Thursday, January 1, 2015

December Poems, Hellos, Goodbyes and Gratitude for 2014

The sky was screaming and teeming with energy as we drove from NJ to Garrison.
Photo by Caroline  Shepard

December was a month for poems and protests, friends to be grateful for, elders and wonderings through the last month of a long year.  There were end of the year poetry slams, salons, solstice events in the community gardens, and even a few street actions with a pulsing new movement reminding us that someone needs to the police the police.  Who will guard the guards?

siin at the police staton near the pink houses Brooklyn where unarmed akai gurley was shot in his home.

 The remaining weeks of the year were divided between completing classes, participating in events related to the Black Lives Matter Movement, trips in and out of town, seeing aunts and heros.   Along the way, we celebrated friends, moms, brothers, and watching kids move to the grown up side of the table.  

And we hung out with my iconic Uncle Bruce, Aunt Judy and Mom,  lovely people all, who all deserve so much love and appreciation as move through time.

Thursday dinner with mom after both our classes.  She's been in the classroom for the better part of six decades. 
uncle bruce then and now.

Before the holiday, we zipped to State College Pennsylvania to see Bruce and family, recalling Bruce’s childhood summers in the 1940’s in Thomasville Ga with my granddad, who scared him as much as the Viet Nam War, and made our way to Princeton where the family converged for our yearly holiday bash, the first Christmas without Dad.  We toasted him and the other heroes lost in 2014, such as Pete Seeger, who helped us beat back the frack attack in New York State, reminding all of us to join the show and get involved.

This year, we started a new public space working group, called Public Space Party, and helped support Right of Way’s efforts to struggle for traffic justice.  Through these efforts we helped push for a reduction in speed limits, fixing a dangerous crosswalk at 96th street, and beating back the efforts of the absurd NYPL plan to sell off libraries for condos

Each fall is different in New York.  For every year I have been here, something new brews up around September or October.  In the late 1990’s, it was SexPanic and Matthew Shepard political funerals, fights for the gardens. And then the battles over public space, critical mass, and against the WTO.  And recently, Occupy and Occupy Sandy efforts galvanized the city. Fall 2014, the People’s Climate March changed the conversation about climate change, propelling China and the US to forge new compromises and cooperation around the climate.  And the Black Lives Matter Movement opened up a huge conversation about police abuses and systematic racism, hostility to movements, and needed efforts to fight the inequalities of the our system. But December was also about family. 

A few days after Christmas, we drove from New Jersey up  to Garrison, feeling grateful for all our adventures and appreciative for those such as my Mom, who’ve offered us so much over the years, even as she struggles with aging and the joys of trials the years.   We all talked about those things that made 2014 wonderful.  From the Camino hike through Spain through trips to Georgia and Texas as New Orleans to greet or say goodbye to family to surfing in Costa Rica and France, the year was thrilling.  Number one talked about her appreciation for her family, being in a kind family, even with its difficulties and frailties, the Shepard tempers and tantrums. 

Caroline's feelings about a week with the in laws. 

 We talked about making art and Jujitsu, yoga and books, good teachers and waves of movements we appreciate, support and learn from.  We read Malala and Ann Frank this year, learning from their prophetic voices, their raw courage, and daydreams that showed us the power of the imagination, hiked for weeks, wandered, watched movies,  learned to live,  to think about how class works, to let go, write, and be grateful for everyone’s efforts at making this world a better place.  Thank you to everyone for making 2014 so wonderful. 

A few of the last week's highlights included a trip to the museum and other antics with the gang.  
December 14th, we celebrated the holidays at Judson and romped through the Brooklyn Museum.

with stores on the streets, sidewalks, museums, and waterways, its a dynamic time to be in brooklyn. 

Tuesday the 16th, we celebrated with my union and held a poetry jam about the police and abuses of power at one police plaza. 

After all, these guys are hostile to the people, movements, the mayor, free speech, public expression, art, dance, freedom, ideas, bikes, and democracy. And they turn their backs on those elected by the people, while turning up their nose at the voices of the people.  Who do they work for?

As my friend Donald Grove notes: Although funded with public money, they are a private-paramilitary organization, similar to Blackwater. Technically answering to the Mayor and to laws created through legislation, they perceive themselves as hereditary or self-appointed, and are not answerable to the courts.

