Tag Archive: activism


I feel fine

Image stolen from Strike Debt UK –  http://www.strikedebtuk.com/

My son likes to argue with me that Occupy didn’t achieve anything. That it failed. I try not to engage with him, because who really wins an argument with a 16-year old who has a very black-and-white way of seeing the world? But, really, it seems like everywhere I turn I see ways in which the politics and tactics of the Occupy movement are being carried out in to do good in the world. Partially because Occupy brought so many good-hearted people together, and now we kind of all know each other and know who to call when something needs to get done. But also because the politics and tactics of the Occupy movement were just another iteration of politics and tactics that have been evident in activist/social justice movements forever, and in some ways they are becoming more and more refined.

This weekend in Austin, amidst the ridiculous conspicuous consumption of the F-1 spectacle, a representative of Strike Debt New York paid a visit to help facilitate a Debtor’s Assembly and participate in a Debtor’s Carnival. Both events were aimed at destigmatizing debt and bringing people together to discuss the effects of debt on their lives and what might be done about it. I was unable to attend the assembly, but did attend the carnival today, and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to talk about this project with one of its organizers. In addition to the Rolling Jubilee – which raised money in order to buy huge amounts of debt for pennies on the dollar and forgive the holders of the debt that was bought, the organizers of Strike Debt are trying to find ways to form Debtor’s Unions and some are holding Debt Clinics to empower people who are in debt to get out of debt and/or deal with debt collectors in an informed manner. It’s an amazing movement, and just one of many examples of how the tactic of gathering random people together in a park for weeks on end spawned ambitious ideas and action. I’m really looking forward to working with my activist community to hold debt clinics and work with people on fighting back against debt collectors.

Image Courtesy of Austin Common Ground Relief – https://www.facebook.com/atxcommongroundrelief?directed_target_id=0

I also continue to be impressed with the hard work of the Austin Common Ground Relief. After floods hit the Dove Springs area in Austin, hundreds of people were left homeless, and it took several days/weeks for significant help to arrive. Now, two weeks after the flooding, the agencies that were helping are packing up and leaving. With F-1 racing happening in the city, hotels that were housing displaced residents are putting people back out on the street so they can accommodate wealthy tourists, and the shelter is closing down. Meanwhile, members of Austin Common Ground Relief are still preparing daily meals and distributing them to people who were impacted by the flooding (which is really just a symptom of climate change and environmental racism.) While distributing meals, they are also having people fill out intake applications listing their needs and desires, and providing assistance with cleanup and whatever else the residents are looking for. Because of the work activists have done in Austin to create an infrastructure of support, the infrastructure of information sharing and organizing was quickly put into place. Decentralized planning, volunteer-based assistance, and ubiquitous social media presence enable the Common Ground organizers and participants to be flexible and respond immediately to the needs of the community. The hope is that once there are a sufficient number of community members who are out of crisis, those tools can be provided to the community so they are able to provide mutual aid for their neighbors, and call upon the larger group when necessary. It’s truly a beautiful thing, and another example of the influence of Occupy on local organizing. I couldn’t be more proud of the folks who are doing the really hard work. While I can only spare a couple of hours a week towards the effort, it feels so much better to know that the time I do volunteer is having a direct, positive impact on those who need the help, rather than being filtered through the ranks and red-tape of a large organization like Red Cross.

These are the things that sustain me and help me get through my own struggles. I’m really proud to be part of a community that is invested in doing good things for other people and actively working towards making the world a better place.

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(Not sure how that lyric plays out of context, so here’s the context.)

Today’s walk included several songs in a row that were fighting songs. As in, don’t stop fighting. As in “You Can’t Win ‘Em All, But You Gotta Win All of the Right Ones.” And, you know, in order to win the right ones…you gotta keep fighting. Maybe a better example would be:

Or my old standby pep talk song:

Anyway, you get the drift. I believe we have emerged, victorious. Yay!

(I knew we would, but it’s still nice to celebrate that we have.)

I’m celebrating by dying my hair and earnestly working on drawings for my zine. And FINALLY getting that tattoo that I’ve been wanting to get but have never been able to justify the expense of. Fuck it. It’s expensive. I can’t justify it. Well, I can, actually…it’s justified because it will be awesome, and it will remind me of my strength. And all of the strength it has taken to get here.

