Anti-Oppression Meeting Minutes - January 7, 2012
Anti-Oppression Home Anti-Oppression Working Group Meeting Arlington St Church January 7, 2012 5:30-8:30 pm
Opening 5:30 – 5:50 Internal work 5:50 – 6:50 External work 6:50 – 7:45 Admin stuff 7:45 – 8:00 Assessment of ways of being 8:00 – 8:20 Close 8:20 – 8:30
Attendance: Shannon, Salma, Corry, Mathew, Greg, Clyde, Cathy, Michelle, Marueen, Katie, Angela, Chris, Carl, Jacob, Andrea, Bhavin
share one wild, crazy, or fun thing that you’ve done.
Review of our Ways of Being.
Discussion of the “territory” of our work
We looked at a visual representation.
The graphic categorizes the group’s work into two:
- Circle labeled AOWG: internal
- Crafting purpose/vision statement
- Building community
- Reflecting on our own work
- Supporting each other
- Radiating outward: proactive
- Organizing, e.g.,
- Vision Workshop
- Coalition building
- Movement building
- Work around 3-strikes
- Education, e.g.,
- Movie series
- Feb 13 OB Community Gathering
- Organizing & Education à leading to Participation in other working groups
- Many of us are involved in other spaces/WGs at Occupy Boston.
- In addition, we have been asked to participate in other WGs.
- Organizing, e.g.,
- Radiating outward: reactive
- Teachable moments
- Responding to requests, e.g.,
- Letter to the Banner
- Hosting a community gathering
- Houseless proposal
- White allies response at GA
Presentation by visioning group
(Last meeting we broke out into two groups, one to discuss our vision, one our mission/statement of purpose. The former group continued its work on e-mail between meetings, so they presented their thinking. The vision group will continue working outside the meeting.)
There was some disagreement about what a vision statement should be. Some people said it should be very concise; Sebel sent one by e-mail: “Our vision is to build a community that constantly aspires to creating a sustainable, just and a safe society for everyone, which is free from all forms of oppression (sexism, national origin, religion, sexual orientation . . .).”
Others felt that the longer statement we worked on last meeting was a good place to start but some things needed clarifying:
- Could we ever get to a space where there is no oppression?
- What is the difference between a vision and a mission?
- Is this vision for us or for OB or everyone? We hope to become an agent of transformation for OB as well as the larger community.
- Why is our focus on oppression? We need to explain this.
- Why must the work be intergenerational? Intersectional?
The group came up with a multilayered, interrelated group of statements:
“Our vision is to create a beloved community that constantly pursues (aspires to) collective liberation by progressively eliminating and challenging systems of internal, interpersonal and cultural oppression, that are manifested in race, class, gender, sexual identity, and physical, cultural and religious domination.”
Comments: How about disability, age, immigration status?
“A beloved community is one that is welcoming, where people feel inspired to understand their power, share their gifts and build tools and practices for confronting oppressions; a community where the well-being of those most oppressed is always at the center of its efforts. It is a sustainable community with core values that reflect a culture of liberation, empathy, accountability and compassion, and a community that does all this through the creation of spaces for reflection, learning, transformation and critical creative thinking.”
Comments: Issue of the origins of the phrase “beloved community”: African-American women, Sufi tradition.
“We envision that we can accomplish this by employing an intergenerational, inclusive and interpersonal practice, that holds its members accountable to a set of liberatory anti-oppressive values. Our vision for that is the tools and practices learned and applied in our community to become a transformative catalyst agent for the rest of the Occupy movement and our community at large.”
Comment: Is there a working definition of “oppression” for the purposes of this group?
- The exercise of power over a group.
- Arises by violence and is maintained by violence.
- Sustained over time.
Comment: Why is it “our vision is to build a beloved community” rather than “our vision is a beloved community?” Because our work is a practice, constantly ongoing.
Comment: Recommendation that we clarify what we’re talking about with “oppression” – there will be a lot of resistance from other groups even within Occupy. Speaker had objections, but doesn’t wish to go into them here, merely recommends we address it at a future meeting.
Response: Speaker feels oppression is white supremacy, heteronormativity, classism . . . it’s very clear to him. This is work that will take a long time, and he’s not naïve about how people outside the group will respond.
Response: We want to grow as a group, and to do that we have to learn. If it were easy to build a beloved community, human beings would have already done it.
Members volunteered to work on the “click-through” presentation of these statements.
