Today was Strike Debt’s Winter Jubilee in New York and it made for a lovely homecoming, to see all my Occu-buddies and many other people, seemingly new to the movement. It’s part of the new meeting structure that includes one open house a month to explain what we’ve been doing and what is planned for the future. It’s a way for people to join in or just to keep posted.
I enjoyed it all the more for the fact that this was the first major Strike Debt event that I had no part in organizing. By the time I arrived, the space kindly donated by Artists Space was being transformed into a Strike Debt hangout.
On the way in people were greeted, given handouts and publications and a “Hello! My Debt Is” badge. They could sign up for more information and email listservs.
Inside there was food and drink, a Radical Kids area, a Rolling Jubilee debt cancellation letter station and lots of people getting to know each other. The room was packed. Proceedings kicked off with David Backer’s popular performance of Woody Guthrie’s Debt Song, reprised from the Rolling Jubilee.
The formal part of the afternoon began with historian George Caffentzis reading from Ben Johnson’s seventeenth-century play Catiline about the Roman Consul who promoted debt abolition–in 63 BCE.
There were popular report backs on the Rolling Jubilee and Occupy Sandy. Yesterday, two hundred local people gathered at the Occupy Sandy hub in Staten Island and took visitors on a tour of the storm damage. It’s hard to explain to outsiders how unlikely this event would have seemed before the storm. Staten Island is one of the most Republican regions of the city and certainly no Occupy stronghold. But when a diesel generator was stolen from the Occupy hub, someone donated an oversized solar-panel generator replacement that same afternoon.
There were shout-outs of debt figures, a kind of reverse auction for the worst situation that proved strangely hilarious in the debt assembly style. At the suggestion of Marisa Holmes we moved into breakouts to imagine a world without debt. In my group, I was the only person from about 15 who had been involved with Strike Debt before, so I facilitated. It was fun to see people take to the horizontal process and spontaneously generate an updated version of the first Strike Debt assemblies of the summer. There were lots of good ideas here, especially a call for debt and legal clinics, something we’ve been meaning to do for a while but have only been able to undertake in Staten Island.
After reportbacks, entertainment then followed from Strike Debt magician Andrew Ross and the Radical Kids performance of “Rapunzel: A Debt Crisis.”
Providing organized child care is something that many of us in OWS have been arguing for over a long period, and it was great to see it take this first step as part of Strike Debt.
The afternoon concluded with drinks and cake. Somehow, cake and debt have become related memes. People left feeling happy and unified. It’s good to be back.