I went to see my seamstress to get a zipper fixed. I’ve known her for about a decade, seen her and her partner struggle to hang onto their house and raise their son. She works several part-time low-wage jobs while he has been out of work. When I told her I was meeting some friends down at Occupy Boston later, she asked me, “What’s that?” She had no clue.
She and her partner are so heads-down trying to survive that they are taking the economic collapse personally. They think it is their own bad luck and he’s starting to feel that he’s being punished for his sins. They have run into bureaucratic obstacles but it didn’t occur to her to turn to her State Representative for help; she didn’t know there are non-profit groups who will guide people in their attempts to modify their mortgages; a drunken neighbor has become threatening; her talented son’s after-school art classes are starting to cost more than she can scrape together. She has only the vaguest sense that something global is going on and she seems to have picked up that sense from the Fox News ether. Their isolation jarred me.
I did make it down to Occupy Boston yesterday to see Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, a long-time activist and scholar, who was giving the Occupy Boston "Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture." This is something organized by academics who are involved with Occupy Boston and attracts other academics and students and visitors to the camp. The folks who actually live in the camp aren’t generally interested in such things – they’re just busy keeping the camp livable. There were about 30 of us standing around, most of whom came quite specifically for Roxanne.
Back in the day, Roxanne started the first women's liberation group in Boston and organized me into it. It was feeling its way into an analysis and gathered together perhaps the most disparate group ever contained in one collective. When I say disparate, I’m talking about Betsy Warrior on one hand, the first woman to talk openly about being a “welfare mother” and a battered woman; and on the other hand, Abby Rockefeller, as in Abby Rockefeller.
Although I haven't seen her for many decades, we’ve been Facebook friends so I feel reconnected. After her speech I went up to her and said, “Sue Katz.” She looked into my mid 60s face – last seen in its mid 20s incarnation – and I watched her suddenly find “Sue Katz” in it. Hugs and hand-holdings followed and then we both parted for our next obligation.
But something very weird happened while I listened to her speech about activism and history. I was bit on the ass. Not once, but several times. I could feel it when it happened, me in jeans and a bulky down coat, and it was disconcerting to realize that something was in my pants uninvited. By the time I got home I had a red hot inflamed swelling that made my ass cheek look like it had sprouted an ass cheek.
I barely had time to gobble down something before I switched to a nice pink jacket and made my way to Lesley University for a showing of “Left on Pearl,” the amazing documentary-in-the-making of the 10-day occupation of a Harvard building in 1971 that resulted in the Cambridge Women’s Center. Lesley University was sponsoring a conference of college women’s centers’ staff, so it was a perfect audience. We had a small panel afterwards including Susan and Rochelle (from the film collective) and my fellow occupiers from those days, Sara and Eleanor, and me (shifting uncomfortably on my painful butt).
If there’s one thing that the Occupy movement has made clear, the young people do not know the history of revolt, even of modern revolt – like the anti-war or Panther or women’s movements. Not even of contemporary struggles like the long, persistent, creative work in Wisconsin against foul attacks on unions and state workers. These young women at the film showing identified as feminist but had never heard of this action. The film is rather brilliant, as I have written here many times, and once it is completed (it needs a music score), it is going to be mind-blowing. It is so different to see it today than it was say prior to two months ago, when Occupy Wall Street began. Times have changed – a bit at least. And this from a woman who grew a third ass cheek.