Children of the revolution – L. Samsarah Morgan
September 10 2011 was the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street and by now we all know about this movement and its ongoing work to address the ills brought to our families, communities and our earth by the misdeeds of corporation and banks.
I’d like to call attention to another significant birthday in the Occupy movement, in my city of Oakland, CA. Our encampment was born October 10,and in that camp was an area called the Children’s Village.
Children’s village was founded by myself and two other mothers initially. My purpose in putting out the call for a family and kids space in Occupy Oakland was a basic one- I know Oaklanders! I know the long history of activism which is part of an Oaklanders soul. Oaklanders marched with babies in slings and back packs to protest the start of the second Iraq war, and came out again with their children to protest the shooting of a local youth Oscar Grant, whose illegal death was videoed as it happened.
So, of course Oaklanders would gather to participate in the largest grass root movement in the country since the civil rights movements!
A space for families needed to exist and it was my great honor that after my initial call, I walked away from our first general assembly with the contact information for about 16 mothers, this list quickly grow and 2 days later Children’s Village was born!
To my knowledge, occupy Oakland was the 1st encampment to have such a space in the occupy movement. As word spread of its existence, we were contacted by other Occupy groups asking how we did it.
We had simple rules 1) children’s village was not childcare – parents had to be present with their children. 2) donated food should be healthy snacks, whole grains, etc. and no sugar and 3) respectful and compassionate language in Children’s Village..
These few boundaries were all that was ultimately needed to run our area, which was quickly dubbed by many “the heart of the occupation.”
These rule were necessary because although we knew that we were in our legal and constitutional rights to protest –we wondered how long our city government would “tolerate” our expression of those rights? I was old enough to remember the MOVE conflict in the 80’s were a group of people, who weren’t even protestors – but were a group of people who were living together communally, in an attempt to live simply, close to the land, home school their children and generally turn their back on what they perceived modern society to be: materialistic, capitalistic, and soulless. As a result of this groups refusal to “join”, and their refusal to leave their home, they became a target – there was a standoff between them and the authorities which resulted in the destruction of an entire city block, deaths of many, including 5 young children.
The fact of this weighed heavily upon me – even as we moved forward with our vision. I prayed each day as families gathered, played and learned about the Occupy movement. The inhabitants of the encampment showered Children’s Village with love and we wanted for nothing – from Legos to fully cooked meals. All we had to do was ask, and it magically appeared in the arms of a proud member of our community.
When the camp was victimized by an early morning raid on October 25, 2011, children’s village was particularly singled out for attack. Police in riot garb viciously attacked the area as well as our storage tents, the volunteers, mostly young women who slept overnight in the area, reported to us the storage tents were slashed with a razor – the toys were pulled out and stomped upon. Our volunteers as they begged then to stop, were handled roughly, injured and arrested. Why? They dared to question the police, and ask them not to destroy the toys, but rather allow them to be removed, peacefully?
No mention Occupy Oakland Children’s village would be complete without mention of families who were sleeping in tents nearby, some of whom were homeless families who were enjoying their first days of peaceful shelter in quite a while. They were sleeping in tents lent to them by others who shared their extra tents with them. These families were enjoying shelter, warmth, and access to food for the first time in months as well, I know this because they let us know, they expressed their gratitude to all who would hear.
It still breaks my heart to think of these families and their children being frightened from their sleep by loud speakers, lights and faces covered with riot gear! These family had to flee from the warmth and shelter it has taken them months to find..
A year later, we gathered to remember it all. We laughed and cried.. We remembered so much that was beautiful. We lay a boundary of flowers to make were to recall where the tent and play are once stood. Our Amazing troubadoura, Stephanie Pepitone, lead us in song. We villages broke bread together, and ate birthday cake. We embraced each other – and then took our children home.
The story of the occupy movement is still being written. Though the camps are gone, what they stood for remains a challenge to us. Not only in this country, but all over the world, people are marching in numbers to retain their human rights: access to clean air, water, food not polluted genetically or via pesticides. Parents and students are marching for the right to a free or reasonably priced educational system, or health care.
You see? This is why it make perfect sense for parents to involve themselves in such movements. Because parents are parents are daily faced with how the realities of our word affect them and their ability to make choices for an abundant childhood for their children. Parents know that their children will one day, walk this earth without them one day and we want an earth upon which our children have a chance of a healthy and productive existence. And parents know, as the parents of Oakland, CA know, that is our job to lead by example – that the way we bring up engaged world citizens, is to show them what that look like and how it’s done!
Happy Birthday 1st Children’s Village!
As long as there is the happy laughter of a parent and child on a sunny day – you will live forever !