Anti-Oppression Meeting Minutes - November 12, 2011

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Anti-Oppression Home

Anti-Oppression Working Group

November 12, 2011

5:00-7:30 Encuentro 5

Facilitators: Bhavin and Jen

Participants: Kalia, Marty, Alicia, Brad, Austin, Chris, Ester, Susan, Lisa, Meck, Andrea, Maureen, Carl, Susi, Stasha

Desired Outcomes

By the end of this meeting, we will have:

  • A deeper appreciation of each other
  • A reminder about this group’s purpose, context, short and long term work
  • A shared understanding of support provided in response to requests since our last meeting, and ideas about how to address issues in need of particular attention/support
  • An agreement about how to move forward on the other pieces of our work
  • A list of what we’re learning in our anti-oppression work
  • An agreement about any other next steps





Start Ups

  • Welcome (Bhavin & Jen)
  • Check ins: name and one thing no one here knows about you (Jen)
  • Ground rules (Bhavin)
    • Step up/Step Back
    • Both/And
    • Don’t shame, blame, or attack
    • Room for disagreement – oops, ouch, what’s up with that
    • Can use hand signals
    • Use I statements – speak for yourself
    • Active listening
    • Progressing stack
    • Give 30 seconds for people to think every 20 minutes
    • Diversity of structuring meetings so that different learning and thinking styles have space in the meeting
    • No screens (Smartphones, tablets, etc.)


  • Welcome
  • Go-around

  • Present
  • Questions for clarification


Purpose, Context, Short and Long Term Work (Bhavin)

  • Purpose of this working group, how it got started
  • List of responsive and proactive, short and long term work
  • Highlight responsive, proactive, reflective


  • Present
  • Questions for clarification


Report Backs on Support Provided (Jen)

  • Progress & red flags (anything it would be important for group to know or that you need the group’s help working out)
  • Address a couple of the red flags


  • Present one by one, followed by questions for clarification only (chart all red flags)
  • Agree on which need to be addressed now
  • Break up into small groups to coach/troubleshoot







Moving Forward (Jen)

  • Freedom Assembly
  • OB Summit
  • Long-Term Goals


  • Check for energy in the group about what to focus on at this meeting in terms of how to move forward – if energy around all three, break into three groups and follow with report out/ if energy around just one, start with trios and follow with large group discussion


Lifting up Learnings (Jen or Bhavin)

  • What are you learning in your anti-oppression work with Occupy Boston?


  • Trios or go-around


Closing (Jen)

  • Next Steps
  • Plus/Delta
  • Closing song?




Purpose, Context, Short and Long Term Work

Last & previous meetings, we had decided to focus on long and short term work.  Long term focus was to contextualize OB in history of organizing in Boston and movements in US and make our work responsive, proactive and reflective. Provide support to other WG’s with this – e.g. teach-ins, provide healing space to groups experiencing oppression.

As for short term focus from last meeting, people volunteered to get on different WG’s and were to report back today. Not everyone is here. Folks left with action steps.

Hoping that in this meeting we can advance our work in short and long term areas.  In the Moving Forward section of the agenda, we can decide as a group what we’d like to work on today.  The group may also want to discuss issues that have arisen this past week, re: removal of homeless residents of the camp.   Proposals for Moving Forward section are:

  • Freedom Assembly
  • Supporting other groups
  • OB Summit (happening next Saturday Nov 19) - how to enter that space


Report back on support provided

Ester: discussed her meeting Danielle from the Immigration WG.  Chris, Danielle and ester met this past Thursday.  Background: A few weeks ago during immigration forum at stage area (mostly immigrants) and folks marching (mostly white males) walked through the meeting.  Many immigrants attending the forum felt unwelcome and expressed unwillingness in being involved with OB.  Now, they (Immigration WG) are trying to bring issue of immigration into every aspect of OB. Danielle couldn’t make tonight’s meting.   I am part of immigration group as well.  What kind of accountability or support can we offer when something like that happens? They were asking for some kind of acknowledgement. What is the relationship with this group and future events?

Q: (Regarding incident at immigration forum) Did they identify as a working group or as individuals? They didn’t identify as a specific working group. “It’s time for the march, we’re organizing people and this is how we do it here?”

Brad: Have become increasingly aware of a situation with homeless people and evicting them as the source of the problem. I don’t have a tent, but homeless and work. When people learn that I am homeless it’s negative – especially with safety and logistics.  (I’d like to) start a Homeless or Formerly Homeless Council and have a person on each Working Group. They have the need for sensitivity to deal with it. I’ve gone from shelter to shelter and told to go to OB, yet there are no tents. Cops are telling homeless folks to go to OB.  Each group who has someone who has been or is homeless, have them work with folks who are being evicted rather than have safety or logistics do it alone. Safety and logistics don’t know how to deal with homeless folks and what they have to go through to go from shelter to shelter.

