Occupy teach-in this Saturday afternoon at Woodruff’s…. Ideas for Ypsi’s occupation abound

    [The following missive must have been slipped into my pocket this evening as I made my way down Michigan Avenue with my dog.]

    The State Capitol of Art and Activism
    by Occupy Ypsilanti

    What do GoldmanSachs, Jerry Sandusky, Michael Bloomberg, McDonald’s, Rick Snyder, The Gap, Nestle, Major League Baseball, and Mary Sue Coleman have in common? Power over others. And those in whom power is consolidated—what do they tend to do with that power? Two things: abuse and extract. Your average human being is used to having her sovereignty violated in multiple ways every day, a living death by a thousand cuts; or his savings account is being bloodlet. Actually: we know fewer and fewer people who even have a savings account.

    We hear it said—and it’s at the root of the key erroneous talking-point of the mainstream media these past several weeks—“Why not work extra hard to get better Democratic politicians elected, and try to get change enacted that way? Because, after all, top-down leadership is what’s run this planet for thousands of years; it’s the only practical course of action.”

    But we know—all too well—that placing our hopes in anyone but ourselves results in nothing but slackening wages, massive social injustice, ecological devastation, and the aggressive consolidation of money and power into the hands of plutocrats.

    And so the time comes when we feel like we can endure this living death no longer. The “average American” finally feels this way. The average Syrian feels this way. And so do communists, Christians, skateboarders, cops, children, Executive Directors, painters, engineers, and animals. We need to be assured, though, that we won’t be stepping out into the street alone; we recall that it’s common for those who stand up and say “¡No mas!” to be beaten, spit on, arrested, raped, fired, ignored, tortured, and killed. And then, before our eyes, little by little, something begins to happen. In the Middle East, Spain, and elsewhere, and crystallizing in Liberty Square, a.k.a. Zuccotti Park, people are trading their living rooms for the streets and for each other, gathering in a true public.

    Why?

    Because there’s something beautiful and utterly reassuring about direct, participatory, ground-up, non-hierarchical democracy. For the first time in many of our lives, along comes something that, to its very foundation, is trustworthy. Here is wording developed and consensed into being by people in the park in New York City:

    “As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.” [From the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City.]

    Ypsilanti is a perfect case study in what happens when austerity, prejudice, and repeated “extractions” bring a community to its knees. At the same time, our town is also a powerful example of grassroots self-recreation, and more and more we’re seeing how this aspect of Ypsilanti is magnetizing and drawing in creatives, localites, urban farmers, and activists. Do we want Ypsilanti to be the next Olympia, Washington? Or, better yet, Oakland or Iceland? It’s fun to think this, for a moment; but, of course we don’t. We want Ypsilanti to be—and be able to remain—itself: self-inventing, diverse, open, and active. Most of all, we want it to be self-sustaining: solar-powered, cooperatively organized, radically transparent, lacking in income disparity, and rife with public living. Rebecca Solnit: “As for me, the grounds of my hope have always been that history is wilder than our imagination of it and that the unexpected shows up far more regularly than we ever dream. A year ago, no one imagined an Arab Spring, and no one imagined this American Fall—even the people who began planning for it this summer. We don’t know what’s coming next, and that’s the good news. My advice is just of the most general sort: Dream big. Occupy your hopes. Talk to strangers. Live in public. Don’t stop now.”

    Though we have plenty of ideas* for ways in which Occupy Ypsilanti will be an agent of change in its community, we begin with just one, and it’s elemental: to gather together for a teach-in at Woodruff’s Bar this Saturday at 3 p.m., to hear a handful of speakers, make some origami (Dave Strenski will lead an origami workshop for the children in attendance), and then, during the second hour, we’ll initiate a collective conversation—what form, no one knows in advance nor should we—in which we’ll actually begin to air our dreams together. It’s possible that we’ll have someone steeped in the working methods of #OWS on-hand to facilitate that part of the event.

    “We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power. Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.”

    *Just the beginning:

    —to farm Water Street as it lies inactive, and eat what grows there; but especially to offer its harvest to those in need and to our public schools for lunches

    —Days and Nights of Walking: groups of 5 or more who’d strike out daily and nightly to walk through and around neighborhoods in need of support, conversation, protection, lovingkindness.

