Thursday, July 11, 2013

Independence Days, Summertime Blues, and Other Hot Summertime Exploits

Activist log some time in July in a hot summer.  Independence day means different things to different people.  With friends pouring in and out of town, and questions about the National Security Agency (NSA), police misconduct and summer camp on our minds, we approached Independence Day. 

Street Art Germany

The following is a short homage to summer, its stories and images, bike rides and garden actions, adventures with kids, and trips to summer camp.  In between summer time blues, the struggle for independence came in many forms. 

July 4th
My buddies and I joined the Times Up! and Occupy gangs at Union Square to celebrate a right to
freedom of assembly.  With plans to turn more and more of the park into a mall, the message that we need pubic space to meet and talk resonates as much as ever. The facebook invite for the ride was simple. 

In an era when our rights to public assembly are curtailed every day, take a minute on July 4th to remind yourself and the world... 

We'll make stops at POPS (privately owned public spaces) reciting the First Amendment, blasting The Clash and other radical songs of justice!

After making our way around the city, we'll re converge at Union Square. 

For more information, go to:

View past footage of the ride here:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We all chanted it.  But Larry came along and reminded me I was not buying anything.  Therefore I would need to jump up and down on one foot if I really wanted  to speak out.  And so I do.

Above this writer and Monica Hunken
LM Bogad forcing the writer to read the first while standing on one foot.
Photos by Erik McGregor. 

Mid jump, Monica jumped in to remind everyone that we did not need to let this happen.  We all have rights.  We have to know our rights here;  Use it or lose it.  We have to know our rights.  We have to voice our  right to the city, to fight back, to privacy, to storytelling, to not being killed by cars, to ride our bikes, to our commons, and our right to public assembly. 

The agit prop theater of the streets takes countless forms. 

Others in the crowd called out for us to recite the Fourth Amendment. 
 Times UP! danced to the Clash, we rode and joined the Restore the Fourth Rally.

Finishing the ride and the Restore the Fourth Rally, we all made our way out into the country for a pool and BBQ celebrations all afternoon.  Jumping in the pool and just being alive is one of my favorite parts of summer. 

July 6

By Saturday, we made our way back to the city for an Occupy Townsquare at Zucccotti and a movement workshop with my friend and collaborator Robby Herbst.

My friend and co collaborator Robby Herbst

At EFA Project Space, 323 West 39th St, 2nd Floor

This event is part of Empathy Corporation, a presentation of A Blade of Grass and EFA Project Space's project The Hive, a platform for socially engaged art practices, featuring projects that expand the boundaries of art by seeking new ways to integrate into real life experience.
This collective movement workshop is co-led by Artist Robby Herbst and Play and Spacial Justice ActivistBenjamin Shepard. Shepard will focus on the relationships between collectivity identity, public space, and social control. He will develop exercises that explore group play within politicized contexts. Concepts explored in this workshop will inform future projects beyond the gallery.
Throughout the workshop, Robby and company talked about the lines between I and We, individual and group.  We find ourselves within the evolving process of being with, organizing with others, with groups.  It was powerful to work through ways to support each other and ourselves as we made sense of our lives with others, with movements and groups, families, and friends. 

At the end of the workshop, we decided we all needed to stand together instead of hoisting any one person to the top of the ladder of citizen participation.  Leaders who are hoisted up are often toppled.  This is what is happening all over the world. 

Finishing the workshop, Robby and I made our way downtown to the OWS Town  Square. 

Photos by Felix Rivera Pitre
Scenes from Occupy Town Square
Photo by Mickey Z Vegan

Marisa Holms wrote the call for Occupy TownSquare

Hello NYC Anarchists!

In an effort to build community and connect the nodes of our network
Occupy Town Square and the OWS Peoples Assembly group have joined forces to
bring you Occupy Town Square Homecoming!

This event will happen every first Saturday of the month in Liberty Plaza.

On Saturday July 6th we will converge with info, the peoples library, kitchen,
puppets, and performances. We will hear from people engaged with Brazilian and Turkish solidarity work in the Global Peoples Assembly!

Are you doing alternative economic projects? Do you have skills you're willing to share or workshops to lead? Do you have a rad poem to read or drums to beat? This is the space for you.


12-3pm Open Space for workshops, performances, and alternatives of all kinds
*Bring your ideas and self-organize. We will ensure communication flow in the space.
3pm- Global Peoples Assembly
4-6pm Open Space for workshops, performances, and alternatives of all kinds

Share the OTS Homecoming facebook event!
Share the Global Peoples Assembly facebook event!
Forward this announcement to your friends!

This is a space for you and determined by you =)

See you in the square!

In solidarity,

Getting down there, I hung with friends, talked.  The Brookfield Properties folks had forced the info tables to move again.  Run ins are common on these days.  The OWS folks eventually sun star spangled banner, forcing the Brookfield folks to stand down. 

Sunday Bikes and Off to Summer Camp
Sunday, we woke  and went out for a bike ride around the city.  One of the kids was off to camp later in the day, so it would be our last ride for a while.  Ten years into this, they are growing up and away.  As they should.  We rode down the East Side bike path to Bowling Green.  Looking at the Statue of Liberty with them during our ride, I remembered seeing the same sight with my cousins back in 1976 on a similar tour.  Doesn’t seen like long ago.  Time passes, we grow and so do the kids. 
Getting to camp, it felt like lord of the flies.  Who needs summer camp?  They like this?  There are times when I am glad I don’t have to go through certain things over again in life.  This was one of those moments. 
After drop off at camp, we walked through the woods.  I was feeling a bit shaky.  It has been ten years since I have been away from the kid for so long.  This holding with an open hand was going to be harder than I thought it would. I’d reel over the goodbye for the next few days.  I’m never go good with  these things. 
But it was independence day for them so I had to be happy. 

