Friday, July 6, 2012

Tweet For #AfghanWomen As We Occupy Sisterhood

by Favianna Rodriguez, Oakland, CA
It was a rocking good time to be with women and feminists at the Occupy National Gathering in Philadelphia during the run up to 4th of July. Besides being there with some of my favorite women from occupies everywhere (SF, LA, NYC, Maine, New Haven, etc) I got to have a workshop which amounted to a long conversation on how our government is using Afghan women's rights as a cover to keep military forces in Afghanistan. About 35 people sat down around a pink Bust Bank Of America banner laid on the shady grass of Franklin Plaza in 100 degree heat, and shared what we knew.

This photo is funny because, like at many Occupy gatherings, there seem to be more media recorders than there are participants. But the great thing about it is, that OccupyFreedomLA was not only livestreaming the workshop discussion, but also archived it here. So that makes it a bigger conversation that goes beyond the temporal space we were in beneath our pink flag (created to help people find the various workshops).

Since I was facilitating and not taking notes, I'll share the things that stayed with me that other people said (what I said is mostly summarized here in an article published July 3 on Common Dreams). A young veteran shared that war is designed to destroy things, not protect people's rights. Also that women are treated horribly both in and by the U.S. military. An older vet shared that Status of Forces Agreements with the governments of countries with military occupations grant immunity to the acts of soldiers, and this is a danger to everyone living there.

Gasps from those listening when I shared that Afghan women currently have an average life expectancy of 51 years, and that the war on Afghanistan costs U.S. taxpayers $230,000+ a minute.

Sarah from OWS saying at the end: "This workshop was really rad!"

I also shared that a bunch of us from CODEPINK and MADRE would be tweeting about how #AfghanWomen should be at the table in talks on security and development (90% of that funding currently goes to army and police instead of toward real development) in Tokyo July 8-9. You can follow that hashtag and join in if you want to help make this demand.

Then I was so hot and exhausted that I retreated to the oasis of a Vietnamese restaurant to enjoy fresh  lemonade and cold noodles. A short nap on the grass and some yoga (thanks to a new friend from OWS who lent me her mat) which may have baffled police who were lurking around but revived me enough to participate in the first ever national level Feminist GA!

About 200 people came together to say how patriarchy affects them and their communities, and what visions they hold for the future of Mother Earth and her humans. Because there were so many of us, introductions happened in groups of three, which joined to make slightly larger breakout groups to discuss why we had come to a public feminist discussion, and the kind of world we had in mind for the future. My group was composed of a young women from South Korea who emigrated to escape the stultifying patriarchy of her own culture, a young man from OWS, a young man from France, a young woman studying science and marveling at its past uses as a tool to manipulate, control and destroy life. Robin, a new contact I had heard give the most rousing call to citizen journalism in front of Fox News during an earlier March to End Corporate Personhood, an older man who seemed like an academic, bringing a queer perspective, and a young man with strong views on mass media images of women. We had a great discussion, mostly because of the engaged listening.

Then came time for the report backs. At first these were shouted out ("Access the collective wisdom of women worldwide!") but eventually people lined up at the microphone to be audible while telling something they had heard in their breakout discussion.
Chris Hedges, who described the blinders of privilege, another guy who started talking about himself at length and was eventually shushed, and Ivanaka, a major organizer of the FemGA. I forget the name of the woman in the hat, who spoke eloquently about how frustrating living under patriarchy can often be.

Eventually from this work came a Feminist Declaration that was read out in public on July 4.

When I find the text of it I'll share, along with the video I'm working on of the Feminist GA from footage shot by me and Curtis Cole. There are also livestream recordings of the GA where you would hear even more voices -- with so many small breakout groups, it would have been nearly impossible to capture them all on video. Check out OccupyFreedomLA's Ustream channel for those.

Did I mention that I got to meet Lisa Fithian, one of my organizing she-ros? She spoke earlier in the day during assembly about being pissed off and using that energy to organize ourselves. Inspiring! Unfortunately I was gone by the time Medea Benjamin arrived so I missed the workshop on how to Occupy Peace (recording here in case you did, too).

A couple of final pictures to show -- better than words could do -- Why We Occupy:

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