    —Foreclosure Resistance: following the lead of other national Occupy groups, let’s stand in defense of our neighbors who are faced with the threat of unjust foreclosure

    —OURS (which is also french for “bear”): in which we consider occupying unused retail or residential space, with the expressed aim of holding dance parties, community action seminars, or simply to help keep them from falling into abject disrepair

    —Big Aunts and Big Uncles: let’s consider devoting a few hours (or more!) of love and free time each week to help shepherd and mentor young people in Ypsilanti who are in need of scholastic, economic, or emotional support

    —Plant Every Inch!: following the lead of some enterprising urban gardeners, let’s sow foodcrops everywhere there’s enough vacant land and labor to do so

    —Edible Rec: let’s cultivate a big sunny portion of Rec Park into to an Edible Commons of fruiting trees and shrubs. If each family planted and sustained one tree or shrub, think of the harvests we could have in 2020

    —Déja Vu Undo: in which we collectively acquire and reconstitute this landmark as a cooperatively-run community cinema, event space, and meetinghouse.

    —State Capitol of Art and Activism: we hereby propose Ypsilanti as this.

    —Community Dinner Restaurant: collective cooking and eating. Sliding-scale pricing funds acquisition of ingredients. Thanksgiving each night of the year.

    —EMU4U: if we can’t convince the university to give back to our community, we’ll make it.

    —Talks on Sidewalks: once a month, each house on each block empties its inhabitants onto the sidewalk, for milling, conversing, and idea-sharing. We’re so tired of not knowing our neighbors.

    —Labor Caroling: groups of ten walk door to door on weekends, and offer ten minutes of labor (in our backyard, we have a tool shed that needs to move over a few inches). Some residents might just need ten minutes of conversation; our homeless neighbors might need help with laundry or a meal; an elderly guy might need his gutters cleaned.

    —And please add all your ideas here:

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      31 Comments

      1. ypsiskippy
        Posted December 7, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

        amen.

      2. Tanya Mitchell
        Posted December 8, 2011 at 7:32 am | Permalink

        Wonderful!

      3. Edward
        Posted December 8, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

        I guess I’d better brush up on my finger wiggling hand signs then.

      4. Edward
        Posted December 8, 2011 at 8:30 am | Permalink

        Hand signal video:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xV3zTlgu3Q

      5. Posted December 8, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

        I really like all of these ideas. And I like citizens of Ypsi gathering to share ideas even more. Are these suggestions serious? I’d love it if Ypsi could take back it’s city without help from the state of the feds!

        Technically I think I live in Pittsfield township, but my address is in Ypsi. If this all happens, I can still be a part of it right?

      6. Eel
        Posted December 8, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

        Look at the small print on the card David. “Occupy Ypsi retains the right to harvest the organs, blood and assorted tissues of all non-residents, for use on the battlefield which will surely develop. We apologize in advance if you are to be among those to be scrapped in the Woodruff’s kitchen. Your contributions, we can assure you, will be appreciated.

      7. koosh
        Posted December 8, 2011 at 8:48 am | Permalink

        If we took back Deja Vu, where would Mark take Robert DeNiro?

      8. Eel
        Posted December 8, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        Yes, let’s not be to hasty about taking back the Vu. I’d be willing to occupy it a night or two a week in a provocative t-shirt or something, but I think that closing it down could have serious consequences.

      9. roots
        Posted December 8, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

        Repurpose The Vu!

      10. John Galt
        Posted December 8, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        -Privatize the library
        -Put poor kids to work
        -Turn the water tower into a statue of a ferocious looking Jesus

      11. Posted December 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        Deja Vu is a legitimate business and a good neighbor. Considering the surreal number of empty corporate establishments at this time, one would wonder what anyone would have against any business braving the forlorn Ypsilanti downtown. Why wouldn’t we occupy the empty spaces? Why would we want to censor or tear down something someone else has built? Very misguided.

      12. LisaD
        Posted December 8, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        As a resident-at-heart (hey, I’m trying to sell my a2 condo…), I’m so excited about this! I’d really love to do something that would:
        – Create new models /Change the system
        – Involve the whole city, including those who have been most negatively impacted by this crisis.

        I put a couple of comments in paratheses below:

        —Foreclosure Resistance (that would be fabulous, and longer term it would be exciting to look at community land trusts and green rehabs. But that’s much more of a project..)
        —Big Aunts and Big Uncles: (I’d maybe reframe this to helping young people do something to help their community. That makes it less about ‘helping,’ and more about empowering youth to see the possibilities in their community and assisting them to do good work.)
        —Plant Every Inch/Edible Rec (yippee!)
        —Talks on Sidewalks: (Sounds like what City Repair is doing in Portland http://cityrepair.org/how-to/placemaking/)
        —Labor Caroling: (great idea – might take more than 10 minutes, though)

      13. Posted December 8, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

        I would like to have some sort of an online forum (besides the comment section of this blog, of course) where we can brainstorm community enrichment programs & put them into action.

