The Food Tent was stacked with cases of water and we added four more. The modest brown tarp covered a place where soup was heated to warm cold bodies and finger foods were available. The Food Tent was stocked by donations of vegetables, donuts, fruits, bread, dried meats, soup, water, coffee, and other odds and ends. They served breakfast, lunch, and dinner to approximately 300 people daily, many who are homeless.
The General Assembly decided early on that they would minister to the homeless. If change is to occur, it must start in our own backyards. If we are the 99% then the indigent must be included in that number as well. This has not come without difficulties. Those that have become homeless are sometimes there because of untreated mental illness. Some slipped into that life thinking it would be temporary and ended up becoming permanent. Some it is because of some flaw of character for one reason or another. But some are newly homeless, who ended up there because of the recent economic crisis. They remind us how close many of us are to being in their shoes.
The Comfort Tent is next to the Food Tent. It is filled with boxes of donated clothing, coats, gloves, hats, tarps, tents, and other articles of clothing and goods. This is where I unload the last of my donations. I pull out five pairs of gloves and the four tarps and hand them to the woman across the table. She was wearing a yellow T-shirt that said “I don’t give a Sh*t”, which made me chuckle inside. Not one smile creased her chocolate brown face as she instructed where to place each item. I asked her if she could use more bags and she grumbled that she had more bags than she knew what to do with, which brought another smile to my face. Even though she wasn’t smiling, I could sense she enjoyed being in charge of the comfort tent. It gave her purpose and she was doing a fantastic job with it. As, I left she said, “Thank you!” I met her gaze and said “Thank you!”
We wound our way through the sea of tents to the Information booth. A sweet middle aged woman was helping another couple, and we introduced ourselves to the other person. She went by the name Coffee. People often used their handles from Facebook as an identifier, the evolution of social media into modern day movements. She was telling us about the Bank of America March and the plans for rearranging the park to create a better infrastructure and to accommodate more people who were arriving each day.
Several people were working on a rigging system to raise a massive tarp to create a new common area on the west side of Grand Circus, which I’m sure by this time has been completed. All tents would be moved to that side, with several more being set up on the south side as well. Security measures would be put in place to ensure people always knew who was coming and going and to watch for agent provocateurs that have been infiltrating other Occupy camps in other cities. Occupy Detroit has been learning from other cities what works and what doesn’t so that they can avoid the same pitfalls.
Another middle aged woman dressed in a nice black jacket with a pink scarf joined the conversation. Her nicely styled hair contrasted starkly with the other woman with her who had dreadlocks under a doo rag. They were talking animatedly with each other about the March and how many people were there including the 200 from the Occupy Detroit Group. Those two would never have connected had it not been for the shared passion for this Movement.
As I assisted with the raising of the Occupy Detroit sign at the entrance of Grand Circus, I met Lee Gaddies. He is the Social Justice Chair at the 1st Unitarian Universalist Church of Detroit. One thing I am learning about Detroit is that churches are essential in providing community support. If you want to do effective outreach to the neighborhoods, you need to talk to the churches. They are the heart and soul of the community. This is different from what I’ve done before, but I it makes sense.
This brought Mr. Gaddies and I into a conversation about funding. Should we start a 501c3? When we start get a larger amount of funding what process should we utilize to distribute these funds efficiently and effectively? Occupy Wall Street is running into these issues now that they have exceeded $500,000 in donations. Occupy Detroit is monitoring their progress closely in anticipation of their own need for the same thing.
A woman approached us about donating to our cause. I clarified and asked if it would be an in kind donation, a couple of dollars, or something she wanted to do later online? She said just a couple of dollars, and one of our young men walked her over to the information booth to handle it. An older couple stopped and asked where they could bring two lawn chairs they wanted to donate to the cause, the sweet middle aged woman guided them to the Comfort Tent.
People would come up and ask questions as they were walking by, or honk their horns and wave in a show of support. Local business owners showed their support by donating goods or services to the protestors as much as they could afford in appreciation for being out there since they could not.
These are not your disenfranchised college hipsters wanting a free ride. They aren’t lazy. They aren’t unwilling to work. They are people who are very much involved with their community and are tired of a small group of people continuing to keep people in bondage.
The only thing that is required is to seek the truth, and to do that you need to question everything that you have been told. Always consider the source, and why they would want to mislead you. Usually, the motivation has to do with money and power. Follow the money, and you have your answer.