A year ago this Monday, a few hundred young protestors bed down in lower Manhattan to protest the corruption of America's political, social, and economic institutions. Occupy Wall Street's grievances have been famously diverse, but as the movement rounds the corner into its second year it can claim many victories: a world-wide network of over one thousand self-identified occupations, a vast ecology of movement-generated media, a worker-owned cooperative, measurably successful campaigns in collaboration with New York-based activist groups against racial profiling and unfair housing practices, and, quite recently, a report investigating the illegal practices of the New York Police Department throughout the year.
There's quite a bit to celebrate, and this weekend in New York activists from across the country converge on the financial district to ring in Occupy's new year. If you're in New York, we invite you to attend one or all of these events with us.
On WBAI 99.5 in New York, The Asia Pacific Forum hosted a special two-hour show on the Occupy movement, featuring in-studio interviews with the editors and contributors of Verso's own collection Occupy! Scenes From Occupied America. Discussing everything from what it's like to attend a General Assembly meeting to the larger questions about organized labor and left politics, the show was a valuable occasion for a wide set of reflections on a number of the most pressing issues of the movement.
Among the participants were Astra Taylor and Sarah Resnick, who discussed the genesis of the book; Kung Li, who elaborated about her experience on 'Occupy Atlanta' and considered the role of race in the Occupy movements; Nikil Saval addressed the relationship between trade unions and the possibility for new forms of solidarity with older institutions; and Sarah Leonard spoke about the importance of citizen journalism and the presence and effects of progressive media since the movements first began. As well, Manissa Maharawal discussed the People of Color Caucus, and the show's host, Verso editor and member of the APF Collective, Audrea Lim, discussed her contribution to the collection on gentrification and Chinatown.
Full audio of the interviews is now available online. Please visit the Asia Pacific Forum for a listen.
This roundtable discussion between myself and the editors of Occupy!: Scenes from Occupied America happened over email from December 7-9, 2011. Occupy!, the book, grew out of a forty-page broadsheet called Occupy!: An OWS-Inspired Gazette, put together by the same crew, and distributed at a select number of occupations around the country.
Occupy! editors Astra Taylor, director of the documentary films Zizek! and Examined Life; Keith Gessen, Mark Greif, Nikil Saval, Eli Schmitt and Carla Blumenkranz of the literary journal n+1; and Sarah Resnick, editor of Triple Canopy all participated in the discussion.
How did the Gazette come about?
Astra: Wasn't it Keith's idea? But I like Mark Greif's observation to me that Occupy! is a strange hybrid of my childhood newsletter, Keith Gessen's high school paper, and Sarah Leonard's college paper. I'm sure others made zines and other things too. In other words, we were destined to make the Gazette!
Mark: I think when I tried to explain it to people, I said, "You go home from the park, and you want to read about what you just saw. The Occupiers are doing this incredible thing, and they'll want to read about what they're doing. Maybe we could mirror the park to itself, for the Occupiers and the visitors and the bystanders." To help. Didn't we talk about the fence-sitters too--all the people we knew, who we thought should support what the Occupiers were doing? But they kept coming up with excuses not to come down to the park? Literary and political types. So we would bring the park to them. And it was definitely Keith's idea, the paper.
Nikil: Yep, Keith's idea for sure. I think the other term I kept using (to describe it to people) was "fellow travelers"--i.e. not just undecided people, but ones who wouldn't spend a bunch of time at the park, who nonetheless offered support and wanted to understand what was going on. People ideologically, if not organizationally, committed to OWS. Of which it turns out there are a lot. It was enough that there were people whose brain was like a homologue of the city--just like Zuccotti was always there in some crammed corner way south, your head could be burdened with daily life but still lighted by the obscure sense that the occupation was going on; growing, even.