        For example, I have a very large garden at my house behind Value World & it has the ability to produce more food than I know what to do with when enough time is put into it. I would be willing to crop share with a couple of folks in exchange for some light watering/harvesting assistance when we’re not able. It broke my heart to watch veggies wither on the vine because we weren’t able to pick them as fast as they were growing.

        It would be great if there were a more Ypsi-centric craigslist type of model that we could use to connect all of these people & ideas.

      14. AndyC
        Posted December 8, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

        Thumbs up to what Christine said. Re-purpose the Vu is the stupidest thing I’ve hear in a long time. How about re-purpose the Riverside Art Center? Taxes pay for the place, let show movies in that hollow shell.
        Unfortunately I will not be attending since I don’t have adequate time to grow a beard.

      15. Posted December 8, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

        It could be next year at this time, and I doubt you could grow a beard for it, Andy. If you want, I could have Pat Elkins grow one for you. He can grow a nice, full one in about 30 hours.

        And, Chaely, there was a site kind of like that. A guy named Brian Cors ran it. It didn’t get the traffic it needed to be successful, though, so he eventually shut it down. This would have been about 7 years ago. Maybe he’d be willing to give it another shot. Or, if not, maybe he’d be willing to discuss the project and contribute some thoughts.

      16. Posted December 8, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

        And thank you to the 36 people so far who have shared this on Facebook. I appreciate it.

      17. Posted December 9, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        I hope Labor Caroling includes actual singing. I’ll lead.

        GREAT exciting, inspiring ideas above. My heart is pounding with joy. I don’t want to argue about the Vu or anything else — it bogs us down. Can’t we each gather around and add energy to the ideas that attract us without disparaging the ideas of others? Negativity and in-fighting among us are part of what allows the 1% to take us over.

      18. Posted December 9, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        Existing neighborhood communities/associations (HESNA, Normal Park, Midtown, College Heights etc. etc.) could use their existing website infrastructure to help bring their neighborhoods together through an online, printed, verbal, or otherwise publication promoting weekend workshops to engage all ages in the community. Everyone has a knowledge base or talent of some sort, and sharing their knowledge with others is an excellent way to develop the “well rounded” human being. With this concept, everyone has the opportunity to be both instructor and student. Workshops could range from creating a permaculture garden in your yard, stressing the importance of solar panel installations (both on individual residencies and perhaps eventually in entire neighborhoods through the utilization of vacant lots), window repair and home weatherization workshops, grey and fresh water collection systems, etc. Workshops don’t need to be JUST about “working” related talents because the well rounded human being has other needs as well. Workshops could also include how to play an instrument, how to paint a portrait, building birdhouses, photography workshops etc. etc. Essentially, everyone comes together to form a GUILD of multiple talents by teaching and learning from others. The result – a well rounded, tight knit, self-sustaining community.

      19. alan2102
        Posted December 9, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        Lovely! Perform random convivial gestures and senseless acts of creative communal spirit.

        I hear a distant echo (going back a quarter-century) of Hakim Bey’s TAZs, or Temporary Autonomous Zones. Interesting that Bey actually used the word “occupy” in relation thereto….

        ……………………..

        http://spunk.org/library/writers/bey/sp000058.txt

        T. A. Z.

        The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism

        Hakim Bey

        [...snip...]

        The TAZ is like an uprising which does not engage directly with the State, a guerilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself to re-form elsewhere/elsewhen, _before_ the State can crush it. Because the State is concerned primarily with Simulation rather than substance, the TAZ can “occupy” these areas clandestinely and carry on its festal purposes for quite a while in relative peace. Perhaps certain small TAZs have lasted whole lifetimes because they went unnoticed, like hillbilly enclaves–because they never intersected with the Spectacle, never appeared outside that real life which is invisible to the agents of Simulation.

        Babylon takes its abstractions for realities; precisely _within_ this margin of error the TAZ can come into existence. Getting the TAZ started may involve tactics of violence and defense, but its greatest strength lies in its invisibility–the State cannot recognize it because History has no definition of it. As soon as the TAZ is named (represented, mediated), it must vanish, it _will_ vanish, leaving behind it an empty husk, only to spring up again somewhere else, once again invisible because undefinable in terms of the Spectacle. The TAZ is thus a perfect tactic for an era in which the State is omnipresent and all-powerful and yet simultaneously riddled with cracks and vacancies. And because the TAZ is a microcosm of that “anarchist dream” of a free culture, I can think of no better tactic by which to work toward that goal while at the same time experiencing some of its benefits here and now.

