Commentary: People who work in the nonprofit sector ARE 'the 99%'

Jan Masaoka,, 10/16/11

We are the 99%. We who work and volunteer in the nonprofit sector know more deeply than most the suffering that so many people are experiencing, and the frustration that young people in particular are feeling. The authenticity of this movement is as moving to me as its successes. The Occupy Wall Street movement doesn't have the characteristic lacklusterness of campaigns produced by the political parties or the usual players in the anti-poverty movement. Take a moment to look at the wearethe99percent website to see the real stories of the mostly young 99%ers. And the outburst has succeeded in changing the narrative. This narrative is particularly refreshing given a high-profile narrative that's all too present in the nonprofit sector: that the wealthiest (the 1%) and philanthropy will be the ones to change the world. Despite the absence of high-profile individuals, it's clear that there is smart, experienced leadership in the movement. Only when there have been advance, sophisticated talks with the police can large demonstrations and arrests occur without violence and mayhem. A Southern California organizer tells us that many of the New York organizers have backgrounds in unions and in nonprofits. If you make less than $593,000 per year, you are part of the 99%. (And did you know that the wealthiest 1% of the population owns more than the bottom 90%?) The nonprofit sector has always been about the 99%. Let's embrace this narrative and movement, talk about it, build upon it, join it.


Commentary: At Occupy Wall Street, music is central to protest

David Bauder,The Associated Press, 11/13/11

Music and musicians are woven into the fabric of the Occupy Wall Street protest, much as they were in movements of the past. But no defining anthem such as "We Shall Overcome" has yet emerged for the protesters who have taken on corporate America. If Occupy Wall Street has no anthem yet, it's partly due to how a new generation experiences music: through personalized iPod playlists streaming through headphones instead of communal singalongs. True to a movement that claims to speak for the 99% of Americans who aren't super-rich, Occupy Wall Street embraces many forms of expression. Musicians across several generations and styles have given their support. "The more the merrier as long as you're going to bring in positive vibrations for the movement," said Kanaska Carter, a singer-songwriter who traveled from her home in Canada to camp out near Wall Street. Among the first New York performers was Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, an indie rock cult favorite. Rapper Talib Kweli performed and so did Michael Franti. A 92-year-old Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie, veterans of the labor, peace and civil rights movements, sang "We Shall Overcome." Sean Lennon and Rufus Wainwright offered an irony-drenched version of Madonna's "Material Girl." Then there are drums, beaten steadily by about a dozen people. Police and protesters have limited the hours of drumming to help neighbors work and occupiers sleep. An Internet-connected, do-it-yourself culture allows people beyond those at Occupy demonstrations to join in. They can write their own songs and spread them on Twitter or YouTube. "The movement is not waiting for superstars to grace it with their presence," singer Tom Morello said. Morello, who has done what amounts to a tour of Occupy demonstration sites, considers it his job as a musician to "keep steel in the backbone and wind in the sails of people who are standing up for economic justice."


Commentary: How the opera Satyagraha relates to Occupy Wall Street

Ann Binlot,, 11/11/11

The seminal Philip Glass opera, "Satyagraha," illustrates Mahatma Gandhi's early life in South Africa juxtaposed against the plights of fellow social reformers - Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore, and American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Although Glass composed "Satyagraha" in 1981 and the opera is set in the late 19th century and early 20th century, its message remains relevant today with the uprisings of the Arab Spring and the current Occupy Wall Street movement. "Almost all the techniques of protest -- now the common currency of contemporary political life -- were invented and perfected by Gandhi during his South Africa years," Glass has said in the past. While not all of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations have remained peaceful, it is evident that the movement took lessons in Gandhi's methods of protest. ARTINFO caught a performance of "Satyagraha" at the Metropolitan Opera, taking note of the ways Occupy Wall Street parallels with Glass's opera.    


Commentary: As winter approaches, Occupy can use theater to maintain protest

Benjamin Kabialis, The Berkeley Beacon [Emerson College newspaper] 11/10/11

During the Great Depression, a burgeoning population of workers' theater groups stamped on posters and playbills a common and empowering phrase: "Theater is a weapon." Theater welcomed the exuberance of material forged from the passions of deeply personal battles for workers' rights, and workers cultivated theater as a tool to raise class-consciousness. As American theater looks for the spark of revolution and Occupy Wall Street receives criticism for lack of direction, participants in both camps must take hold of this powerful partnership. Why does American theater dissolve while Occupy Wall Street bolsters its ranks? The latter is held together by a shared and deeply personal connection to the cause, while the former has become an institution completely out of touch with reality. Rather than an exploration of humanity, theater has become an exploration of theater. In colleges and universities actors study the craft of acting and playwrights study the writing of plays. The art form has become a sort of members-only party with no guiding principles outside those of economics. In several ways, Broadway's grandiose theaters, movie star performers, and steep ticket prices mirror the 1% of America's Wall Street. The Worker's Laboratory Theater, the Group Theater, and the Labor Stage were only a few of hundreds of troupes during the 1930s that proved theater could thrive without the resources or splendor of Broadway. Throughout the 1930s workers' movement, theater proved strongest when used as a tool for holding protest groups together. With winter approaching and harsh media criticism growing, Occupy Wall Street can use theater as a way of building community and maintaining a sense of passion in their own ranks.


Commentary: Occupy Wall Street goes onstage in Brooklyn

Allison Yarrow, The Daily Beast, 11/8/11

At the Brooklyn Heights Cinema, a group of thinkers, comedians, artists, and performers convened to talk about Occupy Wall Street, because for "professional people with day jobs," sleeping in a tent on concrete just isn't in the cards. "The time for staying home and clicking on things and eating stuff is over," said comedian Greg Barris, the evening's host. "The time to become better is now." Occupy This was the brainchild of Nellie Kurtzman, director of marketing for Disney children's books and daughter of Mad magazine founder, Harvey Kurtzman. There was no formal rehearsal. The programs and tickets were designed by a local firm, gratis. For production and the theater space, Kurtzman enlisted her friends. "The answer is not to do nothing," Kurtzman said. She has a theater background and she drew on what she called her strength -- getting people together. Attendees, organizers, and performers agreed that the conversation was had in a relatively self-selecting group: Brooklyn dwellers in sweaters, NPR listeners. Occupy This was less in the business of charting a path to the better than it was a vehicle for humanizing the crisis with story and humor -- and a hard sell for visiting its mothership, Zuccotti Park. Mike Daisey, as he does, addressed the privilege in the room, calling himself and his audience a bunch of hypocrites. He implored that we admit this rather than make excuses for not participating in the protest and that we shame ourselves and our friends and relatives away from the miasma of corporatism, especially if we or they work for a bank.

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