I’m slowly pulling things back together. I have another week of a weird work schedule, and after that I feel like I’ll be able to really participate in all of the things I enjoy participating in again. Slowly, and with priority. I’m already starting to read more…trying to take walks or dance every night. Really haven’t been seeing friends as much as I’d like, but I’m also feeling kind of introvertedy lately, so that hasn’t really bothered me. Working really hard to make sure we have at least SOME family time carved out so we don’t all lose touch with each other. These are the things I am prioritizing.

I’d like to keep participating in actions against ALEC and TPP, for sure…but probably not leading or organizing. What I’d really like to focus my energy on is housing justice. It was going to be what I focused on this year, but then I got laid off. And everything kind of got all weird. And then the state of Texas went to war over my uterus, and I kind of had to stand and fight that one. I’d like to get back to figuring out how I can be helpful in achieving truly affordable housing in Austin, and how we can ensure the protection of people who are being exploited or abused by apartment managers. That’s what I’d truly love to spend my activist energy on.

I don’t feel adequately educated to speak in any depth on Syria. I’m against all war, so I’m sort of working backwards from there. It would take a LOT of convincing to get me to support ANY war. Which makes it easy to oppose war, but is also kind of a cop-out. I still need to educate myself. I’m working on it. Slowly.

Image by US Action: http://usaction.org/

Image by US Action: http://usaction.org/

 

Dear Friends,

In solidarity with those who will be attending the 40th annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Chicago on August 7-9, local Austin activists are hoping to build a coalition in opposition to ALEC’s influence over our legislative process in Texas.

For those who are not aware, ALEC is an organization that promotes a pro-corporate agenda by way of aiding big business in drafting bills that our legislators then attempt to pass into law. On ALEC task forces, corporate lobbyists and special interests vote as equals with elected representatives on templates to change our laws, behind closed doors with no press or public allowed to see the votes or deliberations. This agenda is orchestrated on both a state and national level, and has been the process by which problematic laws have passed through the legislatures of several state governments.  For example:

• Anti-women’s health bills like HB2 in Texas (introduced by Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, ALEC’s Texas Chair), SB 353 in North Carolina, SB 206 in WIsconsin and HB 200 in Ohio

• Anti-justice legislation such as “Three Strikes”, Stand Your Ground”, and mandatory minimum sentencing laws

• Healthcare proposals to weaken FDA drug regulation, privatize Medicare and Medicaid, repeal laws that expand public access to health care, and bar the families of Americans injured or killed by drugs and medical devices from holding manufacturers accountable in courts of law

• “Ag Gag” laws that prosecute whistleblowers for even so much as taking photographs of feedlots and factory farms to expose animal cruelty and food safety concerns

• Anti-environment legislation to roll back pollution regulations and health safeguards, eliminate clean energy competition, and allow drilling and extractive mining on protected lands

• Privatization of public services including but not limited to public schools, foster care, adoption and child support enforcement, Social Security, correctional facilities, environmental research facilities and public utilities

• Opposition to initiatives to roll back the Citizens United v FEC decision or fix the worst aspects of it

• “Jobs” legislation that would lower wages, eliminate employee rights, bust unions and ship more American jobs overseas

• Voter ID and other voter suppression legislation

• Opposition to comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship

• And much, much more.

Since ALEC has its fingers in so very many pies, this is a great opportunity to connect the dots between all of the various grassroots organizations in Austin, and provide space for everyone to work together to oppose corporate influence over our representative democracy. Toward that end, you and your colleagues are invited to a meeting on Monday, August 5th at 7 PM on the Austin City Hall Plaza to plan a visual solidarity action aimed at building the coalition and educating the public about the various ways our issues are all connected.  This action will tentatively take place under the Rotunda at the Texas State Capitol on Friday, August 9th at 1 PM.  We’ll also discuss plans for the future.

Let’s show our legislators that Austin is united in opposition to corporate influence on our state Capitol.

If you are unable to make the meeting on the 5th or the action on the 9th, you can email me at lainie.duro@gmail.com for more information about future meeting dates and actions.

Here’s the Facebook event for the action that will take place on August 9th: https://www.facebook.com/events/493662220715367/

 

Sincerely,

 

Lainie Duro

Occupy Austin participant

Unruly Mob Media Team member

Rise Up/Levanta Texas participant

Mother of 2

So what you might have missed today was that Rick Perry reserved all of the rooms in the Capitol extension, so we were unable to have food delivered to us, and we couldn’t view the streams like we were able to do previously. Police were staged in the auditorium. This reservation extends, conveniently enough, for the next 30 days.