Yet, the City is still paying off lawsuits from police abuses of a decade ago.  The costs rise every year. 
So we took to the streets to talk about it. 

Rain didn't bring down this powerful Poetry Jam and if you missed it check out all the beautiful photos and footage” noted Barbara Ross in her report back to Public Space Party.   

Bards Against Brutes: A Poetic Response to Police Brutality and Injustice

Photos by Erik R McGregor

Live Stream footage:

Press Release:

Attachments area

Over the next few days, we joined more protests over the nascent Black Lives Matter Movement, meeting some of my frends at a rally at Toyrs R Us for a rally for a twelve years old who was shot to death for carryng a toy gun.  The movement is still finding its way. 

Later that night, we grabbed a bite at Cafe Loup, down the street from Stuart Davis' old studio.  i had no idea that.  But the city keeps on surprising through all the years. 

The next night few of us got together for our fifteenth annual RTS, AWAG, Occupy Salon, toasting the fracking victory.

Tim, Christine and yours truly at the salon.
Photo by Barbara Ross.

That weekend we romped around Times Square, celebrated the winter solstice at Children’s Magical Garden, followed by the Bread and Puppet show at Theater for a new city.

from the bread and puppet show by Erik McGregor

The east village was teeming with energy; I was exhausted and somewhat drained from a busy end of the year, but loved through the stroll seeing friends.

Later that night, I dropped a copy of my Community Projects book off with with my Aunt Judy, who helped connect me with some interviews.  And we enjoyed a Hanukkah dinner together.

That night we talked about the horror of police killed by an unhinged crazy person with a gun.  Our gun laws leave far too many with easy access to weapons.  If only, we could think of other ways to talk, share, and learn from each other, as we move closer to addressing systematic injustices of our criminal justice system, robbing lives, fueling mass incarceration, and our New Jim Crow.

My friend Jim Fouratt, who has been part of my weekly Dialectics of Race and Class reading group at the commons, posted a note on facebook.

December 21 at 12:30pm

When any person is gunned down and killed be it Mike Brown or two police offers sitting in their is wrong . I am boiling and need to calm one NO ONE I know is happy two cops were killed by a crazed man while they sat in their car. Madness! But I accuse Police Union head Pat Lynch of once again attempting to cause a police riot with his outrageous attacks on Mayor De Blasio and making
statements defending police breaking rules (eric garner) and Broken Windows and encouraging police officers to insult the Mayor and encourage disrespect in uniform. I call upon Police Bratton to use Media footage to identify those police officers who broke rank and turned their backs on Mayor De Blasio... Police are public servants, peace officers not a private military force led by Pat Lynch. I know cops I trust...but not this demagogue Pat Lynch and his attempt to divide my City has gone to far.

Others chimed in condemning the killings and efforts to monopolize them to discredit the nascent movement.

New York, NY — Ferguson Action, the wide coalition first conceived in Ferguson, MO and recently responsible for the series of highly organized responses to police killings and abuses nation-wide has issued the following statement in response to the murder of two NYPD officers in Brooklyn earlier today:
"We are shocked and saddened by the news of two NYPD officers killed today in Brooklyn. We mourned with the families of Eric Garner and Mike Brown who experienced unspeakable loss, and similarly our hearts go out to the families of these officers who are now experiencing that same grief. They deserve all of our prayers.
"Unfortunately, there have been attempts to draw misleading connections between this movement and today’s tragic events. Millions have stood together in acts of non-violent civil disobedience, one of the cornerstones of our democracy. It is irresponsible to draw connections between this movement and the actions of a troubled man who took the lives of these officers and attempted to take the life of his ex-partner, before ultimately taking his own. Today’s events are a tragedy in their own right. To conflate them with the brave activism of millions of people across the country is nothing short of cheap political punditry.
"Elected officials and law enforcement leaders must not allow this narrative to continue, as it only serves to heighten tensions at a time when the families of those killed are in mourning.
"We stand with the families in mourning, we stand united against senseless killings, and we stand for a justice system that works for all."
Ferguson Action, is a broad coalition of groups working against police violence.

