Tag Archives: David Bacon

Art and Activism


Oakland   Every once in awhile if you are searching for new paths, you are going to have to change directions in order to find the way.  At least that’s what I thought in agreeing to go to a day-and-a-half conference in Oakland on art and activism, organizing and culture.   An invitation from old friends and comrades, Gary Delgado and Gina Acebo, was too good to pass up since I needed to be in the Bay Area anyway, and it was a fascinating day.

Jumping to the bottom line, despite meeting a great bunch of talented, committed, and razor sharp artists and cultural workers, there is still no denying that there is a huge gulf that would have to be bridged to create genuine dialogue much less fruitful collaboration.  Nonetheless there were scintillating hints time and time that it could be worth the effort.

It was also fascinating to just be a part of the process and get a sense of the many ways that all of us as blind people are still groping at the elephant.  Listening to Jeff Chang of Stanford and a great panel of folks talk about the impact of Culture Strike on the immigration reform efforts around the DREAM Act and SB1070 in Arizona was significant, but essentially in their attempt to evaluate the impact of their contribution they were describing one room of a giant house without fully understanding the rest of the architectural layout around them.  It was also struck me as interesting that understanding the cultural process and how it evolved and created change, they were oblivious to the similarities of the same evolution and development on the organizing and political process believing it was simply marked by court solidarity events and feeling that cultural change preceded social changes rather than being inextricably linked together.  As I said, this was too short a meeting for people to really be able to learn a common language and see the linkages, but an education regardless.

Jeff Change of Stanford talking about Culture Strike

Among the highlights were seeing how guerilla artistic interventions had been so effective in the demystifying the Japanese experience at the Asian Art Museum, listening to a digital games designer who developed games that looked at gender roles and change, hearing the passion of labor photographer and journalist David Bacon for his efforts to effectively tell the stories of organizing today, participating in what seemed a hokey exercise that turned very powerfully into a lesson about how different experiences and work could connect in the same narrative, and more.

Big props to the organizers who pulled the pieces together with nothing but their own commitment and the willingness of all of us to come together (what a relief not to have outside funders involved or in the room distorting the discussion!).  This is the way conversations start and changes in perspective – and direction – develop.

Anna's digital games for social change

Connecting experiences into a story

David Bacon talking about labor photography and journalism

Gary Delgado one of the conference organizers



Resistance, Solidarity and ACORN at Occupy

Mail AttachmentNew Orleans Perhaps the easiest organizing I can make right now as an organizer is that the Occupy movement needs to prepare to meet the resistance.  Well, maybe it would be even easier to mention my concerns about the fact that winter is approaching in many areas, but later for that.

In the last week 400 riot cops swept through the site in Melbourne, Australia and obliterated the encampment.  The reports and pictures from Oakland were somewhat horrific with their own body count.  Atlanta saw more than 50 arrests in another political turn of the wheel that literally pulled the ground out from underneath the Occupiers.  In both of the American cities the excuses were prompted by reports of crimes in the encampments.  Having survived Katrina, I’m still skeptical until I hear more about these alleged incidents to know whether they were real or rationalizations.

Staff PhotojournalistOakland is the right battleground for Occupy, so let the fight be engaged there on this issue where the support base is potentially among the largest one can imagine for this movement.  3000 people gathered during the night to retake the park and the conversation circles about next steps that were photographed and sent out by David Bacon were telling.  It was also gladdening to see that Occupy Wall Street in New York City undertook a solidarity march in support of the Oakland Occupiers.  Good politics and good organizing!

No doubt general assembly’s in all Occupy cities are having planning discussions on how to respond to political and police attack.  This will be hard ground to hold, and we can’t allow the right tactical response to distract from the main thrust of the movement.

Mail Attachment-1Meanwhile we have the feel good moments and ridiculous asides that one can find alongside any movement.  The Times had a story with pictures of families taking their children to “experience” something of how a movement feels.  Ok, I believe in that, too!  I hate to think how many meetings, marches, and similar events our children plowed through before they were teenagers!

For ridiculous asides it is hard to beat the fake Fox fury that my old friend, Megyn Kelley, and others are trying to summon by trying to find ACORN lurking somehow behind and underneath the Occupy Movement.  A denial by the spokespeople at Occupy Wall Street was not enough of course, but it was nice to see a blogger for the Washington Monthly do such a good job debunking this madness and putting a needle in their balloon in the piece called “When in Doubt, Blame ACORN!”