More RQ Features
If you appreciate these features and the rest of the RQ website, please donate or subscribe now!
Streets of New York
Anthony Barreiro - Monday, August 30
Today has been a much more relaxed day than yesterday. I needed to recharge after yesterday's long, hot march. It felt good this morning to look at the web sites of newspapers around the country and around the world, and to see that the march was the lead story *everywhere*. We the people in the streets were *the* headline on the first day of the republican national convention. We won round one. Yay.
I spent most of the day today at St. Mark's church. The healing space is in a large back room behind the church sanctuary. For this convergence the room is divided diagonally by blue plastic sheeting. One side is used for meetings and trainings, the other side for the medics and the healing space. It's crowded, hot, and muggy, and sometimes a little hectic and noisy. The folks who planned and laid out the space did a great job of creating a clear separation between the medics and healers' space and the other side of the room, with a separate entrance.
I started by sweeping the floor (which it really needed!) and cleaning the space with sage and cedar.
The peace meditation altar is on a disused slate hearth at the back of the room, and is being created collectively by whomever wants to contribute. The altar already had a small cauldron, some fruit, a pile of small cloth strips on which folks are invited to write prayers to the goddess Brigid (after the convergence they'll be tied around the limbs of a hawthorne tree in a garden in Brooklyn), and some other stuff. I added my offerings to the altar -- a couple of scarves, a few small rocks, sage and cedar, a candle with oils of lavender, chamomile, and geranium, salt water in a bowl borrowed from the Seeds of Peace kitchen, two stuffed snakes (hi Renee!), a stuffed Minnie Mouse as the Statue of Liberty (thank you Phoebe!) and the sign I carried in yesterday's march with the drawing of the statue of Liberty and the words "with liberty and justice for all", a photo of the women spelling "PEACE" with their naked bodied on the beach in Bolinas (thank you Jeff and Chandra!), a small Tibetan painting of the buddha, and a copy of the Metta Sutra. By the entrance to the medics and healers space I put up a copy of Ellen Bass' poem "Pray for Peace."
People have been using the medics' services, for minor cuts, bruises, heat exhaustion, etc. Many of the medics are also herbalists, some use homeopathy, and other althernative and complementary methods. In addition to lots of first aid supplies, there are shelves filled with herbal extracts, homeopathic remedies, etc. Today more practitioners for the healing space arrived, and folks were getting Reiki, massage, acupuncture -- it was great to see. I didn't work directly with any folks today -- I just helped arriving healers get oriented, coordinated with the medics and security and the staff of the church, and generally hung out and did what seemed to need doing.
The whole convergence center feels rather like a faerie gathering to me -- nobody's in charge, there's a lot going on, everybody has to communicate to get anything done, and the vibe just becomes more coherent, more respectful and appreciative, more powerful. People smile a lot and express a lot of appreciation for one another. It's really beautiful to witness and participate in. And it seems to resonate out into the streets, which are very sympathetic and supportive of what's happening. Great big huge props to the clergy, staff, and congregation of St. Mark's, for having the courage to take such a huge risk and let thousands of strangers use their church for a week. Talk about living the gospel. And the Seeds of Peace and Food Not Bombs folks are amazing, cooking up huge pots of yummy food for folks at the convergence center and for the marches and other actions. In addition to using the kitchen they've turned part of the courtyard into a big prep area with big tables on sawhorses (again, it so feels like a faerie gathering). Today Seeds of Peace was making buckets of salsa to send with tortillas, etc. to the Poor People's Still We Rise March on Madison Square Garden.
From 6 to 8 pm the same folks who did the coffins in yesterday's march brought 15 black draped coffins and one US flag draped coffin to the courtyard at St. Mark's and read hundreds of names of the dead of the war in Iraq -- fifteen Iraqi names for every coalition soldier's name. When available, they included the age of the person. After each name, a single quiet, clear beat on a big drum. Occasionally they would read something written by a survivor -- the mother of a Pennsylvania National Guardsman, the Iraqi-American cousin of a young man killed in crossfire at a US Army checkpoint. Deborah and I sat and listened and cried. A young woman nearby counted off one bead on her mala (kinda like a rosary) for each name. There were TV cameras and newspaper reporters. Throughout most of the reading NYPD helicopters circled slowly, pretty low, a few blocks to the northwest and then the east, an eerily audible presence. The reading ended with a solo violin playing sad, sweet music. Most of the organizers seem to be in the performing arts, and about half are Arab Americans. They'll be reading the names of the dead for two hours every evening during the Republican convention, and they're not going to get through even a fraction.
After we came back to the hotel we saw Eduardo out front. Eduardo is from Richmond, California, he's a member of the March for Education that marched from Richmond to Sacramento to advocate for school funding, and he came to New York primarily to participate in the Still We Rise march, "led by New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS, New Yorkers who are or have been homeless, New Yorkers struggling with the welfare systemĘ and New Yorkers who have experience with the repressive drug laws and the criminal justice system" (from www.stillwerise.org). The march was today, they didn't have a permit, and it was huge, over 10,000 people. Eduardo and his half-dozen friends from the bay area were ecstatic, they said the cops were very cooperative, the march was allowed to get within three blocks of Madison Square Garden where they had a brief rally, and everybody dispersed without arrests or other problems.
Eduardo and his friends went off to Little Italy for dinner. Deborah and I came inside and watched a bit of the Republican National Convention. It was very strange to hear the delegates applauding and cheering as the widow of a man who died on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania recounted his last words over his cell phone.
Earlier today one of the medics at the convergence center said that my skills might be most useful at jail, serving folks who are being released from custody. There are medics and legal support people at the jails to help folks when they leave jail. Not knowing the city very well, I wouldn't feel comfortable going by myself, but if I can hook up with a medic who's going to do jail support tomorrow, I might go along.
Tomorrow afternoon and evening will be the big day for civil disobedience. Among the many actions planned, the War Resisters League will be leading a march in memory of the dead from ground zero toward Madison Square Garden, and doing a die-in when they are stopped by the police. An ad-hoc group called the True Security Coalition will be doing another march from Herald Square toward MSG, including the Pagan Cluster and the Green Bloc. See a31.org, www.warresisters.org, and pagancluster.org for more info.
Coincidentally and somewhat bizarrely, the New York radical faeries will be doing a drumming circle and spiral dance in the sanctuary at St. Mark's tomorrow evening. This has been scheduled since well before the A31 action coalesced. I'll be at St. Mark's with the faeries, holding space and sending supportive, protective, empowering energy toward the folks in the streets. I would ask each of you to pray (or whatever you call what you do) for the folks who will be out in the streets Tuesday afternoon and evening.
Anthony Barreiro is a Reclaiming Witch, a radical faerie, a queer christian, and a clinical social worker who lives in San Francisco. His email to family and friends is reposted here by permission. ©2004 Anthony Barreiro.
If you appreciate this feature and the rest of the RQ website, please donate or subscribe now!
To contact the Pagan Cluster or Green Bloc, email Reclaiming Quarterly, Return to the RQ Home Page
Return to the RQ Home Page