November 26, 2011

People's Daily Campaign for Jobs & Justice Honors Rosa Parks Dec. 6 in Newark

The People's Daily Campaign for Jobs, Peace, Equality & Justice, initiated by the Newark-based People's Organization for Progress this past July, has built a coalition of over 110 organizations holding daily demonstrations at the Essex County Courthouse. On Tuesday, December 6 (the 163rd consecutive day of the campaign), commemorating the 56th anniversary of the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, will hold a major demonstration and teach-in. Because the People's Daily Campaign takes its inspiration from Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the date is significant. POP and the daily demonstration coalition plans to make this a catalyst to keep the campaign active through the winter months. 

The community groups, labor unions, churches, street organizations and others that have signed on as endorsing co-sponsors include:

The A. Philip Randolph Institute, Essex County Chapter; the A. Philip Randolph Institute, Union County Chapter; Abyssinian Baptist Church; Africa-Newark International, Inc.; African Arts Festival; Afrikan Poetry Theatre; American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey; American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees-Local 979; American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees-Local 2211; American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees-Local 2216; Bail Out the People Movement; Baptist Ministers Conference of Newark and Vicinity; Bethany Baptist Church; Black Administrators, Faculty, and Staff Association-SHU; Black Agenda Report; Black Cops Against Police Brutality; Black is Back Coalition; Black Telephone Workers for Justice; Board of Education for People of African Ancestry; Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War; Christian Love Baptist Church; Coalition for Peace Action; Coalition to Save Our Homes; Communications Workers of America-Local 1037; Communications Workers of America-Local-1040; Community Awareness Alliance, Community Unity Leadership Council; Concerned Citizens to Revitalize Communities; December 12th Movement; Enough Is Enough Coalition; Essex Times; Essex-West Hudson Labor Council, AFL-CIO; Faith Christian Center; Friends of Marquis Aquil Lewis; Greater New Point Baptist Church; Greater Newark Alliance of Black School Educators, Inc.; Green Party of Essex and Passaic Counties; Independent Workers Movement; International Action Center; International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal; International Longshoremen's Association-Local 1233; International Longshoremen's Association-Local 2049; International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement-African People's Socialist Party; International Youth Organization; Kwanzaa Collective; Martin Luther King Birthday Committee of Bergen County; Metropolitan Baptist Church; Mothers of Murdered Sons & Daughters; Muhammad Mosque #25; My Father Knows Best; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-Irvington Branch; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-New Brunswick Area Branch; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-Newark Branch; National Association of Kawaida Organizations; National Black United Front; National Council of Negro Women-Newark Section; National Organization for Women-New Jersey Branch; National Religious Leaders of African Ancestry; National United Youth Council; New Black Panther Party; New Hope Baptist Church; New Jersey African American Political Alliance; New Jersey Black Issues Convention; New Jersey Chapter-National Action Network; New Jersey Citizen Action; New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance; New Jersey Immigrant and Worker Rights Coalition; New Jersey Jericho Movement; New Jersey Labor Against the War; New Jersey Millions More Movement Coalition; New Jersey One Plan One Nation Coalition; New Jersey Peace Action; New Jersey State Industrial Union Council/Solidarity Singers; New Reform Caucus of the Newark Teachers Union; N.J. Monitors; New York State Freedom Party; Newark Anti Violence Coalition; Newark North Jersey Committee of Black Churchmen; Newark Teachers Association, NJEA-ECEA; North Jersey Local Residents Work Force; Occupy Newark; October 2011 Movement; Omega Psi Phi Fraternity-Upsilon Phi Chapter; Parents and Families of Murdered Children; Pat Perkins-Auguste Civic Association; Philadelphia Innocence Project; Pro-African Purpose, Refal, Inc.; Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (UFCW), Local 108; Ronald C. Rice Civic Association; Roots Revisited; Saint Peter Sounds of Praise Church; Senator Ronald L. Rice, Chairman-New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus; Service Employees International Union-32BJ, Service Employees International Union-Local 617; Service Employees International Union 1199 NJ-UHE; StreetDoctor; The Art of Survival Corporation; The Black Forum of Passaic; The Coalition for Effective Newark Public Schools; The Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People; The Kasim Washington Group; Utility Workers Union of America-New Jersey State Union Council; United Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League; United Parents Network; Universal Hip-Hop Parade for Social Justice; Voices of Change and Liberation; West Ward Collective; World African Diaspora Union; Women in Support of the Million Man March; and many others…

The coalitions aims and demands include:
  1. A national jobs program!
  2. The end to wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya!
  3. Preserve workers' rights and collective bargaining!
  4. A moratorium on foreclosures!
  5. The end to privatization schemes and other attacks on public education!
  6. A national healthcare program!
  7. Affordable college education!
The People's Organization for Progress and the People's Daily Coalition invites everyone who shares our aims to join us at Market Street and Springfield Avenue on December 6, 2011 at 4:30 PM and to join the coalition. Please call (973) 801-0001 for more information.

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November 17, 2011

A Thought On The Aesthetics Of OWS!

At first, one of the things I found least appealing about OWS! was the new convention for signage, torn pieces of cardboard box inscribed in magic marker or sharpie. By early October, as the encampment took root and drew more and more folks, some moving in, others coming when they could, these signs were everywhere.

