Minutes from 10/9 Outreach Teach-in with Cynthia Peters

Note from Katie: This is a quick gloss -- please feel free to add your notes
Document discussed during the meeting: Unpacking the white knapsack by Peggy McIntosh -

General Arc of the Meeting:

We started with a long round of introductions, discussing why we were here, and what we wanted to discuss. discussion points broke down into three (four) categories:

  • Racism as it affects outreach efforts
  • Mechanics of how to effectively *do* outreach
  • How to coordinate volunteers & models for organizing
  • Mechanics of how outreach actually works (what happens when people arrive at camp)
  • The expansion of the camp

Of these, we mostly talked about racism, and how to make the camp feel like a welcome place.

Specific Concerns About Racism:

Overall, the idea that the 99% needs to have a racial lens, not just an economic one, was a resounding point -- also, that this should be a large part of outreach efforts. More concretely, people expressed the following concerns:

  • Once we get people here, how do we make them feel welcome? (Cynthia's story of her friend not wanting to go to a meeting with "a bunch of white people")
  • Consensus as a potentially alienating process - to people of color, to women, working class allies -- avoiding "sanctity of process" over not inadvertently excluding people
  • Problems specifically emerging around computer use (scarcity of computers making these divisions more evident)

Brian pointed out that we should be actively working on anti-racism, not just multiculturalism. Nicole pointed out that the discussions of a totally cohesive 99% are a problem, and that,as witnessed in Friday's GA, concerns about divisive language can alienate people who feel these divisions. The 99% might have a lot to learn from the bottom 20%, but we won't learn it if we don't acknowledge the gradient. Joan suggested the possibility of anti-racist training onsite, which everyone agreed was a good idea (2-3 times a day would be GREAT). Three initial solutions were proposed and discussed:

  • Institute 'Process Observers' - POs would perform internal outreach, keep track of demographic participation in the GA, and make this information publicly available. (Public availability of all documents created of, by, and/or for the Occupation should be standard! We should be fully transparent!)
  • Designate volunteers as 'Allies' (with armbands?) - Allies would be designated to intervene when people are excluded or otherwise marginalized from areas in the camp
  • Anti-racist training - Designed so that trainees learn to teach

It was noted that Occupy Wall Street has dealt with this by creating 3 separate working groups: 1) safe spaces, 2) people of color, and 3) occupy the hood. Of these, we mostly talked (enthusiastically) about occupy the hood -- a working group composed of outside coalitions among communities of color who identify with Occupy Wall Street but also have their own space. The working group is meant to create an alliance, but to also establish a separate space, with separate rules.

Seth pointed out that focusing on white people (i.e. ourselves, mostly) is important. "A lot of people are thinking about this, conscious of this, and finding their own ways to engage with the movement" He pointed out that transforming the space is a BIG project, and that rather than trying to immediately eradicate all traces -- and focus our energy on getting parity -- we should work instead towards building alliances and working on anti-oppression within a mostly-white context -- though keeping communication with people of color groups (what resources do we bring as white people? how can we best use them to support people of color?)

It was also pointed out that follow-through from the GAs is essential to building credibility (thinking about the youth request, "will you actually come to our communities" - given that relationship building - personal & organizational - is at the core of organizing). Someone pointed out that we could collaborate with groups who are already doing anti-racist work (Boston Antifa) to jumpstart this process at the camp. Seth also suggested focusing on dominant culture, rather than race, gender, class, so as to be able to tackle multiple instances of the same problem.

Overall, the idea of an anti-oppression working group emerged as a pressing need.


Proposed next steps:


  • We will report this conversation at the outreach working group check-in (if this didn't actually happen, this email will probably do)
  • We will reach out to community organizations at this Tuesday's SEIU meeting and solicit help with the creation of a broader anti-oppression working group, and ask for their input and help making this work. Christine will announce the creation of an anti-oppression working group at this evening's GA, with the first meeting scheduled for this Thursday at 6.
  • Katie will coordinate an anti-oppression training with Joanie and Eden at the Free School University