Today we shut down the ports. That's right. We shut down the port of Oakland. Gosh, writing for this blog just gets better and better. My morning began at the Intertribal Friendship House in Oakland. I met up with an interfaith group of folks who have been on a peace walk for a nuclear free world from Diablo Canyon, a site of one of California's largest nuclear sites to Sogorea Tea,an Ohlone and Miwok sacred site. It was a beautiful group of folks and primarily led by monks from Japan and Ohlone and Miwok elders.
Our walk began with a prayer, a song, and the burning of white sage. Elder Wounded Knee Deocampo, reminded us that we were in prayer for this walk. There was a group of about 40 of us. We precessed slowly in with chants and song. I was asked to help with traffic control for the walk and so I spent much of the walk actually running between intersections to make sure that traffic was stopped.
When we arrived at Occupy Oakland, we were greeted with cheers and expressions of support. Some people cheers and applauded or stood and watched almost transfixed by what we were doing. Other people stopped and prayed as we walked by. We arrived at the ampathetre in the middle of a song by local hip hop musician, Favi. She graciously acknowledged the presence of the drum and the elders in the middle of her set. After her song ended she gave up the mic to Wounded Knee Deocampo who introduced the walk to the crowd and was greeted with cheers of support and applause.
I got to say as a side note that I was seriously impressed that Favi shared the mic with such honor and respect. Not a lot of musicians walk with that kind of humility and are willing to let go of ego for the sake of the movement. I feel like I learned a lot from her about leadership in that moment. Admittedly, I was already a fan, but I got to say now I'm REALLY a fan. So please take a min and check out her video on you tube and like her page on facebook. (shameless plug)
We then walked over to near the Dia De Los Muertos altar and folks sat down and began with prayers and meditation. I thanked the elders for sharing the walk with me and invited folks to join the pagan cluster in our spiral dance. A few folks came with me as I wandered over to our meeting place for our loosely planned spiral dance around noon. We met up with Riyanna and Jason and some other reclaiming folks. I walked past T. Thorn Coyle and invited her to join us (and am feeling really glad I did because she ended up leading the spiral dance!). After selecting a song and some folks scouting out a location we walked through the crowd drumming and singing.
We gathered in a circle on Broadway between 13th and 14th and began to draw some attention with our singing and drumming. New folks came to join the circle as we sang. The spiral began and we wove our dance into the spirit of the streets.
Let it begin with each step we take
and let it begin with each change we make
and let it begin with each chain we break
and let it begin every time we awake.
I saw the spirit of struggles past in the eyes of those I've known from years of magic and activism and saw the spirit of beginnings in the eyes of those I had just met. The energy swirled around us and through us as we danced and sang. As our spiral came to the center a beautiful cone of power shone out between us and spread out through the sky covering oakland.
I touched the ground sending the excess energy into the earth, feeling her softness beneath the pavement of the streets of downtown Oakland.
Thank you mother. Thank you.
Next stop was lunch and then I went back to the my friends on the peace walk to share in their prayer and meditation. I did my practice of the day first with the sound of Japanese drumming and then drumming by the proud warriors of Sogorea Tea. What a blessing and an honor to get to practice with such sounds around me!
I wandered over to the interfaith tent for a discussion about how the interfaith community can best support the needs of the folks camped at Occupy Oakland and the movement in general. I only caught part of the meeting but it seems like there is strong sentiment in support of maintaining the interfaith tent beyond today. My impression is that there will be a need for folks to help “staff” the space, so if you are a faith leader, a person of faith and/or or spirit, please keep your ears and your schedules open. I'll try to post more information as I hear about it.
I wandered back over to our meeting place for our next spiral dance. We decided to wander through the crowd this time inviting people to join us. By the time we arrived on 14th street in front of the staging area for the march we were quite a large group. We drummed and sang and danced a spiral blessing the march It felt like such an honor to be able to bring this tradition not only to the streets, but to the march and to our movement. In my work as a faith based organizer, I saw many different kinds of ceremonies used in a political context. As a witch, it felt like a tremendous gift to dance this sacred tradition that I have known since I was a child in the streets of the Oakland General Strike.
The march started and we began the long trek to the ports. The spirit of the crowd was upbeat—people were singing and chanting, smiling and laughing with each other. We marched over the bridge to the ports and as we reached the top I looked back. My jaw dropped. A sea of people were behind us. As far as I could see the streets were filled with protesters. I felt tears begin to fill my eyes as I began to imagine the impact that this demonstration may have on the world.
We arrived at the ports as the sun was beginning to hang low in the sky. You know, that magical time before sunset when the colors change and peoples inner beauty begins to manifest in a physical sort of way. The group of folks that I was with sat down on the railroad tracks to rest. I ran into more people than you would imagine. I even saw my godfather's daughter (when you're from Virginia and live in California that's a big deal). It felt like a reunion with a bit of dance party mixed in there.
Just before 7pm it seemed pretty clear the ports were closed. A group of us decided to walk down to the next gates to see how things were going further down on the docks. Around 7pm there came a call for folks to physically block the gates so some folks sat down and we began a picket line. Or well at least tried to. I had a moment of realization of how small the labor movement in this country currently is when it became clear that a solid majority of the folks there didn't know what I picket line was. Someone later referred to it as a “circle march”. I'm hopeful that this movement will inspire many many more workers to participate in organized resistance at their workplaces and in their communities through a myriad of tactics including “circle marches” :P
We sat blocking the gate until we received word that the ports had been “offically” closed for this shift. We all began the long march back to Occupy Oakland. We marched with a few trucks that had gotten stuck in the mix trying to leave the port. They honked in rhythm with our chants showing their support. The woman next to me said, “I don't think that I've ever marched with trucks escorting me—this is pretty cool.” I nodded in agreement grinning from ear to ear from the actions today.
I'm still smiling as I write this. Estimates are that there were somewhere between 20,000-40,000 people in the streets today. That's tens of thousands of people who felt like this is important enough to leave work, to leave the routines of their everyday life behind, to join with their families and their communities to participate in direct democracy.
Today in our second spiral dance we sang these words as we were dancing,
We are the rising sun.
We are the change
We are the ones we've been waiting for and we are dawning.
My friends we are the 99%. We are the ones we've been waiting for.
And we are dawning.