        In sum, realism demands not only that we give up _waiting_ for “the Revolution” but also that we give up _wanting_ it. “Uprising,” yes–as often as possible and even at the risk of violence. The _spasming_ of the Simulated State will be “spectacular,” but in most cases the best and most radical tactic will be to refuse to engage in spectacular violence, to _withdraw_ from the area of simulation, to disappear.

        The TAZ is an encampment of guerilla ontologists: strike and run away. Keep moving the entire tribe, even if it’s only data in the Web. The TAZ must be capable of defense; but both the “strike” and the “defense” should, if possible, evade the violence of the State, which is no longer a _meaningful_ violence. The strike is made at structures of control, essentially at ideas; the defense is “invisibility,” a _martial_art_, and “invulnerability”–an “occult” art within the martial arts. The “nomadic war machine” conquers without being noticed and moves on before the map can be adjusted. As to the future–Only the autonomous can _plan_ autonomy, organize for it, create it. It’s a bootstrap operation. The first step is somewhat akin to _satori_–the realization that the TAZ begins with a simple act of realization.

        [...snip...]

      20. alan2102
        Posted December 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        Lisa Marshall Bashert:
        “GREAT exciting, inspiring ideas…. My heart is pounding with joy”

        THAT is what Bey’s TAZs were supposed to be about, btw.

      21. roots
        Posted December 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        Hey, I’ve got nothing against the Vu, I was just excited at the proposed idea of community-run cinema.

        Hmm…maybe Andy’s onto something…the Vu at Riverside…yeah, probably not.

      22. A2.com
        Posted December 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

        http://annarbor.com/news/occupy-ypsilanti-to-host-first-teach-in-saturday-at-woodruffs/

      23. Oliva
        Posted December 10, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink

        This post (and truth be told all the others–hello Arlo and his family!)–and the missive it contains–is utterly heartening and fits like coffee and toast (coffee and cream to those who take cream) with the Philip Dray book There Is Power in Union. Here’s to a better world, within sight again.

      24. Thom Elliott
        Posted December 10, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

        …I may actually go to this, it may be a good time to have a stern Heideggarian voice amidst all the cute anarcho-silliness.

      25. Bob
        Posted December 10, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink

        In related news, the right-wing takeover effort by Gov Snyder is really making national news. Ed Schultz used the financial management takeover issue in Michigan as his top story on MSNBC last night. The NAACP and members of Congress see the redistricting/voter suppression angle of Synder’s plan and are at least on to him. I hope something comes from it. This guy is rotten, he needs to be recalled. I’m so pissed that many moderates, even alleged Democrats were supposedly fooled by him.

      26. Posted December 10, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

        Community Records has a great space in Ypsi that we’d be happy to share for Occupy Ypsi events. It includes a stage, a large open space, chairs, PA, etc. All ya gotta do is ask…

      27. #OY
        Posted December 10, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

        Jesse: thank you. Let’s do it. We’ll be in touch w/ you as we plan our first General Assembly, which will be in early January.

      28. alan2102
        Posted December 11, 2011 at 8:16 am | Permalink

        Thom: stern Heideggarian (and Apollonian) voices are essential, lest having fun while helping other people starts breaking out all over — out of control of the proper authorities.

      29. Posted December 12, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        The event was amazing. The speakers were very inspiring even if I only agreed with 99% of it. There is so much that can be done. It was eye opening and thought provoking. I came to defend the Vu but walked away with a lot of ideas. Thank you for putting this together. I look forward to future meetings and community action events.

      30. Watching Laughing.
        Posted December 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

        Vu stays, legit business, nothing wrong with the place.

        Watching Laughing.

      31. Dan S. LaRue
        Posted January 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        Come out to the Parkridge Community Center this Saturday at 3:00 for an Occupy Ypsilanti General Assembly.

      3 Trackbacks

      1. By Occupy Ypsi: The Beginning | occupy for all on December 9, 2011 at 9:46 pm

        [...] From markmaynard.com: [...]

      2. By Occupy Ypsilanti Gets Rolling | Occupy Ann Arbor on December 10, 2011 at 6:28 am

        [...] at Woodruff’s in Ypsi. Local blogger Marc Maynard seems to be one of the organizers; he has a lengthy post about today’s event which includes a list of ideas for possible future actions, ranging from [...]

      3. By Ann Arbor speaks out on Occupy Ypsi on December 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm

        [...] posted something about today’s Occupy Ypsi teach-in at Woodruff’s. As it’s a short piece, and as I don’t come across as terribly articulate, I [...]

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