Literally. People would hold theirs up in front of them to try and get conversations started about the contents, or just to put their views before the world. The section of Zucotti Park bordering on Broadway had dozens neatly laid out on the sidewalk where passersby could read them. Further back, they were haphazardly displayed or piled up where those who might show up without sleeping gear, like me, could pick up some for some insulation against the night cold of the pavement.

The content varied wildly. Some were politically acute, some so naïve they made you wince, some intensely personal, some cosmic, some incoherent, some longwinded, some funny, some sharp. My favorites were funny and sharp, like “I won’t believe that corporations are people until the State of Texas executes one.”

In a movement chock full of creative people, in an era of inexpensive printers and color transfers, I thought they looked pretty shabby, and a little studied, like ateen who spends hours making sure the rips in her jeans are just right--or the gel in his hair makes it look just the right kind of mussed up.

Obviously this was a conscious aesthetic choice. Though I’ve never heard that it was debated at an early General Assembly, there has been an obvious consensus that cardboard and marker serve as a signifier of authenticity. And that aesthetic does reflect the strengths of our movement, grassroots, diverse, and above all open.

I’ve changed. I am now genuinely fond of them. There are, of course, all styles of signs at Occupy Wall Street, but marker on cardboard remains iconic. Partly I’m sure, it's that familiarity has bred fondness, but also, as the movement has swelled, I’ve recognized two additional strengths this approach brings with it.

First, it has been an easy entry for newbies to the DIY ethic of OWS! This is very important in a movement whose central tactic, physically occupying space in public, 24/7, tends willy-nilly to divide people into two camps, the serious occupiers and everybody else. Like the 99% vs. 1% framing, it can bridge that divide, help folks think "we" instead of "I support them." Anyone coming to the encampment can pick up a hunk of cardboard, and write something on it and carry it with them (or could before Bloomberg’s assault). Presto, You’re part of Occupy Wall Street. And kids love doing it.

Second, it vaccinates the movement against cooptation or bogarting by forces not at the center of it. How many demonstrations have you been at where preprinted signs with a boring slogan are pushed on everyone by a union or a group like or perhaps something with a name like the Proletarian League for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International (Bolshevik Faction) and people took the damn things? If anybody tried something that blatant now, it would be painfully obvious to everyone how bogus it was.

That’s why, on Tuesday morning, approaching a rallying point for forces just dispersed from the park hours before, I was distressed to see looming a cluster of very tall bright yellow signs. “Aw, shit,” I thought, “who the hell got those printed?” Getting closer, I was relieved to find that they were homemade, the slogans on them stenciled in black. And I was even more impressed to see that they were not on poles, but longer than I had thought. And they were pretty solidly constructed and appeared to be carried by handles fastened to the back.

And thinking about the need to defend against or blunt the kind of baton attacks the po-po have launched against Occupy! encampments in recent weeks, I decided I could adjust to this new school of poster art pretty damn quick if it catches on.

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November 11, 2011

A Poem For Brecht

A word of introduction. I found this poem today on the wall of a new "friend" on the Facebook social networking site. I know almost nothing about the author except that she (I suspect) or he appears radical and, at least for the moment, fascinated by the works of the German communist playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht. I reprint this, with permission, under the nom du blog suggested by the author.

(for Bertolt Brecht)

by Soci O'Logy

Who wrote the Threepenny Opera?
On the books you will find the name Bertolt Brecht.
... Has not Elisabeth Hauptmann composed the first manuscript?
And Mr. Puntila, many times revised –
Did not Hella Wuolijoki tell his story?
On which ship did Margarete Steffin go to America?
Why, after the evening that Brecht staged her play,
Did Marie Luise Fleißer cut her wrists?
The Caucasian Chalk Circle is full
of soft chants. Did not Ruth Berlau help
with their creation? Even the legendary Mahagonny
has to be conceived of as a co-production.
The young Brecht conquered Berlin.
Was he alone?
Did not Marie Hold light the oven for him in the morning
And emptied the ashtray in the evening?
Brecht wept when one of his mistresses
Wanted to leave him. Was he the only one to weep?
Brecht fathered many children.
Who raised them?
So many questions.
So few reports.

Now, a word of explanation. Those who've read Brecht may well note that this is written in parallel to his great poem about history and class "Questions From A Worker Who Reads" (posted directly below). A probably smaller group will recognize that it reflects the scholarship of John Fuegi, an American historian. His 1994 book Brecht & Co., makes the claim that the acknowledged collective nature of the cultural works turned out under the signboard of "Bertolt Brecht" hides a pattern of exploitative relations with women who collaborated with him and indeed did the bulk of the work on many of his best known plays and other writings. This claim, controversial when it was made, is now either accepted as true, although perhaps exaggerated, and/or ignored. Soci O'Logy's poem insists that we must think about this when we think about Brecht, his work and his importance.

And here's the model, a poem I dearly love (in the translation favored by Soci O'Logy):


by Bertolt Brecht

Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will read the names of kings.
... Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
And Babylon, many times demolished,
Who raised it up so many times?
In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live?
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?
Great Rome is full of triumphal arches.
Who erected them?
Over whom did the Caesars triumph?
Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants?
Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still cried out for their slaves.
The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him?
Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep?
Frederick the 2nd won the 7 Years War.
Who else won it?
Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors?
Every 10 years a great man.
Who paid the bill?
So many reports.
So many questions.

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