Open Discussion Meeting Minutes 11/27/11

Sunday Open Discussion
Location: Glenwood Coffee & Books
Date: 27 November 2011
Start time: 2:10 PM
End time: 5:10 PM

 

Facilitator: Kathe
Keeper of time: None
Taker of notes: Andrew
Keeper of stack: Terl, with Laura filling in
Provider of childcare: None
Note taker of main themes in conversation: Julia

 

# of Participants: 20ish

 

Much of this meeting was recorded (audio only) by Derick, a journalism student at Elon University, for use in a class project and possibly for inclusion in a radio broadcast.

 

No working group report-backs were made during this meeting.

 

Agenda:

1. Purpose of meeting
2. Review wall from visioning meeting of 20 November
3. Rules. Derick’s request
4. What do you want to get out of meeting?
5. Michael’s proposal

 

Announcements:

DUKE ENERGY MEETING: Emily announced a press conference and rally concerning Duke Energy’s proposed rate hike. The event is to begin at 11:45 AM, Monday, 28 November, at the Dobbs Building (430 N Salisbury St) in Raleigh. The Duke Energy hearing begins at 1:00 PM. A group will carpool from Chapel Hill from the UNC university mall at 10:45 AM.

UNEMPLOYMENT WORKING GROUP: Ed announced a meeting of the unemployment working group on Monday, 28 November, from 3:00 to 5:00 at Glenwood Coffee & Books.

“REPRESENTING DEMOCRACY” PRESENTATIONS: Bobbie announced that Ed’s “Representing Democracy” class will make their group presentations on Friday, 2 December, at 6:30 PM and Saturday, 3 December, at 9:00 AM. Both sessions will be held in the General Classroom Building at NC A&T.

SINGERS: John put out a call for one baritone and one mezzo-soprano.

 

Proposals:

PROPOSAL TO RECORD MEETING: The only proposal raised for consensus was Derick’s proposal to record audio of the meeting for use in a journalism project on the Occupy movement. Only three minutes of audio would be used. He would not make internal edits of sentences, as per the rules of the Elon journalism program. He would make interrupt “paragraphs” of speech only to clarify what was said. Recording would be interrupted if anyone wished to make a comment off the record. There would be a possibility that parts of the recording could be broadcast on the radio.

DISCUSSION OF RECORDING PROPOSAL: Andrew commented that the general assembly has a history of consenting to similar proposals. Dave asked what the recording would be used for, and Derick clarified that it would be used for a class presentation and possibly also in a radio broadcast. Ed noted the general assembly has allowed recordings like this before. Al noted that the spirit of the movement asks one to be a servant of the community–to give more than one takes–but the recording proposal seems to take more than it gives. Ed responded that the proposal does serve the community by bringing the movement to people who might not have come into contact with it otherwise. Julia expressed discomfort at having a messy political discussion broadcast, at which point Derick said he would be open to the group’s input on what to record and what not to record. Dave asked Derick to be cautious about what editorial guarantees he made, and noted that messier meetings than the one planned for the day had been recorded before. Greg asked if Derick would tell people whom he planned to quote; Derick said he would ask for the contact information of people he planned to quote. Greg reinforced that he knows there is a worry about what is said getting back to the people who say it. Michael said that no one could ask to proof a journalist’s work and argued that if anyone anyone regrets what he or she says, the responsibility lies with the speaker, saying the group should not attempt to control the process out of fear. Kathe identified the group had come to consensus on allowing the meeting to be recorded, and Derick commenced recording.

 

Proposals that reached consensus:

Above.

 

Notetaker info:

Andrew Saulters: saulters@gmail.com

 

Notes:

[Most of this meeting was given to free discussion of the movement’s organization. The notes below attempt to track the main points offered by each speaker in that discussion.]

KATHE announced that today’s meeting is a general, open meeting. She noted that the last meeting was a discussion of how the group is organized, how it could be organized. At that meeting, it was suggested today’s meeting could involve an open discussion of what the group is. She asked the group to break into pairs to discuss what each person wants out of the meeting.

[PAIR DISCUSSION for a couple of minutes.]