We gather to reaffirm the movement for Black Liberation that uses nonviolent civil resistance. We gather to reaffirm that we are here for peace and justice for all people.
We want to end this violent system that dehumanizes all people, pitting race, religion, and ideology against each other. We are building a future rooted in equity and nurtured by justice for all. A future where communities can thrive knowing every life is valued equally. No family should have to mourn the loss of a loved one as a result of a senseless act of violence.
This is a candlelit march. Please only bring candles, lanterns, flashlights, and other small lights. Please do not bring signs or banners.
Bring your spirits. Bring reflections. Walk with your brothers and sisters in calling for an end to violence against communities everywhere.
We will start in Tompkins Park in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, at the intersection of Tompkins Ave & Lafayette Ave. We will end at St. Philips Church at 765 Lafayette Avenue for healing, conversing and reflecting.

Statement by TMOC member on the recent protests and movement in NYC: 
"The events of this week have been turning point for many of us in New York City. A point that many of us were caught off guard with.
Ready or not, we are in a new moment.
People are unafraid and daring.
The cops know that.
And are brazen enough to cry over officers allegedly receiving bruises and a busted nose, while people's live are destroyed on a daily basis, thanks to the police.
We know it is a new moment as well.
Protesters are being hunted and charged with allegedly assaulting officers. There are snitches like the Justice League that talk to the police and single out other protesters. There are 16 year olds that are being charged with felonies for daring to speak "fuck the police" into existence.
Despite all of this, it is a truly powerful moment to be alive.
The PBA has made up their mind on what lives matter: cops.
They are able to mourn and bury their dead and wish death upon us all.
Whilst we watch snuff videos of men like Eric Garner convulse and die and believe that seven year old girls like Aiyana Jones deserve to die because they "reached for a cops gun".
If there is to be blood on our hands, then there is most certainly blood pouring from every crack, ceiling, wall and crevice in every precinct, not just New York City, but the whole country.
We are revolting against a society which alienates us from our true human potential.
We are revolting against work, and the bosses that buck there work onto us. 
We are revolting against the landlord, that charges us for a room that we barely are able to live in or afford.
We are revolting against our alienated relationships and finding each other.
We are revolting against the police, and the bullshit they stand for: a means of prolonging the suffering we face daily.
We are meeting in streets, corners, bridges and highways daring to take back what is ours.
And we will not leave one of ours behind.
We will not leave our friends, comrades or lovers in the hands of the white supremacist police state.
People have de-arrested people before us, and we will continue this tradition.
We envision a world where the police are abolished and will live this dream by manifesting it in the present and that means delegitimizing the police and state at every chance we get.
Our desire burns today's empires into tomorrow's ashes.
We are not the first and we will not be the last.
We are numerous.
We are the future and the now.
We are here.
We can't stop.
Won't stop."

The next morning number two and I drove to Pennsylvania to hang with Uncle Bruce and my cousins.  Bruce was a mentor of my childhood, a brave, kind, tough, and very funny man who reminded me of the right questions to ask, “Hows your love life?” the way to connect mind and body, and the importance of “opportunities for fun” even when we are working and dancing.  We sang carols and number two enjoyed a few moments with Uncle Bruce and her cousins. We talked about dad, who Bruce grew up with, and planned for a family reunion soon.

Time to leave town for a few days, the next morning  made our way out to State College PA, where my brother and i played football and went to camp  as kids.  We sung carrols and remembered my dad and talked about the family.  And made our way back to Princeton where my brothers and I would enjoy our years holiday bash with mom, as we’ve done for decades now.  None of us know how many of these we have left together. So we enjoyed it, said goodbye to the Hobbit movies, skated, journeyed into the woods, through the park, drank some champagne, and helped support Mom, who has done so much for us through the years.  Will, Helena, Caroline and I talked about the Camino,  and reflected on a year in which we buried dad in NOLA, celebrated our anniversary in France, and wandered through the country, and looked at the trees passing in the distance.

Road trip to State College PA with number two and back to Princeton to see Grand-mom as the Shepards converge from Stockholm and St. Paul and Brooklyn.


scenes from the holidays 2014

Sayng goodbye to Mom and the Stockholm Shepards, we left New Jersey to make our way North to Garrison, New York, to celebrate the end of the year together. The sun spashed across the sky as we passed our beloved city on our way north. 

Caroline Shepard snapshots of the sky on the way north. 

Next year, we’ll keep on hiking and finish some of the incomplete business of the journey of our lives.  But for now, thank you 2014.  Hello 2015. See you in the streets. 

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