Linda Stout, a respected thinker with a strong anti-racist/anti-oppression lens, will lead a visioning workshop next weekend. She will not only help us with collective visioning for OB, but teach us how to do the work. We would like to get the word out to people in two rough groups:
(a) Those from historically marginalized communities, who don’t have access to a certain level of power within Occupy (or elsewhere): e.g. Women’s Caucus, Houseless, POC, GLBTQ, Immigration, Decolonize, Mutual Aid.
(b) Those who do have access to power but tend not to be included in this type of conversation: Media, Ideas, Direct Action, Inter-Occupy, Facilitation, Logistics, Space, Finance, Safety.
Comment: What about Faith & Spirituality?
Comment: Look at the Free School University model—they get the word out by taking advantage of the OB “media machine”: stuff posted on website, etc.
Comment: The way the e-mail was framed was a little off-putting. Framed as “professional”—academic. One thing that might help to bring people in is to connect it with ongoing, “real” oppressive stuff that’s been happening; or to include a personal explanation of what it is. It’s hard to get people to buy into a framework that isn’t theirs. At the same time, people are excited about collective efforts, because they want this to work—they want a space where people can be together.
Comments: People may not know who Linda Stout is and the amazing work that she’s done. – An organization without visioning isn’t going to go very far. We need to communicate the “why” of it.
Ways of getting our messaging out:
- E-mail groups
- Going to other WG meetings
- Get to top of OB website page (now possible!)
- Personalize the e-mail blasts
- Send a short video of Linda Stout’s work
We’ll communicate our discussion to the workshop organizers.
Group members will reach out to various working groups.
- Women’s Caucus, Mutual Aid, GLBTQ, Houseless, Logistics - Angela
- POC – Bhavin, Carl, Chris
- Casa – Maureen
- Immigration, Decolonize – Clyde
- Ideas – Susan
- Media – Katie
- Direct Action – Jacob
- Facilitation, Space, Finance, Safety – Greg
- OBIT - Bhavin
This is an example of the work we are asked to participate/intervene in. Context: Bay State Banner editorial on the economy that included vague reference to OB. Draft of letter, possibly to be signed by Ideas WG, went out for comment. Angela and others asked that the process slow down, and were met by various feedback, some intensely negative.
Comment: Letter reads as, “We agree with what you say. People from your community should come join us.” There’s a problem with this analysis. Also, about half the POC group has such strong connections with the Banner, that they could call Yawu Miller and get us a half-page photo spread—which would be much more productive in terms of bring the Banner’s readership closer to OB.
Comment: “Urgency is an aspect of white supremacy.” The Banner is a weekly paper. Urgency leads to not doing things in relationship, which is fundamentally oppressive. This is a teachable moment.
Comment: Hard to get out of the sense of crisis, especially when we feel called to intervene.
Ideas for response:
- When and how to add distribution lists?
- Post open letter to OB re: “the letter”?
- Use teachable moment to give specific, clear explanation of what was oppressive about letter’s approach. People on the e-mail chain have owned that they don’t know what is problematic about the letter.
- Respond on e-mail chains?
- Can we use this incident to promote the visioning workshop?
- Guidelines we can use to check ourselves – offer this as a first step? (See George’s e-mail.)
- Opportunity to promote and explain what we’re doing (importance of inreach).
Comment: Speaker has an “ouch.” She has extended herself to get our message/lens out to other working groups and feels unsupported.
Response: Her work is not lost. Difficult to be a white ally—you’re expected to do the work, and it’s easy to feel unappreciated. We appreciate her!
Response: How do we create an intentional process for supporting each other? Maybe start each meeting by thanking people in the group who stuck their necks out. Or close with appreciations.
Two more people stepped up to be financial liaisons. Brief discussion of how FLs can do their work.
Evaluation of ways of being
Step up/step back: People who were quieter spoke to their feelings—learning, maybe a bit intimidated.
In formulating our vision, can we incorporate an acknowledgement of the fact that many white supremacist groups often have false perspectives of victimization and oppression, for the purposes of differentiating ourselves from that?
The “colorblindness” belief is out there (we do not need to do systematic anti-oppression work) and widespread, and it is going to affect us. We will meet resistance, and it’s necessary for us to recognize that that resistance is going to be a learning experience for us. If we’re going to transform OB into an anti-oppressive organization, we’re going to have to communicate with the many, many people who don’t accept the existence of systemic oppression.
More anti-oppression voices are needed at GA. They need to be heard again and again and again. Group added this to agenda for discussion at next meeting.
We agreed that we did okay on the remaining ways of being.
Group members spoke their appreciation to various members. Thanks everyone!