People aren’t being targeted for being homeless, but for distribution of substances, not contributing positively to space, drug or alcohol use.

There is someone on safety who was formerly homeless and who is NOT sympathetic to homeless. It’s not enough to have had the experience. It happens with other groups/experiences. May want to have allies as well - anyone who understands the issues, who has background in the issues, who can help rather than hinder the problem.

A designation or description of homeless for reason to be welcome at OB or camp feels oppressive. Anyone who is not contributing to the environment and who is contributing to making this a not…whoever they are, need to be asked to leave.  Important for us to reframe this….

Right now there is a stigma associated with being homeless. You wouldn’t know that I am homeless if you look at me you probably can’t tell. I fear backlash, unwanted police attention for being rowdy.

All forms of oppression in our society are playing out at OB.


Moving Forward

Jen: Let’s decide how we as a group want to proceed.  So far we have identified the following issues we could take on as a group today:

  • Council of Working Homeless
  • Solidarity e.g. Immigration
  • Healing Space
  • Freedom Assembly
  • Long Term Goals
  • OB Summit

Where’s the energy?  Talk about one or two or break up and talk about different issues?

Maureen - To me all of those things are connected under umbrella – accountability. Have been talking to organizers across the country and all these issues are showing up. OWS has been trying to set up system of accountability with POC WG….. we don’t have systems of accountability set up because we’re porous, fluid movement. If we had systems of accountability – we could address how to deal with all these issues – Freedom Assembly could address this directly

Kalia - Would like to see training. One of the hardest things is to effectively deal with anti-oppression work and having more tools. Trying to do this work and not having the depth we can get ourselves into trouble.

 Chris - Have a council in general to form accountability with representation from each group.

Maureen - Moving towards to spokesperson model – facilitation WG, experimenting with different model for getting more spokesperson model…trying to get more people in smaller groups talking.

Lisa - I was at spokesperson meeting at OWS couple day ago. It’s important to learn from what’s happening in other cities and it’s complicated. Meeting was a mess because of way it was facilitated

Austin - Another way to think about accountability model – meaningless without consequences for oppressive behavior. What does accountability mean without consequences? By not wanting to recreate a court system, we’re ceding ultimate power to whomever is on turn on safety.

?? - How do we see patterns that play out as they are happening, getting played out and find ways to interrupt them? How might we be playing into these dynamics without realizing it? ?? - Some of these dynamics are playing out at camp – so some groups may feel more empowered or positioned to make decisions (media, logistics, safety) and others who play really important roles (food, medics, healing, library, etc) may not see themselves as decision makers.

Brad - The space we are occupying is public space….some folks on safety have developed ways of dealing with obstreperous people….

Jen - What do we want to focus on? Accountability and/or another topic?

  • Homeless: They are in the process of taking tents down…
  • Summit: as space for addressing this

Jen - What about immigration issues? What are next steps?

  • Ester - Will connect with them, didn’t need an immediate response, and will attend future meetings to discuss this

Group decided to focus on two areas for the meeting:

  • Homeless issue
  • OB Summit

-- Breakouts --

Occupy Boston Summit breakout group notes–

  • This group has modeled a way of being together and how can we bring it’s analysis to the summit?
  • Background - a seed of an idea and collectively nourished in a week. Gather our community – OB - loosely doing work in World Café style, to engage in some key questions. The collective wisdom can be emerged and harvested. Folks will be in small groups, and discuss a questions
  • Not a decision making forum – if there’s energy and next steps for later conversations that’s great
  • Has it been decided what issues will be covered?  A host team who cut across WG’s some campers and non-campers….not issues being addressed, but key questions being asked.
  • What are key questions? Where have we been? Where are we going? What are our values?
  • In thinking about accountability – we’re building a culture, rather than building a process for.  Can one of the questions be how do we live together? What are our responsibilities to one another?
  • My hope for this groups is to name into that conversation/space – talk about how to be with one another, how
  • Distinction between agreement and alignment – alignment is congruence of intention, agreement is congruence of opinion. Difference s of opinion makes us richer …the most important thing is to align…Intention is to create a participatory democracy, opinions about how or even what we mean by it….
  • As an anti-oppression group – what are the intentions we want to bring in….some people are trying to force agreement. We’re all in the same ship.
  • Trying to digest and fully digest what that means for me, I wonder how questions of power come in because what this group has potential to bring in – an analysis of how power plays out. Anything that doesn’t have a power analysis in it, won’t get at systems of oppression
  • Getting people to see as contradiction to what we say we are doing…the more we can have conversations like that would make it easier.
  • I stay here, you don’t know. They are staying here and not doing anything positive. Would love to have people say what the 10 most important things have happened? What about OB makes you hopeful? If you lived on an island, what would it look like?
  • If equality is truly an intention, then investigating how power operates is requisite.
  • Will there be pushback to this? Will those with power (perceived or otherwise) ….this is when people get entrenched, when looking at power, because we look at privilege, and it’s invisible to you. How do we anticipate that people with power will stay?
  • It’s nice to distinguish between intention and agreement, but once we get into nitty gritty of difference. Settling on intention, not enough, some will experience in analyzing power is not the power
  • Reason summit has had resonance is because we don’t have enough of a foundation to build agreement. …have to articulate values and alignment in order to build agreement…..opportunity to check for alignment on key things…I hope we go out with commitment to certain values and intentions. Bring that framing into summit, and keep seeing where there is alignment.
  • Think about the culture we want – in womens’ caucus as well. Who is making up 99%? Things we are making transparent that some of the 99% are more affected than others and bringing this to summit.
  • As soon as they find out what the conversation is,
  • Every time someone says something crazy,
  • Here to address power structures,
  • Culture of reflectiveness,
  • Comes back to accountability – we’ve gotten used to thinking of accountability is about firing someone from their job because they’ve messed up, versus asking someone to account
  • Exposing it so that the so that the individual and the community can deal with it
  • What can we take from transformative justice – 
  • We want less harm

