Empowerment Training Day for OccupyMPLS

Tuesday, Dec 6th, OccupyMpls sponsored Empowerment Training Day at Walker Church in S. Mpls. It was a day to focus on skill sharing. training, and discussion around the core issues facing OccupyMpls. It was designed to build a respectful and empowering culture within the movement.

Afternoon round table discussions

I participated for a few hours in both the morning and the afternoon. The event had a full schedule from 8am – 5pm.  I arrived about 10am to a room of about 60 people. Starhawk was going over the principals of meeting facilitation and consensus process.  Many present had some experience with these subjects before, and so the depth of the discussion during the presentation was directed at the particular problems facilitating a ‘general assembly’ presented to occupy organizers.

About 10.25 am the meeting was interrupted by an announcement the Plaza security had ‘raided’ the camp earlier that morning as about 8.30am and had taken all unattended items from the Plaza. Several county commissioners phone numbers, who were reported to be meeting Tuesday, distributed and calls were made in rotation as the workshop training continued.

The importance of incorporating core values into the consensus, and general assembly processes was emphasized, as well as the need to select the best decision-making process for each issue the group faced. Consensus Process is not needed for many movement decisions, just the major ones where core values are being defined.

I returned after lunch when open group meetings, now about fifty with many new people, were in progress. Five topics were under discussion at smaller round tables :

  1. Direct Action Strategy
  2. Visioning
  3. General Assemblies
  4. Guideline for “New Norms”
  5. Diversity within the Movement

Each group kept notes on its discussion with the aim of discovering insights, and gleaning items for later general assembly proposal and consideration. Every fifteen minutes or so, the groups paused and people rotated among them as they felt called. I participated in the visioning, direct action, and diversity groups. At the end of the session, spokespersons from each group summarized the discussion and outlined items that deserved further work to integrate the ideas within OccupyMPLS.  A contact person and email  was established for each work group and a sign-up for messaging within each group was posted.

Continue reading

Starhawk Visit Schedule : Mon-Tues Dec 5-6th

Monday, December 5, 2011 at 5  PM
Mayday Books, 301 Cedar Ave. (downstairs), West Bank, Minneapolis
”  Empowering Tools for Challenging Times  ”

From Cairo to Wall Street, all over the world people are coming together to create change, organizing without top-down leadership or hierarchies. In thousands of voluntary groups everywhere, people work together to create everything from community gardens to media to new ways of living. Such circles can be enormously creative and empowering, but they can also be cumbersome and frustrating. Yet when they work well, they liberate our imagination and change the world.

In her latest book, The Empowerment Manual, A Guide for Collaborative Groups,  Starhawk draws on four decades of experience in circles and collectives to show us how to foster connection, clear communication and positive power in ourselves and our groups. She is well-known as a global justice activist and organizer, whose award-winning work and writings-translated into many languages-have inspired many to action.  She has lived and worked collectively for thirty years. 

Starhawk will sign copies of The Empowerment Manual and chat with folks informally.

Join us for a potluck.  Bring some food to share.  

Sponsored by OccupyMN; Women Against Military Madness (WAMM); & MN-WEB (Women’s Earth Brigade)


Tuesday Dec. 6th:

Empowerment Training Day with Starhawk 8am-5pm. 
This day will be focused on trainings and discussion about core issues facing OccupyMpls, to build a respectful and empowering collaborative group throughout the winter.  The day will include an 8-9 a.m. Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser with a presentation from Starhawk. The rest of the day will consist of Facilitation Training, Teach Ins on various topics, and Open Space for discussing core issues facing OccupyMN. All at Walker Church, 3104 16th Ave. So, in south Minneapolis.  Sponsored by OccupyMN/Minneapolis. New website:  OccupyMinnesota.org.

If you would like to host a breakfast table and for questions Contact Malia at kochikaralove@gmail.com .