# KATHE asked for those assembled to share what they want from the meeting.
# DAVE: a better idea of what other people want.
# ERIC seconded Dave.
# CAROL: a discussion of more of the items on the wall from the visioning meeting of Sunday, 20 November.
# AL: ways to maintain the importance of each person’s personal reasons for involvement while acting collectively.
# ED: other people’s ideas on what the group is trying to do.
# LAURA: open discussion of direction.
# TERL: discussion of the relation of the local movement to the national one.
# WAYNE: Occupy Greensboro and the National Health Plan.
# DERICK: consent to record the meeting as part of a journalism class project. He identified himself as an Elon journalism student reporting on the Occupy movement.
# ANDREW: an idea of where others want the movement to go.
# GREG: information on how to lead a teach-in on the environment that first surfaced as a suggestion at the visioning meeting of Sunday, 13 November. He also expressed interest in arriving at changeable but well-articulated core principles.
# MICHAEL: open discussion of the group’s politics in preparation for “moving to the next level.” He expressed confusion about meeting organization and what happens from one meeting to the next: who speaks for the group? how informed is the group? He argued there is a need for group education. He said he was looking for a way into the next area of development of Occupy Greensboro.
# JOHN: to integrate, after careful consideration, his interests for Occupy Greensboro into the planning of its direction. He also expressed a desire for clarification.
# BOBBIE: ways to start larger-scale conversation.
# JULIA: discussion about structure, agreement points within the group, and concerns of newcomers wishing to get involved.
# KAY: ways to progress in the fight against Duke Power and improvements to the Social Security system.
# JANE praised the democratic process and said she sees many possibilities in it, with more to come.
# DERICK raised his proposal to record the meeting.

[See the “Proposals” section for discussion of this proposal. The assembly passed it after discussion.]

# KATHE asked Michael to start discussion on group politics and organization.

[For easier reading, remarks from the general discussion are recorded in paraphrase, except where double quotations are used.]

# MICHAEL: The meeting agenda asks for the group to begin by looking at the wall of notes from the previous Sunday’s visioning meeting. The wall is hard to summarize, but some things speak out: the strength of the movement and its effort to resist tendency to to quash the individual in the face of the collective. Two negative things stick out. One is frustration–“Where do we go from here?” He says there’s a lack of a coherent, workable structure. People from 15 October march are not here; how do we get them back? The second negative thing is an uncertainty on how the group can work together with its members’ different beliefs and levels of education about those beliefs. We need internal education that is not exclusionary. How will the group move forward?
# GREG: What about working groups? How can we contact them?
# AL: occupygreensboro.org has the names of all the working groups.
# ISABEL: Though the format has changed, the information is still under the “Connect & Get Involved” link of the web site.
# LAURA: There’s a blog on occupygreensboro.org, but no one is using it. That might be a more useful way than Facebook of conducting internet discussion. Facebook is confusing.
# ED: Minutes are posted on Facebook and occupygreensboro.org.
# MICHAEL: I can’t find minutes on Facebook.
# JOHN: You have to look for Facebook minutes, but they’re there.
# TERL: Usually, I find the concrete information is at occupygreensboro.org.
# ISABEL: The enrichment working group is preparing a number of sessions each month, starting January 2012. One will be an orientation to the practices and procedures of Occupy Greensboro. Where to find information online could be covered in one.
# AL: People seem to have been wondering since the start of Occupy Wall Street what the whole thing is about. After the Holocaust, many German exiles said they never saw it coming; many among the German people said they didn’t know it was happening. It seems when people ask “What are you about?” they really already know and the question is just rhetorical. They know what is happening. We shouldn’t have to educate the public on what we are doing.
# DAVE: A lot of people suggest we need to get ‘the middle,’ but really that’s just something motivated by a broken binary. [To Michael:] We’ve only been at it for ten weeks; we’ve created a pretty good structure that we’re revising, and there’s lots of discussion about it. If we’re frustrated now about structure, remember that we’ve not really been at it long.
