To Occupy or Decolonize? That is the Question… Is there an Easy Answer?

Here’s some thoughts to the debate around the use of term Occupy vs Decolonize that’s been taking place at some of the Occupy sites Most recently here in Oakland.
The term ‘Occupy‘ is a loaded word that has long been problematic in many communities of color. To put it simply many have long felt they have been the victims of Occupation…. Those of Native background understand that Occupy has led to genocide.  During the Civil Rights and Black Power struggles of the past we’ve heard term Occupy as one that rallied people together..This was especially true with the Black Panthers who noted that the police were ‘occupying forces in our community….With all that being said, in the end, one can see why there’s been a push for name change..


Waziyatawin Speaks to Occupy Oakland | Unsettling America

Waziyatawin Speaks to Occupy Oakland | Unsettling America


The Fourth World -- 11.22.2011 -- The international blog-journalists association, the Aboriginal News Group (ANG), a stateless, independent media guild organised by persons representing a broad variety of independent viewpoints and comprised principally of concerned individuals from Autochthonous/First Nations communities, wishes to make public its support for the international #Occupy movement and to declare our solidarity with all those who are taking an active part in pro-democratic street demonstrations and in the international digital efforts that support the public communications challenges of this important struggle.
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Why December 4 is a Good Day to “Decolonize Oakland”

The following is a guest post from Michael Siegel, a National Lawyers Guild member, Occupy Oakland supporter, born-and-raised Oaklander, and would-be decolonizer. He’s twittering @OaktownMike.
This coming Sunday, at 2:00 p.m., the Occupy Oakland (OO) General Assembly will consider a name change, proposed by an OO caucus representing people of color and queer people of color. The suggestion is that we rename our movement “Decolonize Oakland.”
The proposal reflects an attempt to bridge the gap between the Occupy Oakland movement and various deeply rooted Oakland communities. This gap has been reflected in the use of the term “Occupy” itself, which carries heavy echoes of the legacies of imperialism and colonialism. The gap has also been reflected in the makeup of OO, which often skews towards a vocal white, male constituency. Unfortunately, some individuals have been unable to recognize the critical contradiction in their approach, in which they are claiming to be agents of social change but are failing to account for the heritage of white supremacy, patriarchy, and genocide in this country.
Critics of the “Decolonize” proposal have questioned the need for this conversation. Others have stated that the proposal is a distraction, and might be better deferred to a later time.

Occupy Boston Ratifies Memorandum of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples

The following resolution was passed by the Occupy Boston General Assembly on October 8th, 2011:
RESOLUTION:  Memorandum of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples
WHEREAS, those participating in “Occupy Boston” acknowledge that the United States of America is a colonial country, and that we are guests upon stolen indigenous land that has already been occupied for centuries, Boston being the ancestral land of the Massachusett people; and
WHEREAS, members of the First Nations have continued to resist the violent oppression and exploitation of the colonizers since they first arrived on this continent, and as a result have a great amount of experience that could strengthen this movement; and
WHEREAS, after centuries of disregard for the welfare of future generations, and the consistent disrespect and exploitation of the Earth, we find ourselves on a polluted and disturbed planet, lacking the wisdom to live sustainably at peace with the community of Life; therefore be it
RESOLVED, That we seek the involvement of the First Nations in the rebuilding of a new society on their ancestral land; and

Occupy Denver endorses Colorado American Indian Movement's indigenous proposal

Saturday had the potential for seeing a collision course of parades and protests: While the annual Columbus Day Parade was gearing up downtown, the anti-Columbus Day protesters were gathering outside the Capitol, right by Occupy Denver. And Occupy Denver was planning its own march through downtown at noon, right as the parade, and the protests it eternally inspires, wound down.
But somehow, it all came off without a hitch... or an arrest.
And Glenn Morris, the University of Colorado Denver associate professor who's in the forefront of the Columbus Day protests, was back at the Capitol with fellow Colorado American Indian Movement members on Sunday, to meet with reps of Occupy Denver and ask them to sign on to AIM's platform.
Many Occupy Denver members "did participate with us in our protest of the Columbus Hate Speech Parade," Morris reports, "and many of them came to the Four Winds American Indian Center to share a meal with us" on Saturday. And after an hour of discussion and debate, he says, the Occupy Denver General Assembly unanimously endorsed the Colorado AIM-initiated indigenous proposal.