Later that night,  I read that an NYPD had collided with a pedestrian.  “Police Van Strikes & Kills Williamsburg Man Crossing The Street” noted the Gothamist.  No criminality was suspected of the police officer, who some suggested was talking on the phone when the incident occurred.  The pattern of the police suspecting “no criminality” when cyclists and pedestrians are killed by automobilies has become glaringCylists across the city have taken to challenge this pattern.  As Paco, of Transportation Alternatives,notes, : “I’d i guarantee if a driver had hit a cop in the crosswalk... there would be some criminality suspected. such as here...   Streetsblog Reported: Felix Coss, of Brooklyn, Third Pedestrian Killed By NYPD in Last 15 Months

Tuesday, So I went out to the scene to chalk a message in the sidewalk.

As the day went on, the summertime blues crept it.  I worried about Times UP! activism, friends, books and trying to survive in a city which often seems larger, and more daunting than I.  Sometimes you can’t catch a break in the city.  Solidarity breaks down.  And I despair at what will come of it all.

All afternoon I had been looking forward to dropping by Aresh’s birthday party. 
The OTS Homecoming Planning Group

Party at Children’s Magical Garden

Party/ Rally to thank the city for helping with this important first step in making children's magical preserved and to keep the momentum going with maximum fun! With amazing music, food, laughter, community. Free! Invite everyone!

In the middle of the afternoon, I started to get reports from Aresh at the garden. 

Breaking News
Media  Urgent

Developer Serge Hoyda has a  construction crew in the community garden and have begun digging giant holes for a new plywood fence within the space he is claiming. 
The children in the garden are very shocked and the community is asking the representatives to find a solution, just as they did with the 2 other lots as soon as possible 

Gardens bulldozed, pedestrians crushed by police talking on their phones, the city felt like it was killing me.  Sometimes you just can’t beat this place.  But then we have to put it back together.  To reach out to friends. So I went to the party anyways.  

Riding over to Stanton, the Children’s Magical Gang were still at it, gardening in their half of the lot, the half supported by Green Thumb. And there was plenty there to work with.  .For this and the friends from all over the city arriving, it was still time to celebrate.  And march and celebrate we did.  We sang and marched and chanted.  “Save the garden” screamed the kids as we romped around the block.

Let the garden be,
So we can be free… they sang

Leave the garden whole
Its good for the soul.

Take down the fence,
Garden permanence

By the time we got the garden, the kids were screaming the words.

Homage to the Queen of Disco

Toot toot, beep beep! Dance Ride to celebrate the Queen of Disco and dancing in the summer streets. Come on, Hot Stuff...If you got, flaunt it! Dress to impress all you Bad Girls (and Bad Boys!)

Tuesday night, Times Up! would  honor Donna Summer, bring her  music to the city.  Its hard to have a bad day with her music playing.

It rained as the ride began but we still had to go, I begged.  I could not stand to miss another ride. 
Everyone commiserated about their bad days.  And we hung out. Our first stop was at the Children’s Magical Party, everyone hugging and greeting Aresh and the Children’s Magical Gang for all they do. 

And ride we did for hours and hours, traversing from Tompkins Square Park, where someone tried to steal my bike, West to Sheridan Square, where we held communion with the crowd in the park. A runway formed and we all shared a bit of ourselves with our city.

Steven Mendez up front while the group was getting my bike back. 

And later made our way down Christopher Street to the piers where we danced even more.

Hanging out into the city night, opening up the space for people from across the city to join our street party – this is my favorite part of Times Up dance rides.  The point of the street party is just setting up a space and allowing whatever is going to happen to happen.

Brennan later chimed in on the Times Up! list serve:
Hey All
Time's Up! brought the bike love again.
Roy and I partially fixed the Sound Bike again.  The switch is replaced so
no more attaching wires to run it!  The sub-woofer is out, we will fix that
next week.  (We'll make a training vid as well so everyone knows how to use's been getting a real beating!)  Contractor bags and scaffolding
stops protected it from the rain.
We picked up street corner dancers and people hopping on city bikes to join
us and created mobile dance parties under the Wash Sq. arch (where people
were sheltered from the storm), in Sheridan Sq. across from Stonewall (10
songs, approx 40 strangers dancing in and out until the cops came) and then
the Christopher St. pier where 40-50 twentysomethings with bikes, cakes, and
beer were celebrating one young woman's birthday and we gave here a dance
party as a gift (as well as distributing XUP lit and spoke cards).
As Monica texted me after, "That was a blast!  This is what we are fighting
Onward.  See you in the streets.
We put a part of ourselves out into the city, into our groups, into our collective stories, with each ride.  


Here is to long hot sweaty summer.  Hopefully the long hot summer has not passed me by quite yet. Summer… your daddy’s rich and your mama’s good looking Janissang long ago.  Her words always stick with me on these long summer days.

Child, your living's easy.
Fish are, fish are jumping out
And the cotton, Lord,
Cotton's high, Lord so high.

Your dad's rich
And your ma is so good-looking, baby.
She's a-looking pretty fine to me now,
Hush, baby, baby, baby, baby now,
No, no, no, no, no, no, no,
Don't you cry, don't you cry.

One of these mornings
You're gonna rise, rise up singing,
You're gonna spread your wings, child,
And take, take to the sky,
Lord, the sky.

But until that morning,
Honey, n-n-n
othing's going to harm ya,
No, no, no no, no no, no...
Don't you cry — cry.

NYC Light Brigade

No comments:

Post a Comment