  • 7am: Prep for Breakfast-Fundraiser.  Table hosts arrive and help set up.
  • 8-9am: Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser.  30 minutes eat & chat.  30 minute presentation, with a short slideshow about OccupyMpls & Occupy around the world, a story or two from Starhawk, and a few testimonies from people involved with OccupyMpls.  Attendees will be asked to contribute what they can to help cover the cost of Starhawk’s plane-fare, and to OccupyMpls’s general fund.
  • 9:30-12pm: Facilitation Training: (All interested in becoming a facilitator for General Assemblies invited!) What is the Art of Facilitation? How do we improve our skills?  What are some current issues with General Assemblies and how can they be addressed?
  • 12-1pm: Lunch
  • 1-2pm and 2-3pm: Teach-ins:  On various topics, including “Anti-Oppression Awareness”; “Economics Unmasked”; “Art and Community Activism”; and more.  (TBA)
  • 3-5pm: Open Space: Discussion on various core issues facing OccupyMpls, including:
  1. What is the relationship of General Assemblies to Direct Actions? / How are we using Direct Actions as a movement? / Is there a framework for input or feedback pre- & post- actions?
  2. Visioning: What is our goal?  Do we have different goals? Are there Affinity-groups?
  3. Structure of General Assemblies: What is Consensus & how does it work?  What is modified consensus & when is that a better option?  What are blocks & how do address inappropriate use of blocking?
  4. Guidelines & Shaping of “New Norms”… how to build a culture at OccupyMpls that is empowering and respectful?  How do we address conflicts, violence and intimidation?
  • Dinner (location TBA)
  • 7-9pm: General Assembly (location TBA) The “GA” is the governing body of the various Occupy movements.

Sponsored by OccupyMN/Minneapolis.

Starhawk to support Occupy Minnesota Dec 5-6th – Interview


StarhawkPagan authorReclaiming Tradition co-founder, and social justice activist will be visiting the Twin Cities in support of the Occupy Minnesota movement next Monday and Tuesday, December 5-6th. Starhawk will be appearing Monday, December 5th at Mayday Books, 301 Cedar Ave S, on the West Bank, Minneapolis from 5-7pm offering a meeting facilitation training session. The Occupy General Assembly begins after  at 7pm at the Occupy Minneapolis site, 300 S. 6th St, Mpls, MN.   This is a fairly spontaneous trip and further details of Tuesday’s schedule and further training opportunities will be updated.

I interviewed Starhawk by phone this morning about Pagans and the Occupy movement.

What do you see as your role for the Occupy movement in Minnesota?

My role with the Occupy groups has been trying to plug-in around training and meeting facilitation. That is where I have the greatest contribution to make, and I have seen the biggest need. Everyone suddenly decided to go out for large consensus in the park, but most people don’t have any training or experience with meeting facilitation. General Assemblies are not the easiest place to start in facilitating a meeting! I have many years of experience with consensus and with different forms of meetings and group process and with democratic and horizontally structured group organizing. I think this type of group is very familiar to us in the Pagan community.

What particular experiences and perspectives might Pagans bring to the Occupy Movement?

What Pagans bring is first, most of us have experience working collaboratively in circles or small groups. That is a form of organizing. We have a basic approach to life, spirituality, to the world, that doesn’t depend on an external authority, No, we are our own authority. Secondly most Pagans learn about energy and awareness, and that is really key in preparing for action and holding and maintaining non-violence in the face of violence. Facilitating a meeting is a lot of watching the energy and moving with the energy. Thirdly, I think we bring an ethic that we are supposed to take care of the Earth, and take care of our people. We are all interconnected. We have to live our lives and shape our society based on those values. That is why the Occupy movement is really exciting.

Occupy Minnesota March

Continue reading

MMR records song in support of Occupy Wall Street, performs live tonight

A local Pagan band with mainstream appeal, Murphey’s Midnight Rounders, just finished recording a song in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The band performs the song, “Hard Times, Come Again No More,” for the first time live tonight at 5pm for the OccupyMN demonstration at Government Plaza in downtown Minneapolis.  The song was written by Stephen Foster in 1854.