Occupy Asheville Passes Resolution in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples:

The following resolution was passed by the Occupy Asheville General Assembly on October 9th, 2011 with assistance from Cante Tenza Okolakiciye – the Strong Heart Warrior Society of the Oglala Lakota Nation:
Those participating in “Occupy Asheville” assert the following understandings:
WE ACKNOWLEDGE the United States of America is a colonial country, and that we are guests upon stolen Indigenous land that has already been occupied for centuries, Asheville being the ancestral land of the Cherokee people; and
WE ACKNOWLEDGE members of the First Nations have continued to resist the violent oppression and exploitation of the colonizers since they first arrived on this continent, and as a result have a great amount of experience that could strengthen this movement; and
WE ACKNOWLEDGE First Nations people continue to assert their sovereign rights of land, language, lifeway, and culture under Natural Law; and

An Open Letter To Occupiers of Mother Earth

E ngā reo, e ngā karanga, e ngā whanaunga, e ngā iwi o te ao. Tēnā koutou katoa. Ko Te Wharepora Hou tēnei e mihi atu ana ki a koutou katoa. E tika ana me mihi ki a rātou mā kua wehe atu ki tua o te arai, haere haere haere, moe mai ra. Ka huri ki a tātou te hunga ora. Tēnā tātou.
He karanga tēnei ki ngā iwi e noho porotehe ana kite ao. He inoi hoki tēnei ki ngā kaiporotehe kia tautoko i ngā iwi taketake o te ao me o mātou whawhai mo te tino rangatiratanga. No reira, tēnā koutou tēnā koutou tēnā tātou katoa.
As the anti-capitalist movement builds the many ‘Occupy’ actions grow in number and intensity around the world. On this day, October 15th, we celebrate that non-Indigenous populations have begun to ‘see’ what Indigenous Nations have known for many hundreds of years; that the western capitalist structure is not only corrupt but is grounded in a colonial imperialism. This imperialism has at its roots the oppression and genocide of Native Peoples around the world.

Occupy Auckland : Marama speaks for Maori women - YouTube

Decolonize the Occupation Movement- A Call for Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples

Occupy Movements in multiple cities across the U.S.A. have passed statements in solidarity with Indigenous peoples. These statements open the dialogue of Occupy to issues of racism, race, colonization, decolonization, indigenous struggles and more. These statements also draw important connections between the current Occupy movements and the struggles of oppressed peoples that have been going on for long before Occupy came about. Drawing these connections helps to push the dialogue, be inclusive, and be open to learning from the experiences of others involved in fighting oppression. Virginia was one of the first geographical areas to be colonized by Europeans. Occupy Richmond and other Virginia Occupations should look into passing similar statements.
This is a map of the roughly pre-colonization territories of a variety of indigenous peoples in Virginia.

Decolonize the 99%

Last Wednesday at the Oakland general strike, I along with thousands of demonstrators chanted, “We are the 99%! We are the 99%! We are the 99%!” I honestly felt proud, powerful and conflicted all at the same time. In one sense, I’m thrilled that there is a movement that is demanding the redistribution of wealth and the transformation of violent economic systems. At the other end of the spectrum, there is privilege and oppression within the 99%. Human suffering, occupation and displacement have existed for a very long time, yet why are we waking up to it now, or are we even fully awake?
As I reflect on these questions and my own experience with the occupy movement, I have come to realize that the 99% frame is a double edge sword that is both brilliantly effective as well as potentially dangerous. It should not only be about targeting corporations and banks, but also about pushing forward larger projects of decolonization and liberation which dismantle inequality and human suffering along the lines of race, class, gender, sexuality, citizenship and nation. If we don’t recognize the nuanced webs of privilege and oppression within our institutions and interpersonal relationships, we are not fighting for a holistic freedom for all people but rather for the individual privileges of some.

