Activism

OWS' 'Spring Awakening' in Central Park Will Kick Off a Season of Activism, Attract New Faces

This Saturday's family-friendly event will draw some new individuals into the movement while also energizing existing Occupiers and facilitating cross-organizational cooperation.

The Spring Awakening 2012, a day of rejuvenation, celebration, and intense movement-building, will take place this Saturday, April 14, in Central Park. For Occupy supporters who may have been disheartened by any struggles over the winter, this event will help propel Occupy Wall Street forward over the next six months. It is designed to welcome new people into the life of activism and strengthen existing ties of those already embedded in the movement.

With a background in international affairs and human rights, I came to OWS in early October to see what it was all about. I was intrigued by the alternative world the movement had created in Liberty Plaza in such a short time. I knew I had to be a part of it. After attending numerous general assemblies and marches, and floating through various working group meetings, I chose the Spring Awakening citywide assembly as one of my first major projects. Having attended the project's first planning meeting in December, I have been an organizer for the event ever since.

The world that OWS wants to create is one of cooperation and mutual benefit, based on the belief that our society needs to better learn how to work with new and different people even if they disagree with one another, and it was important for us to honor those ideas in our planning. From the start, Spring Awakening coordinators sought to bring people from around the city, including OWS neighborhood general assemblies, into the planning process to take ownership of the project. While making decisions via consensus is a great and necessary tool, it can lead to a very drawn-out and grueling process, especially when you have a lot of people with wide-ranging opinions. While some organizers were definitely disheartened at the slow pace of our planning, many of us stuck together until the end for what will likely be a highly revitalizing event this Saturday. Hurdles and bumps aside, the Spring Awakening is set to be an exciting, fun, and productive movement-building experience.

The intent of the Spring Awakening is threefold: to reinvigorate, to celebrate, and to host interactive movement-building.

The Spring Awakening is here to reinvigorate any momentum that may have been lost over the winter. Since many in the general public are misinformed about what Occupy has been doing over the past few months, we want to make it clear that we are still here, as alive and energetic as ever. The numerous meetings we have been having at 60 Wall Street, Judson Memorial Church, Liberty Plaza, and numerous other venues are now showing the fruits of our labor. We didn't get disheartened and give up after the November 15th eviction like the mainstream media has led the public to believe. Rather, we have spent the winter figuring out how to propel this movement forward and create the world we want to live in.

The planning team believed it was significant to hold the event in the spring because of the symbolism of the season. Spring is a time of renewal and re-growth, which, as mentioned before, is what the Spring Awakening is hoping to bring to the movement. OWS has been a powerful force this spring even prior to this event, so we only imagine Saturday to be even better with this built-up energy. We also can't forget the Arab Spring that has changed the landscape of the Middle East, and which helped inspire OWS in its early days.

The event will also serve as build-up for May Day, which is expected to be a major day of action for the movement. The Spring Awakening is meant to get people energized, while being lower-risk and less focused on direct-action.

The Spring Awakening will also celebrate OWS's achievements. Back on September 17th, no one knew how big this movement would get or how long it would last - let alone that it would transformed the national discourse and scare corporations so much that they would feel the need to buy off the NYPD in an attempt to shut us up. While looking forward is essential, it is also imperative to look back and celebrate our accomplishments. Live music, food, discussions, and other festivities will give us the chance to reflect and appreciate our victories.

OWS organizer Colby Hopkins commented, "One of the greatest accomplishments of Occupy Wall Street is that it has pushed to the forefront the reality that the root of all of our social ailments is the same....Knowing we have a common enemy reminded us that we need a collective solution. Spring Awakening 2012 will build this movement, in part, by combining peoples' efforts around various issues and focusing them on our common enemy."

Another function the Spring Awakening will serve is as a mechanism for interactive movement building. The facilitated assembly, taking place at 3pm, is essential, as it will be a space for a variety of organizations and individuals to unite on initiatives. Various organizations are submitting campaigns that they are currently working on and will form clusters, which will in turn work on strategic visioning for their collective initiatives over the next three to six months. The hope is that organizations doing similar work will network, combine efforts, and find ways to collaborate on their work moving forward. This will serve as a model for a "clearinghouse" that we hope to establish for organizations, at which groups will be able to share their work with each other.

How to Participate

There will be an abundance of things to do all day during the Spring Awakening. Participants looking for teach-ins, discussions, or more information about different Occupy groups should visit the open space taking place on the south side of the park (west of Wollman Rink, near the 6th Avenue entrance) between 1pm and 6pm. Be sure to bring a blanket; there will be picnic-style "blanketing" so we don't face any issues with having tables at the park. Numerous groups and performers have confirmed attendance for the open space, including the Commission on Voluntary Service & Action,La Union, Women Occupying Wall Street, and Such As Us.

If you'd like to participate in the facilitated assembly at 3pm, you can do so under the umbrella of an organization, or join any campaign cluster that sparks your interest. A few, out of the many, organizations and groups that have committed to the facilitated assembly include theManhattan Free School, theRestaurant Opportunities Center of New York, ACT UP, and Healthcare NOW! NYC. There will be an info booth at the park with more information on where to go.

If you're completely new to Occupy, the Spring Awakening also has a place for you. Keep an eye out for "occu-mentors" walking around the park. They will be ready to have a discussion with you about how your interests match up with OWS and how you can get plugged in to the movement.

The event is also meant to be family-friendly and help parents get involved in OWS. The day is planned in a way so as to avoid the police confrontation that often comes with Occupy events. An OWS activist mom, Rivka Gewirtz Little, says "It is families who are living under the effects of crushing debt, foreclosures, joblessness, public school closings, and police harassment against their children. We as parents want to get involved with Occupy Wall Street, but we don't always know how, and frankly it can be scary to bring our children into the unknown. Yet we are natural community organizers. We bake enough cookies to support entire school programs, and pressure the Department of Education like no one else. Spring Awakening 2012 will show parents how to take these organizing skills and plug into Occupy Wall Street and other community based organizations to make change."

So whether you are a long-time activist, new to the game, or haven't figured out where to get started, the Spring Awakening will have a space for you. Don't miss the opportunity to get plugged-in and make a difference to your world and communities.