First off, if you have been involved in faith-based social justice work, you will recognize that the person with the guitar in front of this Wells Fargo Office is none other than singer and songwriter, Betsy Rose.
*Pause for social justice celebrity moment*
OK ... on to my reflections about this week's Interfaith March and Blessing for the Occupy Wall Street folks in San Francisco. Simply put, it was powerful. I posted the invitation last week, but to catch people up, this whole thing began with a few folks wondering if there was going to be any response by the faith community to Bay Area Occupy encampments. Conversations happened and it steamrolled into well over 200 people, from a myriad of faith traditions, gatherings to march, sing, pray and bless -- all in support of the Occupy San Francisco movement.
A few reflections on the day...
- The tone we set: Compared to other actions that I have attended, the tone of this gathering was profoundly calm. There was singing and some chanting, but it did not have the edge of other actions that often push the bounds of physical and verbal confrontation. The power that was communicated came in the sheer number of people who were there as we walked through the streets carrying the golden calf and stood in clear solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street folks in San Francisco and around the world.
- The language we use: One of the most challenging parts for me was when one of the speakers pushed the Occupy movement on language, specifically on using the term, "occupy." Not a positive word for those whose land has been "occupied" by others, I thought this was a poignant and compassionate moment in the service when we were reminded to always be self-reflective in our actions and words no matter how noble the cause.
- The presence we make known: As our group of robed, stoled and collared marchers weaved through the financial district, on more than one occasion I saw an expression of bewilderment in the eyes of observers. I suspect that there was a feeling of "Oh, great, another protest ... *yawn*" but when they saw the signs, symbols and dress there was a, "Huh, church people?" moment. Throughout our journey we were greeted with thank yous from Occupy SF folks, waves of encouragement from security guards and doormen and the best moment was watching a group of well-dressed business folks start singing along as we beted out, "This little light of mine." I almost shed a little tear ... almost.
- The challenge we lay down: While grateful for the organizers of this event who came from all over the Bay Area, it seems as if the San Francisco religious community has absent from the discussion. I am not sure that anyone from the Occupy SF encampment really notices or cares, but I would think that there would be more commentary and action by those of us who hold fighting against systematic poverty and injustice at such a high value. I am not saying that everyone can or should be at every action, but the lack of San Francisco folks does push the question about our own comfort and how much much we stand with/for the poor and powerless in our own city.
Overall I had a great experience, saw some long-time social justice workers as well as many new faces. Not sure what is next for the group, but it is my hope that there will be more opportunities for the religious community to step out of our traditions and contexts and get out on the streets in support of this call for fundamental and dramatic change.
If you are interested, here are a few more links, resources, etc.
Talia Cooper, Director of Jewish Youth for Community Action shared her song, "Mic Check: Occupy Everywhere" during the prayer service. This is not the video from our march, but Talia singing it at another event. Good stuff. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
And finally, here are a few more images that I captured during the day. For the entire album, please click on over to my facebook page.
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