Monday, December 1, 2014

Four Freedoms Thanksgiving

FDR delivering the Four Freedoms speech in1941. 

We spent much of Thanksgiving thinking about  the Four Freedoms FDR described in 1941.   

Roosevelt House Hyde Park. By C Shepard

Many of these freedoms - from fear, want, of speech and religion - were on our mind as we made it through the streets after the Ferguson verdict, supporting this movement addressing the unfinished legacy of the Black Power and Civil Rights Movements.  

There are so many beautiful things about such protest moments.
Hanging out waiting for the news, Monday night i ran into my friend Warcry Priya

warcry by fly

We talked about her short appearance in one of the Seattle documentaries I show every year in my organizing class.  On the spot, she agreed to come speak about the battle of Seattle fifteen years later at my class. Two days later, there she was talking about the highs, lows, and some of the years after the battle of Seattle.  She also recalled funny moments, such as bringing a cake to the fire department in Seattle after they made a decision not to spray high power water balloons onto protesters blockading the entrances of the famous WTO meetings.  For my students, Seattle was another step in a story of activism stretching  from Civil Rights to the Women’s movement, Gay Liberation to Occupy.  I learned so much about the beauty of direct action, care, connection, and the abiding utility of an eclectic blend of creative tactics applied to both local and global targets within the movements of this moment. Seattle opened up a world for us.  I think of it every thanksgiving at buy nothing day after thanksgiving.

 Fifteen years later, I am thankful for all of the actvsts of the movements which grow into and out of those moments, and our adventures through the years.  You make life lovely. 

As the village voice reported after our action 15 years ago:

45 Arrested in a Protest Against Capitalism
Published: November 27, 1999
Four days before the World Trade Organization is to convene in Seattle to lay the groundwork for a global round of trade negotiations, about 400 young anti-capitalists held a roving protest in Manhattan yesterday afternoon that blocked traffic and resulted in 45 arrests.

The event, called ''Buy Nothing Day,'' was staged by members of an international group, Reclaim the Streets, to oppose the traditional consumer frenzy on the day after Thanksgiving.

LAK posted her own recollection and sign on facebook. Fifteen years ago today (November 29), Teamsters and turtles marched together in Seattle on the eve of the WTO. I still have and treasure the sign I carried.

From Seattle to Ferguson, the gardens, squats, occupy and now Ferguson, we're still here; we're still dreaming of another world being possible. All power to the imagination. Bravo to those who dare to dream of creating a better life and getting out to create it. Thanks for all you dreamers. You inspire me.  Our community has been through a lot. but we're still here. all these years later.

Over the weekend, we reflected on these movements and their cavalcade through time.

I am also greatful to my friends, such as LA Kauffman, who keep my eye on the ball.  As she wrong on Sunday after the Times story about Ferguson.

What a crappy piece of political analysis from the New York Times. The tortured syntax of the title reflects the bad premise: that the diversity of local grassroots groups and young new leaders rising up for racial justice is somehow a weakness and sign of disunity. Movements are ecosystems, strongest when they encompass many voices and approaches. Of course there will always be certain figures who would like to steer and direct what's happening on the ground into a single unified strategy; one is quoted here. But as a new generation of activists creates the most significant political uprising in years, Michael T. McPhearson's wise words at the very end of this piece are worth repeating and heeding: ""It's a matter of supporting what they're doing, instead of trying to mold it."

A movement was taking shape before Thanksgiving.  And for that  i am grateful. 

And so we went up state as we do every year, enjoying driving through the lovely trees.  

Driving upstate with the family.  Photo by C Shepard
Scenes from our trip up and number one standing in front of the remains from a summer fort made many years prior. 

After Thanksgiving, we drove up to the Mohonk Mountain House to hang out with my mom, as we do every year, making our way through small towns, stoppng at a few coffee shops along the way.

Near New Paltz, we drove by FDR’s Library in Hyde Park.  There is so much to learn from him, even if he never became president.  Yet, he did become president, only after losing the use of his legs to polio, reminding the nation after facing his greatest fear, that there was nothing to fear but fear itself.  

He reminded us that economies are driven by activity from the bottom and middle, not just the top.

Squats in central park during the depression. 

He reminded us that life and relationships are messy.

Yet, every person has a right to four basic freedoms.

Up at Mohonk, we strolled through the lovely grounds, peppered with snow.

Mom and I walked through the gardens, hearing the story of the corkscrew willow, which found its way back to life after losing so much. Close to death with its insides eroding, she healed herself, growing new bark.  Today, she is stronger than ever. There is so much resiliency out there to understand, so many lessons to learn, even from the trees.

We spent all day swimming, hiking, skating,  tubing, eating and hiking some more.  Wanderring through the snow trail, we ran into a family just back from Singapore.  They told us they were in awe of the green, of the fresh air we were enjoying that they had not experienced in years. After all our chaos, there’s a lot to be grateful for as we walk. 

After two and a half hours and a few missed turns, we were relived to see the lights of the Mountain house  in the distance. 

Sunday, we took a final hike, walking as a family, just as we had this summer through Spain. The same range of feelings of sadness, pleasure, reflection, pain, and so much beauty consuming us along the way. Preteens smile and so did everyone else.  There is a lot to be grateful for here along the trails.

Wandering home, we stopped at Rhino records in majestic New Paltz.   Crammed with old magazines and cd’s from the I felt like I was home. 

After a brief trip to Rhino records, we made our way back home.
photo by jb taylor

 A few hours later, we were all home, back to Brooklyn, grateful, still pushing for those four freedoms, which everyone so deserves to enjoy. 

On the way back, i thought of aids day and the comrades lost along the way. 

Join us for world aids day. Every day i think of all my friends lost to this thing, so many of the best people i have known lost years and years before their time, some of the best minds of my generation.  My dad’s best friend came to live with us briefly in 1986, thirty years after they met in college. Four years later, he was gone from this earth, the first of so many lives I’d know, lost to this thing, way, way too soon.  We all deserve to love and live wthout fear of this thing. 

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