They brought mounted police in all the way from Houston to give more of an appearance that the peaceful protesters were an Unruly Mob of Rioters.

The State Preservation Board (which is essentially Perry and his cronies) made up rules about where we were able to stand and/or sit that DPS troopers attempted to enforce several times before they finally made us move. I don’t even think DPS could deal with the cognitive dissonance of telling someone they were safer sitting in the middle of a room than they were with their backs against the wall, so we did manage to stall them until they decided to call upon the power of “we have guns and handcuffs and we say so. So you must do so.”

A whole lot of women made a WHOLE LOT of noise. People who came to our assembly at 7 PM tonight told us they could hear us from outside, and those in the gallery could hear us from there. It was a beautiful, wonderful, glorious din.

I observed that pro-life people seem to be in a constant state of funeral dirge, and I wondered if their children (some of whom were praying on their knees on that hard marble floor, and I felt really bad for them) felt wistful about the celebratory atmosphere surrounding those of us who were singing and chanting and fighting for our rights

The people’s filibuster, which was an amazing idea, got drowned out by the energetic noise in the rotunda. Some amazing stories were shared by Quinn. Other stories were submitted by email and via livestream. I really would like to continue to do this action for the duration of the session, if we can get more women to tell their stories on camera. They inspired me.

I  got to hold an adorable baby.

We had an incredible march with over 1500 people.

The dems backstabbed the radicals and activists by continuing to make threats and attempting to block them from participating in the rallies outside.

 

I am one wore-out motherfucker. Tomorrow is a work day, but there is a hearing that starts at 3:30, and I’m probably going to head over after work.

I discovered I’m not a huge fan of livestreaming because I can’t keep up with twitter or facebook while livestreaming, and I prefer to just take pictures, but I have concerns that our main livestreamers are dudes…as is our main Twitterer. How can they step back if no one is stepping up? Still working through that one…

Regardless, There’s really nothing like being packed into a crowded room with a few hundred people you know and love dearly. There’s some amazing video on my ustream account: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/lainieduro

Mostly, it was a long, loud, beautiful, exhausting day. Tomorrow, it’s requested that people get to The Capitol early in the morning (7 AM if possible) so they can be ready to sign up to speak at the hearing. I hope a lot of people show up.

 

OH, and…the people united will never be defeated.

I managed to sleep in this morning…until 9:30, at least. Through the gauntlet of alarms on all of my various devices. I woke up to grey/rainy/cold morning, and promptly resumed my morning ritual of reading on the porch with coffee. Today’s reading selection: American Splendor.

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It was a great choice, because art like this just makes me all squishy inside. Look at the detail. It’s really evocative to meImage

The only problem is that Harvey Pekar now reminds me of someone I miss, so while my heart was warmed by panels such as these…

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ImageI was forced to admit to myself for the first time that I’m a little bit fucking heartbroken. That fucking brat. He went and broke my damn heart.

At any rate, the coffee was good. The garden is growing.

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And April showers bring tomato flowers…

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So I had lunch, ice cream, and a delightful walk with a new friend, came home and made coleslaw for the kids and I to enjoy tomorrow, caught up on the news, took some deep breaths, and started writing.

Thanks for reading. ❤

***

And now…the news:

Lots of links today about the Exxon Pegasus spill in Mayflower, Arkansas (If I was feeling less lethargic, I’d make up a clever segue between April showers and Mayflower, but you are on your own for that today.)

Here’s a good general roundup:
http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/04/01/everything-you-need-know-about-exxon-pegasus-tar-sands-spill

“When we first head about the Exxon tar sands spill in Arkansas we knew we had to respond. A group of Blockaders arrived in Mayflower late last night to assist affected residents with mutual aid and help amplify their stories. Here is their first dispatch from the scene. You can also watch their livestream coverage.”

http://www.tarsandsblockade.org/exxonspill-dispatches/

Seriously. I was listening to NPR this afternoon, and I heard like a 15 second snippet on the Mayflower spill. Come on, now, media. DO YOUR FREAKING JOB!

http://www.ultimatecivics.org/index.php/contact/exxon-pipeline-spill-media-advisory

Really FAA? So our federal government can spy on non-violent protest movements, but people can’t fly planes over an oil spill?

http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_3_8699.html

Angry yet?

