Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Bike Ride in Brooklyn, Free Speech or Speech Free in Manhattan, as Jane Walks and Arts Rebel

There are days you feel everything as we make sense of the world in the public spaces of New York. 
Our Baltimore Solidarity Rally was scheduled for 6 PM  last Wednesday at Union Square.
So I rode over after class, running into a few friends and taking in the scene before running home to say hi to the kids and make it out for date night.  I took a few photos of the scene.  But Eric McGregor took better shots of the unfolding world of DeBlasio era zero tolerance policing.   From the Crackdown on Critical Mass to Wednesday’s rally, Union Square has long been the site where free speech has expanded and contracted, been supported and suppressed in New York City.
Still, movements are pushing back and the world is paying attention. And maybe, just maybe, the world is hearing our cry for justice, for efforts to unarm the police, and open up public space for stories on gunshots, interactions and music, not confrontations and profiling, democracy, not zero tolerance social control of the poor. 

After speeches, the police were out to crack down on any infraction as people left the park, just like they used to do with Critical Mass.  143 people were arrested for walking without a walk sign, etc.
Eric Captured the scene. 

Free speech or speech free - that was the question and message all week long? 

Back in Brooklyn, the sun was setting on the Red Hook waterfront, glistening with the Brooklyn tides.

After snapping a few shots, we made our way down to Columbia Street for some Thai Food. 

“The restaurant is down there, but it is probably not going to be open.  There’s  a blackout all over Red Hook,” noted one man when we asked for directions.

 And sure enough the restaurants on the street were closed, but the bars were open. So we stepped inside a candle lit waterfront drinking establishment, where everyone seemed to be, reveling in the comradery of a low level New York blackout. 

The lights eventually came back and we make our way out for Thai food.

We rode the whole next day, before classes, zooming through Clinton Hill to Bed Stuy and Bushwick.   Every open wall or unspoken for lot or space becomes a work of art in this ever evolving transforming space. as tides of changes ebb and recede.

A tree grows in Brooklyn along the trail from Clinton Hill to Bed Stuy to Bushwick and back past the Navy Yard.
This is a space where vacant lots are transformed into community gardens and empty walls into colorful panoramas, as light meets the sky, ruin inspires improvisation, and stories emanate from the streets, even as skyscrapers grow through the sky.

Free Speech or Speech Free in Manhattan? 

Later that night, a few of us were meeting up for the #NoNewNYPD Block Party at 1 Police Plaza.
As usual Eric McGregor was there taking photos.

 I hope he turns them into a book someday soon.

Come speak out and rock out with us at 1PP as we host a block party with music and politics. Representing the areas of the city whose culture is under daily attack by the NYPD, we'll bring street heat and beats into the belly of the beast.
We don't want more cops. Our cultures breathe life into this city. Broken Windows puts a chokehold on this culture and on our brothers and sisters. It's time to end this era of racist policing and give our communities resources.
Less cops, more music.
Less cops, more teachers.
Less cops, more justice.
Shout out to WAFFLE NYCRebel DiazTy Blizzy BlackTy Blizzy Black,NYCLetEmPlayPrince Akeemm, Besnkheru, the Capoeira crew from the Bronx and all the other performers who inspired at the ‪#‎NoNewNYPD‪#‎EndBrokenWindows Block Party.

Mellow Yellow was on hand.

We made a sign declaring "Free Speech...Free Speech Free Speech Free.." opening up the question, do we really have free speech in the face of the police assault on the movement of bodies in public space.

For those on hand, the answer was affirmative,  They reminded the police we loved them and hoped they would join the dance party.  Everyone was invited and cheered when we took part.

Everyone seemed to.

"Lets retake public space," screamed one man into the mike among break dancers all around. "They are killing the culture.  We have to take it back."

"This is the best protest ever," noted the ever present Keegan, on hand tweeting away. The point of course is that we were offering an image of what a healthy democracy could be.  This is a place where people listen to each other and seek to enjoy what everyone has to offer.

Increasingly, people are reminding each other, we need all forms of protest, including joyous images of affirmation. The movement, after all, is about an abiding love of community. As Steven W Thrasher notes:

pots of joy are necessary and needed in the seemingly endless fight for justice. In Baltimore on Tuesday night, as the city reeled from how the death of Freddie Gray exposed the violence of a decades-long police occupation of the black population, I didn’t experience many moments of sweetness. But one came in the form of a parade of young girls and sashaying boys shortly before nightfall, who made it their business to fill the intersection outside the now infamous burned CVS in West Baltimore with dancing.

