OWSH Kicks Off Freeway Blog
Occupiers Selene Ballestas, Edwin Munoz, their daughters Maya and Zoe, and Amy Price have staked out the bridge over U.S. 59 at Dunlavy and plan to hit it on Tuesday afternoons to deliver narratives of the 99% to Houstonians headed home from work. The current thread is “Divest from Bank of America.” The first message, delivered on tax day, read “Bank of America paid $0 taxes. How much did you pay?”
Houston, with its many bridges over freeways and heavy rush hour, is a great place to do banner hangs. All it takes is 1-2 willing spirits and a banner. If you can donate an hour or more of your time in the AM or PM, let us know and we’ll work with you to get your thread of the OWSH Freeway Blog spinning out into the city.
99% Spring Training in Non-Violent Direct Action
Last September, in response to the execution of Troy Davis, I attended a Day of Outrage Rally at Union Square in NYC. Surprised at the numbers in attendance I joined when they marched through the streets of Greenwich Village chanting, “We are all Troy Davis.” Not until later that night when at Zuccotti Park that I realized this was Occupy Wall Street. Over the next two months I came to Zuccotti on days I wasn’t working to stand with the Occupiers. Each time I went I was moved to the core of my being having waited forty years for something like this to come along.
This February I had been in Houston just ten days when I was in the Central Library. I heard drumbeats and chanting outside. I ran outside and asked the first person I could find, “Is this part of the Occupy Movement?” I was greeted by an affirmative answer. I had walked into the eviction of Occupy Houston’s four month encampment.
Last Sunday April 15, I took part in one of nearly one thousand trainings that took place last week across the nation as part of the 99% Spring Training designed to: 1. Tell the story of our economy, how we got here and what we can do about it; 2. Learn the history of non-violent direct action; and 3. Get into action on our own campaigns to win change.
From this three-hour training that lasted four, I left with an appreciation of two things. First, that we all have a story. Our stories are unique; they capture both the challenges and the possibilities in our lives. But they also reflect the times that we live in. Stories have been the centerpiece of the Occupy Movement since its inception. Since we are all leaders we need to tell our own stories and provide a space for others to tell theirs.
From the training I learned an overlooked fact regarding the Montgomery Bus Strike of 1955-6. Rosa Parks was not merely a tired woman who happened to refuse to move to the back of the bus. She was a trained activist from the Highlander Folk School who had been selected to initiate this act of civil disobedience. The Civil Rights Movement didn’t begin simply by chance. It began because its leaders possessed: A Vision that was big, transformative and inspiring – racial equality; A Goal – a boycott designed to last one day but lasted more than a year; A Strategy, an overall plan to organize and deploy their resources to achieve their goal; and Tactics, the actual activities to obtain a victory.
We in the Occupy Movement belong to an historical legacy of direct action that dates back to the 19th century Abolitionist Movement, the Suffragette Movement, the Worker’s Rights Movement of the 1930’s, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and more. We live in a moment with great potential for historical significance. This is a time when each of our stories can weave into a great leap forward towards a more just and equitable world.
Port of Houston Authority Loses $100 Million Annually in Tax Revenues
Last Thursday, TOP (Texas Organizing Project), Air Alliance Houston, and Neighborhood Centers hosted a Town Hall so that port community residents could weigh in on concerns pertiment to the Sunset Review process.Sunset Review is the assessment by the State Legislature as to whether a state agency should continue to exist. It can also be an opportunity for the Legislature to look closely at an agency and make fundamental changes to an agency’s mission or operations if needed. The PoHA is slated for Sunset Review during the 2013 legislative session.
Terry O’Roarke from the Harris County Attorney’s office shared that the PoHA refuses to operate its tax-free zones according to best practices, resulting in $100 million in tax revenue lost annually. He also reiterated alongstanding criticism of the PoHA, that it is a governmental organization that calls itself “quasi-governmental”, meaning that they act as if they exist to service the companies around the Ship Channel rather than to manage the Port, a public asset. Although Senator Mario Gallegos, who attended the Town Hall, pledged his support for keeping the PoHA a governmental organization, he could not vouch for the behavior of the rest of the Legislature.
The Houston Ship Channel will quite possibly be dredged deeper to accommodate the New Panamax class ships that will be sailing through an enlarged Panama Canal. But, although some local residents did mention the need to train area residents for new jobs that would accompany a Port expansion, most community members who spoke at the town hall mentioned environmental concerns as being of paramount importance.
To offer opinions or documents pertinent to the Sunset Review of the PoHA, contact the Sunset Commissionhere.