US law says no ‘oil’ spilled in Arkansas, exempting Exxon from cleanup dues
http://rt.com/usa/arkansas-spill-exxon-cleanup-244/
Exxon’s Duck-Killing Pipeline Won’t Pay Taxes To Oil Spill Cleanup Fund
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/04/02/1810571/exxons-duck-killing-pipeline-doesnt-pay-taxes-to-oil-spill-cleanup-fund/

Looking for some solidarity among fellow activists and workers on May Day this year?

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Calling all occupiers and activists: Those of us who were at General Assembly on Monday would like to have a gathering for MayDay. We’re thinking Republic Square Park would be a good place. I would like to organize teach-ins and perhaps a small Un-conference for the event…other ideas are also welcome. We will not be labeling this even specifically “Occupy Austin.” All are welcome to enjoy whatever it is we all decide to do!

If you would like to help organize, or if you have something you would like to teach or something you would like to learn, please contact me at oawelcomewagon@gmail.com OR come to General Assembly next Monday, April 8th, at 7 PM at the Capitol Building (south steps) – we may also choose to move the discussion after General Assembly to the Tactics and Strategy meeting. Contact us for further information.

Thanks! Looking forward to seeing you there!

Enjoyed these insightful words from Anil Dash, even though they were mostly depressing:

“We should remember that ToS isn’t law. Geeks will hack software but treat ToS as sacred. Our culture is negatively impacted by ToS and we should reclaim our agency over them. “We should think about how to organize action around specific clauses in ToS.” In fact, “people have already chosen a path of civil disobedience.” E.g., search YouTube for “no infringement intended.” “It’s like poetry.” They’re saying “I’m not trying to step on your toes, but the world needs to see this.” “I’m so inspired by this.” If millions of teenagers assembled to engage in civil disobedience, we’d be amazed. They do on line. They feel they need to transgress because of a creative urge, or because it’s speech with a friend not an act of publishing. “That’s the opportunity. That’s the exciting part. People are doing this every single day.”

http://www.hyperorg.com/blogger/2013/04/02/berkman-anil-dash-on-the-web-we-lost/?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews

Heartened by these powerful quotes from Arundhati Roy:

Watch This Video —>http://bit.ly/WBepP6<—’Confronting Empire’ by Arundhati Roy

“The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling : their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them. Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathing.” —Arundhati Roy
Verified quote: Book- ‘Occupy This!’, Publisher: Penguin Books, Author: Judy Rebick, source: http://bit.ly/Y7bs8F

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness : and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.” —Arundhati Roy
Verified quote: Book- ‘Empire No More!: The Lion And Wolf Shall Cease’, Publisher: Spokesman Books, Author:
Ken Coates, source: http://bit.ly/13ykxPB

Full Speech ‘Confronting Empire’ By Arundhati Roy, Porto Alegre, Brazil, January 27, 2003 >http://bit.ly/pwleZv

And enjoyed some (quick) physics lessons: http://www.youtube.com/user/minutephysics

*The title of this post should have made you think of this song. Because that’s what I was singing to myself all. damn. day.

Habit-Forming

I figure the best time to “start blogging again” ™ is April Fool’s Day. That way, if I don’t ACTUALLY “start blogging again” I can play it off like it was some big April Fool’s joke.

In actuality (or maybe not, depending on whether this is an April Fool’s Joke) I would really like to start blogging again (for realsies – no quotesies) and it seems like the first of the month is a good time to start. Or the first day of my actual unemployment (after the severance pay is gone). Or the first day I’ve vowed to actually Do Something(s) Useful on a daily basis, therefore keeping a blog to document the Something(s) Useful I have done on a daily basis…

You get the picture.

I figure I’ll start easy, like old times, by just talking about what I did on a given day. A day in the life of an unemployed single mother. Maybe I’ll throw some pictures in for good measure. And, perhaps this act of reporting out will motivate me to continue to find interesting things to do on a regular basis and keep my ass out of depression mode and in inspiration mode.

So, today. What did I do today?

First there was Cole, who returned from his weekend with his father early in the morning. We read a bit of Penpal, which is getting quite suspenseful (I swear the author is becoming a better writer as the book progresses.)

I’ve been trying to spend as much time out on my front porch as possible now that I am free from the encumbrance of a morning rush. Today, I made myself a bagel and a cup of yesterday’s coffee and sat out reading Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich while I ate. After which, I went out for a walk, listening to music and writing poetry in my head.