# ED: In the fifties and sixties, movements moved forward because the government was ridiculed into taking action. Now people are looking at capitalism and saying it’s lost the argument even though it hasn’t lost power. The more people who can apply thought and imagination to what’s better than this broken system, without feeling excluded from discussion by having to have specific viewpoint [e.g., ‘capitalist,’ ‘anti-capitalist,’ ‘socialist,’ &c.], the better the discussion will be.
# WAYNE: Denial is powerful, and some people have money invested in the success of Wall Street [e.g., retirees with 401k’s, people with stock investments]. We need to work really hard to hear everybody’s ideas.
# MICHAEL: Where we are at ten weeks is frustrating. “If one of us [e.g., Dave and Michael] leaves the group, the movement is not what we say it is.” The letter to the editor in the paper that said ‘almost everyone in Occupy Greensboro is okay with capitalism’ was not accurate, and it feels like red-baiting. That indicates the group is not okay.
# DAVE: Not even sure who that letter is, and didn’t read the letter as red-baiting, though it seemed clumsy. Don’t think Occupy Greensboro is a “socialist,” “anarchist,” or “capitalist” effort. The group is at a developmental point. Hopefully the group will develop a process that is specific and tangible and more important than any particular outcome.
# KATHE: Dave has been deeply involved and connected, but new people may be more confused about Occupy Greensboro. What Al said about how people look the other way is more troubling. It might be denial, but they might just need an opening to participate. Openness is good because it allows newcomers to feel valued. What Michael is saying about being more effective is important.
# ISABEL: The letter to the editor is concerning. It might be helpful to write a letter to the editor that clarifies the political perspectives in the group but avoids speaking for it. Someone could talk to the writer of the letter to clarify perspectives of the group. We are, perhaps, like the blindfolded people in the story about the blindfolded people and the elephant: no one here has a sense of the whole group. But we can move toward knowing it. Also: we are trained to be consumers, not producers or creators. We may begin thinking of Occupy Greensboro as something that was produced by others for us to consume.
# AL: We need to cut people slack. That’s one of the ground rules. The author of the letter did a bad thing, but we should cut her slack. If it isn’t addressed, though, it could be a worse thing. It’s a great thing we don’t have leaders. With regard to the people who were with us on 15 October: we don’t need to be responsible for attracting them back. From talking with people who marched but haven’t come back, it seems they feel they are still part of the movement and are comfortable with their level of involvement.
# GREG: We need to be multi-racial and multi-generational. We need to reach out to citizens and non-citizens and bring in translators. We can’t just wait for this happen. We need a mechanism for doing this. Can we look to Outreach for this?
# JANE: We are putting out a newspaper ad, Eric and myself and someone else, for something that is not officially Occupy-related. It is for a prayer meeting in Government Plaza on 11 December from 1:00 to 1:15 in the afternoon. It will focus on the ramifications of foreclosing on homes in the holiday season, and it moves the issue from an economic framework to a moral one. The Attorney General of North Carolina has the power to stay foreclosures. Perhaps we can spread support for these issues to the religious community.
# KAY: The reasons for going without leadership are well-known, but without leadership granted by group consensus, it seems inevitable that people are going to make statements on their own.
# ED: Since Occupy Wall Street started, conversation has shifted from deficits to corruption and income disparity. We did that. We did it without leadership and with only a vague slogan: ‘We are the 99%.’ We need to find a space that’s big enough to talk about what we support. Labels we have now [e.g., ‘capitalist,’ ‘socialist,’ &c.] are not well-understood enough to be useful.
# MARY KAY: I could call the author of the letter. Could someone else write a letter in response? Also: We need to go to where people are to work with them; we can’t just wait for them to come to us.
# MICHAEL: We should cut the author some slack. But we should prevent that sort of thing from happening–we can do this by getting together to talk about what these ‘-isms’ mean. The solution isn’t to create another ‘-ism’; rather it is to create a system that works. We need to keep ourselves in touch with political science and avoid establishing a democracy based on learned ignorance.
# KATHE: Could we have a few moments of silence to allow people to collect their thoughts? Also, the most frequent speakers to this point have been men.

