Week 1 through Week 3
Occupy Oakland Dispatch
by Irina Contreras
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Week 1 Day 2
Participants have divided into groups like:
-media and tech
-art and entertainment
-outreach and education to name just a few...
In addition, a POCQPOC (people of color and queer people of color) Caucus is formed starting the first night at Occupy Oakland with around 30 people attending the first night and leading up to around 80 people at the end of the week. The group is amidst the decision of becoming an official committee or staying an informal group of people of color involved to support other pocqpoc nationally that are encountering severe racism in the Occupy Movement.
In response to my involvement in the POCQPOC caucus, some friends and I decide to bring our discussions and concerns to the general afternoon participants holding an informal discussion around decolonization. Part of what interests us is in our inability to talk about articulately even amongst each other. We come up with the 3 questions and points of reflection that are negotiable upon the collective group.
1.) What is colonization? What happens during colonization? What does colonization look like in our day to day life?
2.) What does decolonization look like? What could it look like?
3.) What are ways that decolonization already exist in our families, communities and cultures?
The discussion proves to be one of the most informative times I have spent in the last three weeks. I am floored in how I hear people speak in different ways in which they feel “stuck”. There are several of us and while we all come from different backgrounds, geographies and classes, one person who sat down to eat with us is a young white male. He tells us about how broke he is and how he lives with his girlfriend. He is ashamed he says and feels strongly that it makes him part of the 99%. No one disagrees with him but he struggles to articulate the privilege in which he does carry with him. Before long, there is some frustration. As facilitators, a few of us intervene in hopes that the conversation doesn't revolve around him and the disagreement but it does. Before long, one participant of color has spent their time around several minutes to try to help him understand. Later on, another participant and I are thanking everyone for the discussion. I say thank you to him and he comments "I hope I didn't ruin it. I felt like an agitator." I tell him he wasn't and I was honestly feeling that at the time. Later on, when I check in with people they agree that we need to think more carefully about how even informal conversation takes place in public space because they feel we spent our time looking at only that. I feel frustrated, engaged and yet wonder why I didn't necessarily feel that way. If there is anything that is pointed out, it is that we hardly know how to speak to each other. It is sad and yet profound to me.
It is around this time that I begin to feel disengaged with the General Assembly process and realize that part of my strength is what I can bring to the other circles or to the other committees/subcommittees. General Assembly seems to be a time in which colonization rears its ugliest head. For example, when the discussion arises of having a powerful speak-out against police brutality organized by folks who have long been a part of the struggle in Oakland, it is met in the GA with discomfort and fear. At 33 years old, I feel very conscious of what I can give and what I cannot give. I do not want to give to that process and I feel entitled to not give. I know that my feelings will change but in order to keep myself physically coming, I shut off when I hear people say that the event around police brutality is violent, divisive and they don't understand.
Much between the first few days and now (beginning of third week) is a blur.