I’m doing a sort of experimental project with voice recognition software. What I’ll do is walk around dictating lines of poetry that pop into my head, and not looking at how it’s translated  into text until much later, after I’ve forgotten what I actually said. Sometimes it’s much better than I ever could have imagined. Sometimes it’s a nonsensical jumble of words. At this point, I’m so averse to writing actual poetry that I would want to claim credit for that I’m happy to take whatever I can get. Perhaps I’ll share some one day. Today, all I got was:

“I am a irrepressible you are implacable but replaceable”

I walked for about an hour or so – enough to sweat and get a little pink – and then I made my way down to the pop-up tent city protest that was taking place just east of downtown. I hung out there for a bit, holding a sign and scheming with the Occupy Austin co-conspirators about stuff.

I’ve been avoiding a lot of social contact over the past few weeks. Avoiding talking things over with friends and acquaintances. I have some ideas for projects that I’m pretty excited about, and because I haven’t shared them, arm-wavingly, with other people, I have been slowly losing steam about getting them started and losing interest. This blog was actually something I schemed to help reverse that trend, although some of my ideas aren’t appropriate for discussion here because they’re private and I don’t want to share them until they are more fully developed. I’m glad I took time out today to talk to people who were able to offer feedback and enthusiasm for some of the plans I am hoping to hatch over the next few months, especially since some of them have plans of their own that I think would be compatible with mine. 🙂

ImageAt any rate, the pop-up tent city action was small, loosely organized, but so wonderful. I honestly can’t express enough about how thankful I am for the work that Occupy Austin and all of its loosely associated factions are doing. Yes, it’s chaotic and frequently disorganized. Yes, there are times when I feel like we don’t have focus. Yes, there’s all manner of other critical things one can say about the group and the individual actions, but the thing that still floors me is that we are a group of people who never ever would have met each other in any other context – some homeless, some housed, some jobless, some employed, with varying degrees of wealth and different cultures – working together to try to make a better world.Image

Sometimes that means standing on a street corner in front of a couple of pitched tents that say “The Shelters are Full” with signs proclaiming “400 beds, 10,000 homeless people” and “open up the buildings.” Sometimes that means organizing a show with a band from Oakland. And sometimes these individual actions seem meaningless, and maybe sometimes they are to some, but they mean a fuck of a lot to me. I’m proud of all of the people who take time out of their lives to organize actions, and so glad I now have the opportunity to support those actions more.

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I was out for a couple of hours before I started to get a little sunburned, and figured I should head home to fix dinner for the kiddos. Cooking is one of those other luxuries that I now have time for since I am unemployed. I used to spend Sunday cooking meals for the week, which worked out pretty well, but always made my weekend feel really short. Now I can just cook meals any old time. We’ve been trying to save money on groceries by shopping from a strict pantry list, with only minor deviations, so my challenge is always to find something that utilizes ingredients from that list. It’s been a fun challenge. Today, after winding down for a little while with Wendell Berry’s essay “The Body and the Earth” from _The Art of the Commonplace_,  I made Chickpea Salad with cous cous and steamed broccoli. It was pretty good, though it would have been better if I had made it in the morning and allowed all of the ingredients to have a party together in the fridge and become more marinatedy. Still, it was a nice healthy-ish meal, the kids didn’t complain, and it was super easy to make.

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After we ate, I ran out to Occupy Austin General Assembly at the Texas State Capitol. It’s been a very occupy-ish day today. There were only about 6 or 7 people there total, but we somehow managed to draw 4-5 DPS officers to us, which was annoying.

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Plans are being made to have a Mayday picnic with teach-ins and other activities, and I’m really excited that I have time to help organize. If you are reading this and you have a skill that you want to share, feel free to let me know. I’m going to be in charge of the teach-ins and skill shares. Aside from potlucks, that’s really my favorite thing to do.

General Assembly was short and informal. We talked about teach-in topics and technology and various things. I made an announcement someone asked me to make about an upcoming event, and the Occupy Austin End Homelessness representative announced their weekly meetings, and then it was over. The DPS agents who were standing around the whole time came down to make sure we didn’t have any contraband (i.e. CHALK – or something equally nefarious like water pistols!) and we all went our separate ways.

So, now here I am. Sunburned but full of excitement and plans. Bursting at the seams, it seems. Ready to close the book on today and get ready for tomorrow’s adventures.

P.S. I almost forgot I am going to end each day’s blog with a list of links that I’ve run across throughout the day and squirreled away at various places around the internet. A link dump, is what the kids used to call it, but that would just make everyone around here guffaw, so I won’t call it that:

Declaration of the Eviction-Free Zone

Ongoing Tech Problems Can Make You Feel Pranked

Announcing SXSWUni