Report from Occupy Oakland: every great social movement has a shadow
November 2, 2011
This is the date of the first general strike in Oakland since 1946 and the world was watching as 1000’s of people headed out to the plaza then marched on the Port in four separate waves.
Much of the day was peaceful. The day was filled with speakers, sharing, networking, community support, food, community and marches. The OPD was barely present during the early hours.
But news hit Twitter in the afternoon about a group that had gone after the Whole Foods in Oakland. The actions of these few were met with the reaction by those who did not want the destruction they had wanted to create.
This movement contains all of our joys and happiness as well as our pain and suffering. I believe that the nighttime vandalism and destruction that happened afterwards was reflection of this.
This was the appearance of the shadow. I believe that the shadow contains all of the rage, violence, pain and suffering that are a result of an unequal life. But it can also contain all of the strengths, thoughts or visions that can be hidden beneath decades of oppression.
The shadow is what is hidden, unseen, unknown, ignored, and avoided. The shadow has been constrained and the marches have opened a door for it to spill out all over the city; the good and bad.
Right now the dialogue in the Occupy community is centered around what happened Wednesday night. There was something truly beautiful about moments such receiving the support and love from Angela Davis, and seeing the families and youth of our community stepping out and speaking up.
There was also pain and battles which emerged late in the evening after the struggle at Whole Foods.
Members of the community took part in an open forum discussion on the events Wednesday night. The discussion on the “diversity of tactics” is heated. Not surprising since the movement is built upon a diversity of perspectives.
The challenges lie in how this diversity of tactics will influence how the movement grows and its efficacy.
I want reflect back on a movement that had a significant impact on my own life. I’ve been reading Michael Manning story of Malcom X recently. His book weaves the narrative of the civil rights movement with the life of Malcom X. Granted there is controversy on the accuracy of Manning portrayal of Malcom X; his accounts of the history of the civil rights movement are breathtaking.
I was reminded about the diverse and at times divisive nature of the multiple groups all working to transform the lives of African Americans in this nation. There was a diversity of tactics in that movement as well. There were marches and sit-ins as well as militancy. It was not all “let freedom ring”.
There was a collective, although not necessarily harmonious, action taken by multiple groups and communities towards multiple goals that in the end has eased the social and economic oppression of African Americans. The good and the bad was a part of it all.
In Occupy, it seems that now everyone must recognize that there is pain and anger that is being expressed in ways that are most likely doing more harm than good.
There has been no consensus on what tactics to use in this movement. Right now, it seems that there is greater awareness of the diversity of the movement.
I have had a few conversations with others about Occupy Oakland. We shared a common perspective that we must see that this movement is diverse, alive, and growing. It is in its early stages and we’re just figuring out that we are alive. That aliveness is pushing forth all of the shadows and light into view. How we deal with this is yet to be seen but at least there is a greater self-knowledge and with this better choices can be made.
I will personally continue to advocate non-violent actions and dialogue with city officials, knowing full well that there are those who will support and participate in other actions that are not non-violent.
It certainly feels like nearly 10,000 other people shared a similar perspective at this time.
-- Makenna Berry
Editor's note: Makenna Berry has also written about her experiences with Occupy Oakland here.