Paul Ferrise, studio producer for MMR, said the band is busy recording for their new CD release coming up this spring, but wanted to support the Occupy movement, “So far we have recorded 11 songs towards the new Twin CD release. [Monday], MMR came into the studio wanting to record, edit, master and publish a song in honor of OccupyMN and all the Occupy organizations across the country.”

Bonnie Hanna-Powers, Teresa Frank, and Brad Murphy

Teresa Frank, vocals and percussion for the band, encourages others to get involved in the Occupy movement, “The revolution has started and we need you at the government center.” MMR has a history of supporting political, religious rights, and social justice movements.  They most recently marched in the Hemp Fest Walk for Freedom, assisted several Pagan groups in fundraising, and joined the pro-union protests in Wisconsin.

Hard Times, Come Again No More  was written by Stephen Foster in 1854, but feels relevant today as Americans endure the difficult economic times sparked by the recession began in 2007.  A recession that may technically be over, but is still felt in the high unemployment numbers and high food and gas prices. It has a depression-era sound and the word choices in the lyrics, especially in the chorus,  likewise give a strong nod to that time period.

It’s the song, it’s the sigh of the weary
Hard times, hard times come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door
Hard times come again no more

The song is available for free download along with samples of other songs from their upcoming CDs.

*Editor’s note:  The original version of this article incorrectly stated that the song was written by Murphey’s Midnight Rounders.

The Occupation shows, doesn’t tell.

Friday I spent most of my day at the OccupyMN protest in downtown Minneapolis.  My main goal was to get a feel for the movement so many Pagans are taking part in or at least sympathetic towards.  The movement tells us they are different than any previous protest and they are unhappy with how the media “just doesn’t get it.”  They can’t be classified, they explain.  They don’t have leaders and spokespersons, they have no firm goals as of yet, just a firm conviction that our country’s process is so broken it can no longer function.  They speak of suffering, feeling divorced from power, marginalized.  They are an experiential movement.  The magic is in being there and adding your essence to the mix.  As I’m  part of an experiential religion family, Paganism, I thought I’d look at what was happening through the lens of my religious background.

I can see why the mainstream media doesn’t “get it.”  From my observations, the Occupy movement isn’t about demands or slogans or political parties, it’s about manifesting the society they wish existed.  Similar to Pagan festivals, OccupyMN is creating a (temporary) healthy, functioning, caring community in Government Plaza.  The media has been asking them “What are your demands?  What are your solutions?”   The solutions they propose are being worked out in real time, right before our very eyes.  They aren’t writing them down on a website, or articulating it to the media in neat soundbites, they are demonstrating solutions by living them.  They aren’t protestors, they are demonstrators – those who present by experiments, examples, or practical application.  Also similar to Pagan festivals, the real question is, can such a community, and the solutions they demonstrate that  work so beautifully during a short period of time on a small scale, apply to large scale groups like an entire nation?

This demonstrator says real power is in the hands of a few.

Some of the attendees are protestors in the traditional sense of the word.  They are unhappy with specific policy areas and want to change them using established methods.  They want lower college tuition prices, or a reversal of a Supreme court decision, or for candidates to only use public financing.  These are small tweeks to the present system.   What the core of the Occupy movement, the ones who camp out and devote themselves wholeheartedly, seem to want is wholesale changes to the system itself.  Not the policies, but the process.  I’m not saying the movement wants to overthrow the government and turn us into Cuba or Canada.  But they want a revolution to take place.  A more open system, a less crushing process, for us all to live and resolve conflicts in.

When they speak about the 99% and the 1% it is tempting, for them and those of us trying to understand, to frame it in terms of  money.  Money often does equate to power, which generates more money, which helps concentrate power further.  I think it’s more accurate to think of the 1% as representing those who control our present system.  Which is exactly opposite of how this country was set up to operate, at least on paper.  I’m not sure if there was ever a golden age of the United States where the citizens held the reigns of power instead of  just the illusion of power, but it is a myth worth fighting for.

Now that we have that long intro out of the way, let me walk you through my day so you can get a feel for what I experienced during my time in Government Plaza.

Continue reading