On day three of the Occutrip, the bus rolled into Northampton, Massachusetts. The Occutrippers (OTs) were greeted with a contingency of paparazzi ranging from local print media to community television to a photojournalist from the New York Times. As shutters snapped and smiles widened, the OTs realized that they had arrived in Occupy-friendly country. This would become increasingly apparent as the day went on and Northampton’s hospitality was put on display.
After leaving the bus/photo-op, the OTs were taken to a quaint little church where a home cooked meal of chicken, chili, and fresh-baked cookies were served. It felt like home. The meeting room itself even resembled an encampment. Signs and posters plastered the room with phrases like Tax the Rich, Feed People Not Corporations, and Home Sweet Occupation. Truly, OWS had arrived among allies.
The day’s “business” began with a facilitation and consensus training moderated by a team of OWS and Occupy Northampton (ONOHO) facilitators. Around 30-40 Occupiers, mostly women and older activists, packed the little room hailing from a myriad of locations around the region including Amherst, NH, Arlington, VA, Brattleboro VT, Granbury MA, and Northeast Connecticut among others. The conversation ranged from the finer points of consensus theory to general questions such as “what is a GA?” Sharon Tracy, a 30+ year activist from the Hudson Valley, was one of the facilitators. When asked why she thought consensus was important she remarked, “We all have conflict. We could be two peas in a pod and still have conflict [but] we have the capacity to transcend our own personal conflicts and create something greater. Consensus is a message of unity to get us to that place. Everything has a crack but that’s what let’s the light in.” The room seemed to agree. After two hours of letting the light in, the meeting adjourned to make way for another home cooked meal courtesy of the good people of Northampton.
With stomachs full and spirits warm, the OTs and ONOHO walked down the street to the Academy of Music in downtown Northampton for a film screening and panel discussion entitled “Occupy Cinema.” The project, a collection of 19 shorts documenting various components of the Movement, conjured a sense of nostalgia and inspiration. From Barcelona to London to New York, the film recounting the history of our young Movement including marches, encampments, evictions, processes, and actions from around the world. When the applause subsided and everyone sat back down from their standing ovation, the OTs were invited on stage to answer a few questions from the 600+ people in attendance.
The OTs were asked questions ranging from how the Movement can utilize non-corporate media platforms to how to propagate non-violence to how predominately white privileged neighborhoods can work together with less privileged communities. In a especially moving response to the latter question, one the OTs, Jodi spoke of the need for pointed confrontation of racism in our communities. She spoke passionately about how racist tendencies are so engrained in our culture that often we do not even recognize our presuppositions. Introspection and open/honest communication, she continued, were the only ways to break down the barriers of fear and misunderstanding.
After two hours of questions, answers, and the occasional song from the crowd, the night, and day three of the Occutrip, came to a close. Tired and exhausted, the OTs headed off to their respective host homes for a good night’s sleep because day four was going to be a big day.