I think my “occupier story” concept may hold value, not only for those on the ground who want to be encouraged to do more, but also for the occupy movement to raise awareness to the general public that we do more than just march, protest and demonstrate.
My thought is to take out the names of those who are accomplishing real, feet-on-the-ground, grass-roots efforts and just list what has been done to affect change in our cities.
Towards that end, I have written what I have done to start the ball rolling.
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How I am Helping Occupy
I was shoved into business at the age of 16. I attended a 12-week sales course, which I ended up teaching. I became one of two directors in the company, and at 19, I had 90 people working for me and I was given 20,000 shares of stock at $6 per share. I had a 25-year computer career and helped a computer company go from $100,000 per month to approximately $20,000,000 in a year-and-a-half. I was disgusted by what I was reading about what the multinational corporations, the government and the high net worth individuals were doing to our country. When Occupy came along, I saw a chance to make a difference and participate in making change occur.
An Occupier’s Story
In the beginning of October 2011, I was contacted by someone from Occupy Wall Street, who referred me to a rep with the Teamsters in San Francisco, to start the union/occupy relationship in San Francisco. I was also given Robert Reich’s contact information for the purpose of having Robert Reich speak to Occupy San Francisco.
Both efforts proved successful.
I attended the first meeting between the City of San Francisco and Occupy San Francisco, with the National Lawyers Guild representing Occupy, John Avalos, San Francisco Supervisor, Jane Kim, San Francisco Supervisor, and the heads of the San Francisco Police Department. Rachel, a fellow occupier, and I attended this meeting at the invite of Angela Chan, a member of the Police Commission. At the meeting, I felt that we represented Occupy San Francisco very well and changed the tone of that meeting in Occupy’s favor.
Additionally from that meeting, Greg Suhr, Chief of Police, gave me his private cell phone number. I called him and was successful in getting portable toilets brought to 101 Market so people could use the units instead of bothering merchants, who weren’t inclined to help us. As a matter of fact, there were occupiers using the Ferry Building bathrooms to take baths, using the sinks. I also called Greg Suhr when the police and Occupy were at loggerheads, trying to make some sense of the conflicts that arose over time.
When there were jack-booted storm troopers all around, I walked the line of the camp with a Police Lieutenant and help put in place changes to keep the storm troopers and Department of Public Works from dismantling the camp. I also developed a good relationship with Steve Jonas, SFPD Occupy representative, and was able to communicate Occupy problems and concerns to Steve and, in my opinion, effect some change from the SFPD attitude towards Occupy. I walked the camp several times with the police to keep them at bay and was successful. I was also one of several people who worked with Mohammad Nuru, Department of Public Works Director, to help the camp meet the city’s requirements .
When the San Francisco homeless czar and members of the SF Public Health Department reviewed the Justin Herman Plaza health situations, I walked them through the camp and tried to mediate the issues the city had with the camp.
At one of our General Assemblies, I met the head playwright for the San Francisco Mime Troop. We were successful in scheduling “A Christmas Carol”, which was performed by the SF Mime Troop for Occupy. The play was rewritten by the Mime Troop to reflect an Occupy bend to the original play.
I attended all of the Mayoral meetings with Occupy San Francisco and tried to represent Occupy San Francisco’s concerns and interests to the Mayor to the best of my ability, even though I was not part of the Occupy team communicating with the City. At one of these meetings, Mayor Ed Lee requested that the tarps at Justin Herman Plaza be torn down. I left that meeting in a rush, procured a ride from a stranger back to the camp and, with a fellow occupier, tore down all the tarps, and swept up the sidewalks with others, in order to keep the camp in place and prevent police intervention from tearing it down.
I raised $2,000 from a donor to better equip the Occupy Kitchen. I then met with the local Health Department Official to understand the health requirements for the Occupy Kitchen, because Oakland Department of Health Director Deanna Santana used ‘Health Safety’ as the reason she was shutting down Occupy Oakland’s camp. I thought this was a weak link for Occupy San Francisco that required attention. I brought in 2 fellow occupiers, to be part of the conversation between us and the SF Department of Health Inspector (I recorded the exchange,and still have the recording of that conversation).
There were many fights at Justin Herman Plaza. I often found myself in between the fighting people, using my body to help stop the fights, or be part of the group which surrounded the disputing folks and walked them out of the camp.
Having been a part of many groups, I started to realize that we in Occupy weren’t achieving our stated goals and weren’t winning the hearts and minds of the San Francisco citizenry. I started a national conference call with Interoccupy titled “Winning Hearts and Minds” to help the occupy movement win the public over to our movement.
During this period, approximately six months ago (2/12), I realized that much more needed to be done, and thought we should start working with the neighborhoods – understanding their issues, helping to make change, bettering neighborhood residents’ lives and building a repeatable process for all San Francisco Neighborhoods. The Tenderloin (TL) was closest to 101 Market, so I commenced the process of understanding what the TL needed and came up with money (to fund projects for the 72 TL organizations), food for neighborhood organizations, and jobs creation. All three of these goals have been accomplished, or are nearing completion. We raised somewhere around $200,000 for one TL nonprofit (that process will be completed by the end of September 2012). Good food has been delivered for approximately five months to multiple TL organizations. A current San Francisco official and former-SF Supervisor, has directed me to work with one nonprofit’s SF program to help with its’ two companies, and help keep them functioning. If this effort doesn’t work as planned, I will start a company – as I did in the 1970’s in the same neighborhood – that will pay TL workers $25 per hour, with these same workers ending up owning the company.
Currently, a local culinary association has offered to teach kids how to cook nutritious, sustainable food. I am doing this with the TL Boys and Girls Club. We have had initial discussions offering this program across all the SF Boys and Girls Clubs and incorporating this program into existing food programs. Much more work has to be done to accomplish this. The place we store the food needs upgrading to handle larger volumes of food. With the help of a fellow occupier, we are looking at upgrading the kitchen’s electricity (now running at 80% of capacity) to handle the requirement for increased cooking. The association also raises money by having events and there may be a possibility of discussing potential fundraising for future projects.
I am also consulting with a TL nonprofit which wants to start a food cooking program that will be run by senior citizens living in the TL, thereby allowing the seniors to augment low incomes. Towards that end, I was fortunate in enlisting the help of a major culinary program’s assistance from their master chefs, who will review the cooked food items for sale and look at funding the program.
Since nearly the beginning of Occupy in San Francisco, approximately 10,000 people have been fed with quality, made-from-scratch, organic food prepared by gourmet chefs. Besides feeding Occupy events and Occupy itself, we donated a lot of the food to a 1,000 person homeless shelter’s drop in line, where people wait for a bed that has been assigned to someone else in the hopes they will have a place to sleep for the night. This homeless shelter is not funded by the City to feed these people, so we tried to help. Over the course of many months, thousands of pounds of food was delivered to this shelter.
This Occupier’s story concludes for the moment with the S17 Occupy anniversary celebration.
There is still so much more to be done.