As you may know, Oakland is being hella Occupied. The Occupy movement is gaining momentum, as hundreds of people continue to occupy public spaces in major (and non-major) cities across the world.
I feel that as artists, we are at a precipice in regards to responding to this movement. I have mixed feelings. I am, by very large definition, a product of the 99%. I come from a single income home and my father is a private high school teacher. We are a family of seven kids, and my parents have always made supporting their children a high priority, especially in regards to education. I could go on and on about how amazing and hard-working my parents are. But basically, my background is devoid of silver spoons. I have worked several minimum wage/just above minimum wage jobs since graduating from college. Given all this indulgent biographical information, it’s hard for me to connect to idea of Occupying. I went down to the Occupy Oakland camp for the first time today. Because I’ve been too busy to go down there for the last month. I know I’m kind of a product of the system, but I’ve always just thought to work very, very hard to achieve my goals (which, shockingly, do not include making obscene amounts of money. If you would like to give me obscene amounts of money, please do! But that is nowhere near my list of goals as a human being.) and by working hard, they will be achieved. This will not always be what I believe, as I do not currently have a family or a home or exorbitant bills, etc. I understand there is unfairness. There are parts of this system that are designed so that people will fail.
I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t think the protesters know what to do about it. What I witnessed today at the camp was the societal wheel being reinvented. There were people reclaiming stolen property from fellow protesters. There was a public meeting that devolved into a screaming match when people didn’t get what they wanted (the meeting was a ‘discussion’ on whether or not to evict a fellow protester, a supporter of Mayor Jean Quan).
Not that it was all bad. And I think I came by at a lull in the day. There was a library. There was some amazing music. There were children dancing. There was a church service. There were some fascinating people. There was debate. There was organization. There was street art. I sat in Frank Ogawa Plaza reading the first scene of Waiting for Lefty by Clifford Odets. An already powerful play, the atmosphere of confused revolution made the subject even more arresting. Even as I type this, a police raid is rumored to be on the horizon. (The very short horizon. Be safe, Oakland.)
There are strides being taken by The Civilians in New York and The Triangle Lab here in Oakland. I want to take these further and start responding. Barry and I have both written a few pieces and so now we are in the process of putting them on their feet and taking it to the people.
THE CALL: We are looking for actors, performers, playwrights, musicians, artists, anyone who is having an artistic response to the Occupy movement (or if you just want to get together and read plays with Occupy-related themes). We are interested in different points of view. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or converse with us on Twitter!