The two groups didn't always get along, and months ago such a partnership would have been far-fetched. At the first Occupy Boston general assemblies in September, reps from MassUniting — a federation representing hundreds of local advocacy groups, including City Life — asked for Occupy support in their September 30 sit-in at the Bank of America building on Federal Street. The offensive had been planned months in advance, with more than 50 actions leading up to the big day. But the nascent Occupy activists mostly ignored the call for collaboration, even voting to take Dewey on the same afternoon.
Wounds between Occupy and community groups didn't heal overnight. Despite a handful of Dewey Square protesters showing up at City Life foreclosure actions — and a successful Occupy the Hood event in October, in which hundreds marched from downtown to Roxbury — most relationships between the Occupy movement and other organizations have been superficial until now. Some groups viewed Occupy as a "rent-a-mob," while many Occupiers were skeptical of co-optation by unions and political action committees. There are still concerns — Tuesday's general assembly spent two hours weighing a proposal as to whether Occupy Boston should officially condemn Republicans and Democrats — but the worst of the paranoia seems to have faded.
Said Curdina Hill, executive director of City Life: "The MassUniting coalition will continue to stand on the front lines with Occupy Boston in the fight for a government and economy that works for all of us — not just major corporations and the wealthiest one percent."
At the Monday outreach meeting, Occupy coordinator Katie Gradowski explains to her comrades that it's important to respect City Life's leadership on upcoming anti-foreclosure actions. She says the nonprofit is excited about Occupy involvement, but needs to know exactly how they plan to help wage war against evictions. Will they bring flash mobs? Marching bands? Another Occupier adds that Occupy shouldn't compromise City Life by staging independent home occupations that could antagonize the police in already volatile neighborhoods.
Many working groups are attempting to unite ebony and Occupy. Significant outreach into minority communities has been a problem in the Boston movement since day one, but is now being steadfastly addressed. The people-of-color working group is forming a council of elders to court older black and minority activists who have experience engineering mass movements. They already tapped veteran Hub hero Mel King to help the effort. To mesh with activists in the Latino community, Occupy offshoot Ocupemos El Barrio is asking for "white allies" to join them at a re-organizing meeting in East Boston this Friday. Some are even reaching out to adversaries. Media working group point person Martin (he doesn't give his last name) is planning a January town hall powwow at the Old South Meeting House to engage politicians and opponents of the movement.
"If they really want to listen to us, then they should come," Martin says about everyone from Republican pols to conservative trolls. "And if they want to work with us — and talk to us — they can wait at the podium like everyone else and have their say. . . . There are a lot of organizations on the outside and different kinds of people who are really helping, and those are the ones that we want to work with. The end result is to have everybody's input on what we should be doing moving forward."
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