one person.

      We have legal protection, the national lawyers guild. thats a lot of protection. as well as the thousands of people watching the livefeed.
      i think you might need to check out what is going on a little more closely. try the nycga.org

    • Vjsother

      I hear you, you want a stated reason to be there, one shared by the group. This is not a hierarchical group. It is a bunch of groups, each with similar and shared values and some differing goals that have come together to push for change. This may not be your way. If you have always had a boss or been the boss it is hard to understand how things can run without one. They can. There are groups that come together to make decisions and, yes, there have to be the go-to people to handle immediate concerns. But those can be as open as be a volunteer and wear a yellow arm band. It’s OK if it isn’t yours but what this whole movement is saying is that people do want another way than what we have been doing. They are rejecting the business as usual model. They are saying our current system lacks any justice ethical, economic, or legal and the premiss that the bottom line is all that matters is unacceptable. Add yours to the list and see if you can become a leader by talking about what you believe with the friends waiting for you down there.

  • BrandonS.

    So let me get this straight…racialicious is in full support of this whole Occupy wall street nonsence?

    They say it is a leader-less movement. BULLSHIT. It must have come from somebody. SOMEBODY must have started it. Im sorry but I wont support a movement that has no clear lead. If Im risking getting arrested by police without any protection…only some damn stranger calling me out and asking me my name whil they fit the cuffs on in front of dozens of people filming this and putting that shit on youtube. And zombies? What the hell is this, a WALKING DEAD event? Is the fuckin comic-con convention nearby? If there was a leader who had stated hisher true purpose and has a fundalmental vision and goal behind it, then maybe it would have been acceptible. I like the ideas behind it, but i will not, IN ANY WAY, contribute to this. Just a bunch of people with signs walking around in only for the feds to show up and havend decay into a dissary of MADNESS!!! I even feel sad for that drunk hobo who one day might see crowds of people walkingshambling around in all that fake-ass zombie makeup and lose his shit thinking that the zombie apocalypse is happening (and, in worse case scenario, grab some guns and go around killing people).   

  • http://twitter.com/spsook Samuel Sukaton

    You didn’t do good. You did great. 

  • http://twitter.com/spsook Samuel Sukaton

    You didn’t do good. You did great. 

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for doing that.  We got issues here too.

  • Emeraldtablet360

    hello…i just have to say that i was part of, and mostly an observer to the circle being described in the above article that sat down on the pavement to edit the opening line, the only one who had any issue with changing the line (maybe because he was too ideal in his perspective on things by saying “we are one race, the human race”) was the writer of that paper, i am native ameerican and russian, so i guess i look white, another of the men there was from columbia, but perhaps also looked white, another from iran (he also looked white i guess) another (hugo i believe his name was, was from somewhere in south america), and Ted, the other guy there was actually white oh and there was another guy there, a psychology teacher who was white but mostly there to observe the conversation… but that said there were no other men there, so it is a small exageration to say that 20 white men were arguing against changing that first line,
    i was the one in the grey jacket with a beard who said it was not being said as scientific fact if you remember me…anyway I do appreciate your account and experiences there, but I think it is a little biased in saying that it is all white males there, another of the girls who walked up (not from your circle but who has been camped out there is middle eastern and totally understood where you were all coming from, anyway just wanted to get that off my chest since i was actually there and the circle was no bigger than twelve people tops, and when we all sat down it was certainly no more than 10…by the way there is actually footage of all of us while we gathered on Democracy Now’s website, it is from the September 20th

    • Anonymous

      it doesn’t really matter if there were 10, 12 or 20 men.  come the fuck on man.  You’re missing the point.  The very important point.  oppression is intersectional.  It’s not JUST about race. or JUST about gender or JUST about class.  Anyway, maybe you need to spend some more time in the anti-patriarchy working group and less time in the drum circle. 

    • Vjspinner

      When you have to gather courage to face down an idea the opposition tends to inflate in your mind to help you gather your forces. She didn’t count but she felt like there was this overwhelming force she had to face and celebrating that she could do it and that she was successful. Having the real facts doesn’t diminish or inflate her feat of bravery or the good that came from the men who listened and understood. You all did well and I hope grew a bit in the process.

  • maralena

    thanks, love.  as a white woman who just sat (at occupyboston) through hours of redirecting white men as they repeatedly interrupted others and jumped stack to express their view point, made public trans-phoebic remarks without realizing the impact of their comments and at the end of it all decided that a contingent of three cys-gendered white men would be the best voices to appear on public radio tomorrow to represent our movement, i came home rather full of the sentiment “fuck it all”.  yer story is a deep reminder to me to keep showing up, no matter how infuriating the work can be.

  • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

    Beautiful post and your action was inspirational Manissa. And your post shows how significant even a small change in the wording of an important document can be. It’s great to hear that the OWS movement so far is not static, that it’s open to change and to different perspectives from different people.  Keep up the great work you have my support as a fellow South Asian!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1623319575 Brandi Bennu

    Thank you.  That was so beautiful and so are you.  Sometimes, when we only have our own personal experiences to go on, it doesn’t even enter our minds… these important things that we’ve never experienced.  I am so glad they listened and were open to being educated and so glad you were willing to be the person to do it, and that obviously you did it in a way that they could remain open to you.  What a beautiful thing.  It’s not the rich and powerful that create the turning points in history.  It’s the people that nobody maybe noticed before… that they just decided to take a stand and speak up for themselves.  People like you. I am sending you much love, much strength and you can even have some of my rage if you get in a pinch and need some more.  <3

  • Vas

    This was absolutely beautiful and I shared with everyone I know. Thank you.

  • Megan Saltzman

    Thank you for this.  I´m sorry you felt so uncomfortable, but I admire your bravery. 

    I think it could be very difficult for someone in a dominating identity group to understand this.  We need more critical and historical teaching in the K-12 level to improve our social consciousness, empathy, and ability to get along with differences.

  • Guest

    This almost made me cry. Thank you for speaking up and making sure you were heard. As a fellow female brown organizer, I really related to this. I felt validated reading it, but more importantly, re-energized. Love and solidarity. 

  • Ontological

    Hell. Yes. Maybe it will be different this time.

    After the “radical spaces” I have been in (WTO protests in Seattle, Post-Katrina New Orleans, lotsa SF protests), and after all the difficult, sticking my foot in my mouth and also feeling confused because I’m mixed-race and “pass” (and thus have privilege) experiences I have had in those spaces….Well, I know the kind of service you just did for the movement.

    THANK YOU.

    All I can say is, maybe it will be different this time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/3xAmazing David Carlisle

    Inspirational!

  • Maureensi

    Thanks for writing such an  honest ( though painful) article that folks need to pay attention to.

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  • http://www.theahopkins.com Thea

    Manissa, thank you for sharing your experience. It is very difficult to have these conversations with well intentioned folks, who have had the luxury of being oblivious to these realities.  You are to be applauded!

    • passerby

      I’m still listening to Manissa. Trying to listen person-to-person as ‘just sayin’ advised. Listening to each person, and also listening to my own heart, voice.
      And as a white person I continue to have lots of questions that I don’t ask because the longer I listen the more I get it. And yes white skin privilege sticks with me everywhere every day. But I’m not oblivious.And I’m not well-intentioned.  I’m just another person trying to live my life as a sensitive and  contributing part of a community that I need just to get through one day to the next. I’m listening. I’m not going to tell you Manissa how I appreciate your reflective clarity and that you wrote here at all of your experience, even thought it’s true, because it sounds patronizing coming from my lips. But in myself I can feel that appreciation and stick around to see/hear what else I can ‘listen to’.

  • C1everish

    I read this and cried. You are so, so amazing, Manissa. Thank you so much for fighting; I cannot imagine how tired you were, but your strength is something I will set as my goal every day from now on.

  • chiara

    thanks. we all need to engage as if it mattered. then it will.

  • carlee

    it is soooooooo important for us to be engaged in this struggle. We need to be standing guard. Witnessing and being heard!!  Everyplace is our place. REPRESENT!!

  • Ariel

    Thank you for such an eloquent and powerful post about eloquent and powerful actions!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=853180633 Tammy Brooks

    Damn, what can I say as a white woman that is not going to sound patronizing and arrogant and uninformed? It sucks that you had to do that, although you clearly didn’t “have to” and could have just written the whole thing off and walked away. It sucks that it took so much drama and bullshit to get the respect that should have been there without asking. And it sucks that it will most likely happen again and again until we get this shit right. I am deeply humbled and grateful that you did what you did and brought the truth to light. Solidarity does not require the denial of the dynamics of privilege and oppression. 

    • http://twitter.com/joshonthestreet Joshua Busch

      Sometimes as white people it’s best if we don’t say anything — and just listen. 

    • http://twitter.com/joshonthestreet Joshua Busch

      Sometimes as white people it’s best if we don’t say anything — and just listen. 

      • just sayin

        I listen person-to-person. Never as a white person. Never as a black person. Stop it with the guilt, and stop it with the condescension. Just listen. 

    • http://twitter.com/joshonthestreet Joshua Busch

      Sometimes as white people it’s best if we don’t say anything — and just listen. 

    • http://twitter.com/joshonthestreet Joshua Busch

      Sometimes as white people it’s best if we don’t say anything — and just listen. 

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  • Grace

    Thank you to you and your friends. <3

  • imli

    how does the rewrite read, by chance?

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  • Africameleon

    Hell yeah, Manissa!!!

  • http://www.futurebird.com Susan Donovan

    Thank you so much for this. I may see you around the protests. 

  • Harper

    Thank you. Thank you so much. Hat’s off and down on one knee. I can’t express how much it means that you are fighting this battle where it counts, when it counts. It is fucked up that you had to. I am painfully grateful that you did.

  • Adi

    This was beautiful to read. Thank you for representing staying strong. 

    Racialicious – keep the Occupy Wall Street posts coming.