Sunday, October 12, 2008

On Kicking the Mayor's Ass, and Marimbas

Last night was the 15th Annual Washington State Jobs with Justice Honoree Dinner, and I enjoyed the extreme pleasure of standing in front of 300 some labor activists and allies to say "We're going to kick the Mayor's ass ... and you're going to help us."

The girls came along with Revel and I. The chocolate chip cookies went over big. They also enjoyed the chicken, although Twin B found it too spicy. She has a strangely low threshold for that sort of thing. Dr. Wes, on the other hand. sat to my left at the Real Change table adding his own habaneros. Twin A was pretty much surgically glued to my lap for the duration. She gets a little clingy under stress. She spent much of the evening placing her eyeballs to my eyeballs to get that cyclops daddy effect she finds so amusing and whispering "I love you daddy" in my ear.

She covered her ears and closed her eyes while I hugged her for most of the performance of the Shumba Youth Marimba Ensemble, which was magnificent. Twin B had the opposite reaction. As she sat in Revel's lap, her eyes never left the stage. I marveled at a few of the players in particular as they hammered out complex musical rhythms with arms swings that came from the shoulder, their eyes lost in trancelike concentration. A mallet broke as one kid who looked about thirteen slammed out the lead melody. He kept it going with one stick while the equally intense girl on second marimba slipped him hers. This is the sort of drama you get to be in on when you're three feet from the stage.

Nick Licata
and Real Change received JwJ's "leading the Movement for Social Justice award "for mobilizing the community to stop sweeps of homeless encampments in Seattle and promoting negotiations between the city and community members." The somewhat tense stagemanager told me I had two minutes, which I ignored.

The speech was all about how homeless people can't win unless everyone else does, and how badly we need a broad economic justice movement that lifts up the very poor along with the broad middle class. I said that these were dangerous times, and that we are in the final days of a dying empire, and that the rats are raiding the larders of a sinking ship.

I'm told I dropped an F-bomb. I thought my filter was on. This is always a danger when I don't have a written speech. I'm also told that this is the sort of thing people expect from me, and that it just enhances my cred, so I guess that isn't really a problem. I'll still try not to do this in front of the Metropolitan Democrats.

Then I said something about how the economic meltdown highlights the economic vulnerability that we all face, and that this helped explain the public sympathy for Nickelsville that we've seen, and that for the first time in twenty years of homeless organizing, I had the sense of there being a broad movement behind us. I made a joke about how if SHARE/WHEEL and Real Change could work together, anything is possible. I said that organizing on the sweeps issue was just going to broaden and grow, and that homeless advocates understand that our issues don't exist apart. Rising inequality, I said, is the core problem, and that we can't win without allying with others to win on issues like incarceration and tax fairness. And then I said we were all going to kick the Mayor's ass.

All the while, Twin B, stood at the foot of the stage and beamed up at me like she was in on the enormous cosmic joke. This morning she asked why I was looking at her most of the time while I spoke. The answer is obvious. She and her sister were the most beautiful women in the room. Then the Labor Chorus sang and it was time to clear out. We left as the room was on its feet, fists in the air, for the Internationale. Twin B said she wanted, someday, to sing like these people do. "You will, baby," I said. "You will."

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