The Takeover: Top People of Color Occupations

Contrary to popular belief, occupations are not a new thing. In fact, Black and Brown communites have been in the foreground of taking shit over since the civil war. Here are the highlights.

Fort Monroe- Fort Monroe was a Union garrison located in Virgina. Led by General Butler, Fort Monroe was a site of a major occupation when three Africans Frank Baker, James Townsend and Sheppard Mallory ran from their plantation to Fort Monroe to escape slavery. General Butler declared the three contraband and shielded them from their master who came to “retrieve his property.” Word spread about the men’s brave escape and within a week over 100 families came to Fort Monroe. There they established “contraband camps.”

Indigenous Resistance Against Mines

Word versus Action

The main event at yesterday’s first ever 2pm GA was the “decolonize” proposal—anyone who was in the plaza between 3 and 6 knows that much. But the story of who was right, wrong, too loud, or too disrespectful is probably more complicated than that immediately reveals. I know I eventually went off the grid—you’ll note in my recording of the GA that there’s no clear end to the spectacle. I’m not sure I made it to the end. My mic was kicked over all through the day as well, for some reason. First time that’s ever happened. To be honest, I’ll take a step out there and suggest that was due to the over all feeling of disrespect that some people were encouraged to bring.
From my own perspective, I have very complicated feelings about the idea of occupation. In the first place, the term is a legal construct that came into wide circulation after World War 1 and has been used in various capacities to obscure colonization. Colonizers, in turn, before the second decade of the 20th century, were never shy about what they were doing. They colonized, they called it colonization. In later years, the term occupation has become popular in describing the process of colonization in academic circles, because of its resonance with the Palestinian conflict, perhaps. Its a euphemism for the reality of what imperial countries do, part and parcel with the discourse of human rights and humanitarianism that grew up around Wilson’s dogma of the World War 1 era. Because the word does not imply anything sinister in itself, suggests a temporary situation, and a lack of ultimate goals, it is useful in obscuring ethnic cleansing and colonization. It is a word for a transient phenomenon by design, it does NOT mean colonization, any more than invading a country is liberating it.

Decolonization: What it means to me in the context of "Occupy"

[in response to a few twitter posts that worry that changing the name of “occupy oakland” to “decolonize oakland” would mean that white people will have to leave their apartments and homes here] 
A commitment to decolonization does NOT mean that (white/non-native) folks will be asked to leave their homes, neighborhoods, community, land, etc.
A commitment to decolonization DOES ask us to consider the history of the land we live on. It asks us to respect the land and to acknowledge the original inhabitants of this land, including American Indians (in the US) and other native folks elsewhere, trees, animals, water, air, etc. Decolonization is about our relationships to each other but also about our relationship to nature/Earth (also known as Mother Earth, Madre Tierra, PachaMama…)
Decolonization ask us (non-Native folks) to CHANGE—to give up our sense of entitlement in order to make way for gratitude and humility in all areas.

Alex Soto on Occupy Phoenix

As an Tohono O'odham, who lives in Phoenix, let alone an Indigenous person of this region, we live through the nightmare of the 1% total disregard of Indigenous self-determination and overall Human Rights. I would HOPE all who are now mobilizing in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, would stop and think about what does that mean? Is Occupy Phoenix solidarity symbolic in meaning (i.e. rallying against Bank and the overall financial system downtown), or is it very intentional in challenging the destructive behaviors that the capitalist system, and all those in power that horde it (the 1%), release towards our communities? If the second (which I get from the comparison to Arab Spring by the Occupy Wall Street site), then we ALL need to address colonization, because if not, then this is just another "white" revolution, that perpetuates the initial destruction of the 1% (i.e. European setters), that nearly wiped the 99% population of Indigenous folk off the continent. I would hope any mobilization against Capitalism here in AZ starts with local and regional context, and provide space for those who have been fighting capitalism (the 1%!) for 519 years(Indigenous People, who contrary to popular belief, ARE STILL HERE!).