-- Breakout groups come back --

Occupy Boston Summit Report Out

  • Talked about upcoming summit to engage in dialogue and harvest community wisdom
  • Identified a few things we want o’
  • Examine systems of privilege and power
  • Accountability  - asking someone to account for something that they did – making them aware of power/privilege they hold
  • Creating a culture of how we are in space and how this relates to anti-oppression
  • Reminding ourselves of who is most affected by issues facing 99% - home
  • Seeking alignment (shared intention) vs. agreement (shared opinion)

o   Want to surface most fundamental intentions rather than agree on specific proposals

Homeless Report Out

  • We’re going to make an announcement at GA tonight to start a WG on this issue for anyone who’s been oppressed or interested/familiar
  • Have a meeting at 5:30p tomorrow (Sunday) at Gandhi Road and figure out where to go – Homeless and Allies Working Groups
  • Please get word out about Summit to folks

Point of information: Indigenous Outreach & Solidarity Group

  • Proposal to change  “occupy boston/decolonize boston” or liberate boston
  • National Day of Mourning at Plymouth
  • An alternative name to Dewey Square – Arawak. First black nurse in Massachusetts
  • Friday at 5:00, South Station mezzanine

Point of information: New Orleans anti–racism wg – shifted to potluck dinners as a way of building community. OWS have shifted to 2 meetings a week – 1 for logistical issues and 1 for education.  Reflect on how we can be effective as a group by changing our meeting model.

Point of information: People's Institute for Survival and Beyond have offered free spaces into their training if we commit to bringing back anti-oppression commitment to OB…to go to New York and maybe Boston.


Next Steps

  • Next Meeting: Sunday, November 20, 12:00
  • Who will announce on website/email? : Bhavin
  • Facilitate: Ester & Austin
  • Find a Space: Bhavin
  • Occupy Boston – resistance day, prisoners’ solidarity

Meeting Evaluation

What worked well?


What could have been better?


  • Breaking up into small groups
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Agenda with bubbles
  • 30 seconds of silence every 20 minutes
  • openers


  • Snacks
  • More time to get to know each other



Closing Circle

What’ s one thing we’re learning?

  • How to step back and listen differently
  • Have volunteer work and job and keep them separately, talked to that person and were appreciative
  • Level of organizing and take what I hear from different people and share it with others, get to higher levels of understanding and ability to speak
  • Stepping up for other reasons – don’t roll eyes and keep quite, raising up issues in productive ways
  • Check my ego at the door – pace of movement work than organizing work I’ve done. Moving on from day to day
  • Power of individuals and movement and moment, is incredibly powerful and all we can do is gently coax it…seeing he amazing amount of power, it’s not going to be a perfect thing, but transformative
  • There’s enough process around and people willing to try with that. Having refreshingly different experiences with people responding to what I say. Honesty is necessary. People listening. Be able to stop bullshit. Step forward.
  • How important facilitation is – using consensus as a model, if nothing else comes out but people experiencing consensus . Nothing wrong with feeling like in kindergarten.
  • How to do put this work into practice in ripe environment and where it could take root, how to plant seeds with dozens of people, with variety of backgrounds.
  • How complicated people are and how not to write people
  • Hope and faith in people .
  • Seeing more people of different walks of life
  • Soooo much constantly. How to stand my ground an being comfortable in uncomfortable situations. All possibilities are possible. Holding space for whatever is happening right now.
  • Using my voice and vigilantism is not the way.
  • To be Ok with making a lot of mistakes and be involved and not beat myself up.
  • How to bring forward what I know and to stay open to new ideas and ways of doing things


Closing Thought

Our movement is boundless and our goals infinite!!!

Tyranny of Structurelessness