[A FEW MOMENTS OF SILENCE followed.]

# BOBBIE: We aren’t interested in creating labels. We can create new ways to discuss things.
# JULIA: I know the letter writer and can identify where she’s coming from. It could help us to study ‘-isms’ as part of the work of Occupy Greensboro; at some point, can we unpack the ways we have each been affected by capitalism?
# JOHN: “There are no new words,” but that doesn’t limit our arrangement of them. Also: Let us remember that we continually gather influences, but we rarely lose them.
# JULIE: We need to go where the people who we want to include are; this involves more actions. The unemployment action targets something that affects a disproportionate number of African Americans. We need to take on sexism, like with the upcoming slutwalk. Thinking about these issues and others related to them can get people who are presently outside involved.
# LAURA: Action is an important way for people to get into a movement. So many of our actions are dissatisfying–they involve petitioning a system we don’t believe in for change. Can we create a society within a society? Our organization seems so often to be the way white people do things…
# ED: [Call for time-out.] This isn’t the way white people do things. Also: It’s weird, troubling, and kind of offensive that we keep talking about how we need more black people, but no one talks to black people to get them here. Can the people who are worried about the number of black people here bring their black friends next time? Also: Can we discuss our endorsement of the slutwalk? Members of Cakalak Thunder voted not to take part in it over concern about the role played in it by the commodification of women’s bodies.
# CAROL: [To Ed.] Is it assumed that people here only associate with people of their own ethnic groups?
# ED: No. But those who want more black folks at these meetings ought to bring in their black friends. I was not assuming that. There was no assumption of that.
# KATHE: Can we get a call for final stack and reflect on how the residue of this meeting might be incorporated in the next meeting?
# JOSQUIN: Race is a non-issue. We have empathy and that binds us together as humans. We should stop categorizing ourselves.
# ISABEL: Some black women have expressed concern at being left out or ignored by comments in meetings and on Facebook. How will we move forward toward the clarity necessary to do work? There is no separation between “general issues” and “specific issues,” though some people have expressed disinterest in getting involved in things like discrimination and immigration issues because they are too specific. I stand for those subjected to institutional racism in hope they will stand for me in what affects me particularly. We need shared language for talking about the problems of the “whole 99%,” which include issues of race, gender, immigration, and others.
# MICHAEL: I tried to bring 3 white and 3 black friends. They didn’t show, except for one, who was already here. The 99% has no special interests. This has been a discussion I had hoped we’d have. We want to reach greater clarity and bring in people we’d like to see here. It’s the responsibility of others to come, but it’s our responsibility to do what we can to get them here. It’s a problem of making an open, democratic organizational structure that can lead to what we want.
# GREG: We need a better mix of citizen and non-citizen, but how do we do it? We need to be able to “access mechanisms” for addressing immigration.
# KATHE: Can we all look at trends Julia has identified and create proposals or a summary for the next general assembly?
# AL: No proposals to general assembly; that’s not something that seems to fit this meeting. A summary, sure.
# KATHE: Can we reflect and continue?
# EMILY: We need to strengthen communication among groups and allow for a stronger identification of groups. Would like to speak with people about proposals addressing the organization of the general assembly. Many people have been speaking about this recently.
# JULIA: We will carpool to an immigration protest in Charlotte from Glenwood Coffee & Books at 1:45 PM, Tuesday, 29 November.
# JOHN: Can we get a report-back?
# JULIA: Sure.
# JOSQUIN: Outreach should be more aggressive. I can offer my language and graphic arts abilities. Propaganda is a tool, and if it allows us to get into the minds of those we’re trying to reach, we should consider it.
# AL: From observing the wall of comments out of last Sunday’s meeting and scanning Facebook, there seem to be four basic emotions: concern, outrage, hope and faith. These seem to have been the unifying factors up to now, but they will not necessarily be the ones that unify us in the future. We will experience changes. What we have done is satisfactory, but we cannot be merely satisfied. One thing we’re no so good at is being confused, with admitting that we lack answers. A lot of us don’t know a whole lot–we need to become comfortable with not knowing a lot. We need to see connections among issues we’ve brought up. We want this to snowball. Also: let’s remember that some of us are left-brained and some of us are right-brained. Right-brained people want organization but are frustrated by the necessary free-flow of this process; left-brained people want free organization but are frustrated by the tendency of others to create direction.
# JOSQUIN: We need to be comfortable with giving up the idea of what we know, of knowing something. We need to embrace social justice as a concern of this movement.
# ISABEL: Looking at the wall of last week’s reflections, we seem to be putting forward different paths toward truth. I tend less toward scientific paths than taking a stand.
# MICHAEL: I’m not trying to forward ideological dispositions. In two weeks, I’d like to feel more comfortable than now. Can organization proposals come forward quicker than slower? Also: it seems the super-committee failed because it doesn’t know what it is doing. That’s a good sign: the 1% is falling apart. Greensboro will see changes in the time to come, and I’d like to see Occupy Greensboro as a cohesive part of those.
# ANDREW: “Every completed sentence runs the risk of being ideological,” so to some degree being ideological is not worth getting worried about. Ideology is a virus, sure, but it’s one that we have no matter what. It’s in language, no matter what we do. We can’t rid ourselves of it, but we can deal with it.
# JOSQUIN: It seems the 1% knows exactly what they are doing.
# ED: The opposite of a profound truth is also, frequently, a profound truth. There’s a lot we can do better. If we are satisfied, we cannot be complacent. If you are driven by frustration, stay frustrated. If you are driven by optimism, stay optimistic. We should be content and strive to do more. We should appreciate who’s here as we attempt to bring in new people.
# KATHE: We will look at Julia’s notes and post pictures of them to the internet.
# MICHAEL: Will the concerns of this meeting continue into the general assembly meetings to come?
# ED: This conversation can’t be undone in the minds of those present, and it can’t be placed in the minds of those absent.
# JULIA: Can we leave the residue from this meeting up in public? Also, to accommodate the schedules of those who can’t make weekday meetings, can we move a proposal-oriented general assembly to Sunday?
# DAVE: Actually, Sundays aren’t always non-decision-making meetings. I would support making Sunday’s meeting a decision-making meeting.
# ISABEL: When will the discussion of general assembly format come? Also, friends in NYC say they have two general assemblies a week. That’s in NYC. We have three–do we need them? They take off time for action and working groups.
# KATHE: There was a proposal for Sunday’s general assembly to be about the general assembly format itself.
# AL: That will be proposed at Tuesday’s general assembly by Erin. It was discussed during Friday’s general assembly. Also, we talked about moving Sunday’s meeting time to allow members of Cakalak Thunder to come.
# GREG: Has anyone done a teach-in? Can I get some information on how to do one?
# ISABEL: I can provide that information.

[At this point, KATHE called for announcements. See the “Announcements” section for a summary of them.]

 

Next Meeting:

No items from the parking lot of ideas. No items for the next meeting’s agenda. No facilitator, stack keeper, childcare provider or time keeper designated.

The next meeting will occur at 6:30 on Tuesday, 29 November, at Glenwood Coffee & Books.