The dancers fearlessly responded to the acute violence of the previous night’s events by prancing and voguing. These flamboyant young men and women used energetic dance and music to turn the void of black death into a space filled with black life - their spines were straight in defiance of a broken spine the police had severed.
In Ferguson last summer, there wasn’t much levity in the days after Mike Brown was killed, either. But there was something sweet happening outside the infamous burned down Kwik Trip gas station on West Florissant, where families gathered to take a stand. Children drew with chalk on the ground, sometimes drawing Superman, other times making chalk outlines of their own bodies to articulate their fears they couldn’t express with words. It was tender, touching, even, to see black families responding to the black trauma of white supremacy with black community.
But we owe an even bigger debt to those who remind us for a moment of black beauty in the face of black death, like those children with their chalk and those prancing boys and girls. The problem of white supremacy in America can’t be fixed with more cops or a techie band-aid like body cams on cops; it is, at its root, a problem with spiritual and societal causes. Protest can help us identify those roots and moments of light can help us not to get lost in the darkness along the way."
This has always been my view, and the view of the activists reminding the world we need a little joy and justice in this critical mass of bodies crashing through space and time. Every revolution needs a little dancing, if anything to remind us of our care for each other and the world we are creating through our revolution of the every day. 

So we rode through the night, talking about the journey through New York, visa San Francisco, Critical Masses, World Naked Bikes Rides and Occupy - moments in time, we will not soon forget. Next Thursday we say goodbye to Mellow Yellow for the time being.  So lets all time with him meeting on the Manhattan Side of the Manhattan Bridge at 7:05 PM May 14th.

The next day, we kept the search for art and community going, riding through the park for Mayday, and visiting the woman in gold at her home across from Central Park.


And Saturday, I took part in The Secrets of Death Ave Janes Walk with some of my friends from the Living Theater and Occupy the Pipeline.

Two Performances:
- Saturday May 2 at 3:00 PM
- Sunday May 3 at 3:00 PM

Occupy the Pipeline is revamping our popular walking tour for its 3rd year in a row! Join us for a walk that is full of surprises and radical witticisms and secrets from artists and activists throughout NY's history!

Change is essential to life, and the West Village has been an incubator for change. A vibrant blend of immigrants, artists, lefties, financiers, gay and straight, young and old, affluent and hardscrabble, this area has been one of the world's most fertile spawning grounds of creativity, social change, and protest.

Through conventional exposition, street theater and song — Your participation is welcome! — you will learn about how the clash of commerce with humanity once earned a West Village street the name "Death Avenue". 
The tour now ends at the Whitney Museum which will open on May 1st. Don't exit thorough the gift shop at this one, kids. The Spectra Pipeline/ConEd fracked gas vault is directly underneath. Yikes! 

What would Jane Jacobs do? What can you do? Join us and find out.

Meet us at the small, triangular square just north of 14th Street at 9th Avenue (across 9th Avenue from the Apple store) next to the Pain Quotidien kiosk.

The show was spectacular, with artists crawling from the corners of the city, during the Whitney weekend.  We performed and fought with the scoundrels of history.  Art spoke back, left the museum walls, jumped back into the streets and the civic conversation.  Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses dueled in a dialectic over what the city was going to be and what it  might become. Would this be a fossil fuel driven suburb, with cars coursing through or could it be something else?  Could it be a space for otherness and art?  All day,  the city felt alive. 

And finished with the lines from the footnote of Howl, looking out at a glistening afternoon.

Holy the sea
Holy the dessert
Holy the railroad
Holy the bicycle
Holy the visions
Holy the hallucinations
Holy the miracles
Holy the eyeball
Holy the abyss
Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith! 
Holy! Ours! bodies! suffering! magnanimity!
Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent openness of the soul!

After the show Monica wrote:

Today was one of those days where I fell in love with New York again. Waiting under the Highline, trying to remain inconspicuous with my neon yellow wig, chatting with the artists selling their work on folding tables, hearing snippets of conversations, arguments, romances... and then the walking tour. Amidst the chaos of the Whitney's big greenwashing block party bash, we interrupted. We threw our hat in the ring for art that is free from the shackles of monstrous corporations and fossil fuel industry. We spoke of the glory of disobedience. 
We celebrated and invoked the radical culture throughout the history of the West Village- the Beats, the Surrealists, The LIVING, the misfits, the protest singers, the modernists, the jazz singers, the fighters. And I was so proud to be among this brave community of artists in this present day who leap out of the norm, step away from computers and clicktivism, who make the street their stage, who will be the loud voice in the quiet room when necessary, who will be the colorful freak and make a sce
ne when we goddamn need a scene! Thank you. I adore you. I can't wait to do this again tomorrow.

Sunday we did it again,  playing in the park, and hanging out way past Sunset.

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