Statement made at tonight’s GA

I am not from the Bay Area. Neither are a lot of folks that I know. Transient is a word often used to describe this place. In fact, the term is of tremendous importance to this debate.Because it is our ties to a place that cement our commitment to its well-being. To say that the Bay Area has a transient population invisibilizes the many communities that have resided here for years- particularly communities of color who are most directly supplanted by new comers- in a process many of us recognize as gentrification.
A connection less often asserted is that gentrification is a form of colonization. Which in turn should lead us to consider the original inhabitance of this land that was first colonized by the Europeans. Where we now stand is the ancestral home of the Ohlone people. That they, like many other Indigenous peoples, have been invisibilized and relocated for centuries does not in any way sever their investment in this land- and its well-being.
To consider invoking a name that will recognize the history of this place and its original inhabitance, is to simultaneously acknowledge forms of colonization, such as gentrification, that are rampant today- due to foreclosures and other exploits of the so-called 1%.
Though some may feel an attachment to the name occupy, I ask you to consider: can your investment in this term, one often used by invading armies, really trump a request by people who have a permanent connection to this place and for whom the term “decolonize” becomes a first step towards the recognition of all that they have faced to remain here?
-Michelle Steinberg

Boots Riley and Darshan on "Decolonize" Oakland

Boots Riley: For some reason,
this letter that I thought was just sent to my message box has been posted publicly by folks, so I thought that I should post it, and my response, publicly. It is from Darshan Elena Campos re: name change of Decolonize Oakland. My response will follow below it.

Dear Boots,

When I first heard your music, almost two decades ago, I swooned at the political insight, at the beats, at beauty of seeing Black people using the mic to check white power, corporate capitalism, and misogynist shenanigans. You and Pam the Funkstress created a space for me in hip hop at time when I felt sidelined in that movement.

When I first started coming to the encampment at Ogawa/Grant Plaza, I felt a similar sense of excitement. Here was a brother who was making sure that the table was long and wide, welcoming of everyone and especially those of us at the margins of the 99% in Oakland. You made me hopeful that together we were capable of turning that table into barricade against police violence and a platform for liberation, pure and sweet and real. Hearing your comments at the General Assembly last night as we were debating the name change - Occupy Oakland to Decolonize/Liberate Oakland - made me sad and angry; I felt like you stole the table, rearranged the seating charts, and left me at the door.

This is my mic check of a different kind, an open email letter.

Occupy or Decolonize?

Heading Toward October 15

by Joseph Jones
The Saturday planning meeting for Occupy Vancouver on 8 October 2011 started off in a jam-packed and already stuffy basement room underneath the W2 Media Cafe at 111 West Hastings. In the event and afterward, the understanding of the nature of the meeting seemed to morph into something that organizers chose to start calling a general assembly.
After only a few minutes, the meeting halted for a move upstairs to the Woodwards atrium because of the unanticipated hundreds of people who showed up. Quite a few of the later arrivals never made it into the underground room.
Before the shift of location, prearranged primary moderator Sarah Rose Edwards Noel declared a planning focus on legalities, media, food, and kids — and stated that discussion of "causes" would not be on the agenda.

Decolonize Occupy Seattle!

There has been a lot of divisions and redbaiting going on in Decolonize/Occupy Seattle. Although the below statement, presented by the People of Color caucus at Decolonize/Occupy Seattle got passed on Oct 19th, as of today (Oct 21st), it still has not made it on the official website.
*The General Assembly passed this statement on Oct 19th.
**However, the name “Decolonize/Occupy” was not passed. Majority (63/40) of the GA insisted on keeping the name “Occupy Seattle.”
Many people in the POC caucus insist on naming ourselves “Decolonize/Occupy Seattle” regardless because we do not need permission for how WE name OURSELVES.
Apparently some people are organizing internal education groups to teach why it is important for the General Assembly to adopt the name change
AFFIRMATION of Decolonization of Seattle with Northwest Indigenous Peoples
WHEREAS, those participating in “Decolonize/Occupy Seattle” acknowledge that the United States of America is a colonial country, and that we are invaders and squatters upon stolen indigenous land that has already been occupied for centuries, Seattle being the ancestral land of the Duwamish and Suquamish people; and