These are 3 accounts from the January 6, 2008 Grub-n-Grab.
Grub and Grab, January 6 2009
A Grub and Grab is the creation of our imaginations, where we practice what we preach and live our dreams of community. Without any financial burdens, we reclaim a neighborhood space where we can allow for relationships outside of the state and capital regulations. Simply, it is a place where we share the abundance of our society as well as our individual aspirations. In the heart of this winter season, we bring hot food, drinks and warm clothing for all who have been weathered by the storms. Under large tarps we put up dry tables of countless goods that belong in the hands of those who need it. We know that in the downfall of their economy, we are left to struggle for all necessities. The GNG is one way that we stand together and provide for ourselves. This is not charity, this is beyond solidarity. This is not a one time deal, but an ongoing practice of our values. GNGs have been going on since the summer of ´07. This last GNG has turned out to tell the story of many elements to our situation of crisis. The story of this event will help to clarify our purpose to ourselves and the greater Eureka of what are our intentions
Because the GNG was scheduled for the 24th of December, it must have been perceived as a christmas happening, although it was not specifically that.
We set up at eight o’clock with hot food and and a warm crowd. There was a sense of accomplishment amongst the crew. Pleasantly, through word of mouth there was about 10 of us setting up, making it easy to set up and unload. Also, we were fresh faces to one another, allowing for making new relationships and connections. Through persistent organizing we pulled a crew together ofof strangers ready to work together at 7 in the morning outside in the rain without compen$ation. But – We were there! We set up at this building that barely looked like a place of worship, it was an old run down church. The church at Wabash and Union is an example of capitalist and bureaucratic process that have lead to neglect and waste. The building stands with broken windows and boarded up doors hardly resembling a church at all. Now it stands with a new story.
People came down Wabash by car, bike and foot to see what was going on. We flew through coffee and potatoes. As the rain came down, people came up to get dry coats. This is very practical – no? We shared conversation with old friends and new acquaintances that came by. There was joy in the air despite the water clouds above. People were pleasant and respectful, not following rules or judicial law, but our own common sense. The children reflected this, happy faces and giggles, there was kid clothes and even toys. Some came for the coffee, and some came to say hi. Some came with carts, and some came with minivans. We were grateful, and our smiles showed it. Aside from th chit chat, we also screened movies with a portable TV. It was place to hang out – and thats what we did, content under the protection of tarps.
While people trickled in and out of the space, some of us went to pass out fliers at Henderson Center. Our fliers were received well except for a group of employees who suggested we leave before security came to throw us out. This seemed strange considering our good intentions, but not surprising policy for a corporation. Upon our return, the PIGZ were at the site serving orders to move from our location prematurely. We had intended to be there another 3 hours. Against our will, we packed our things and hung our tails between our legs, like the dogs they treat us like. I was not ready to leave. I was not ready to be arrested. We packed up three truck loads, and gave thanks for the success we did have.
How come our day of giving was not allowed and the december 24 give away was hailed as a miracle? the ongoing contradictions of the state and property owners is not new to me but still just as outraging!
NO HOAX! But a miracle is still a miracle!
The spirit of giving and community empowerment lives on- even sprouts an unexpected branch. What was recently dubbed an internet hoax and cruel prank was actually a very simple slip up. The December 24th Grub-n-Grab, which was called off due to extenuating circumstances around resources and weather, was to be the 7th such event organized and carried out in recent years by PEOPLE PROJECT. It was our hope that as the Craigslist ad had only been posted for a few hours between 12 and 7 am, the risk of anyone showing up was minimal. That it caused anyone inconvenience is regrettable, and we at PEOPLE PROJECT apologize for the miscommunication. That this mishap should generate so positive an experience as to be called a miracle, was an inspiring surprise and we wish we had been privy to the organizing that ensued after we pulled the posting.
The Grub-n-Grab is no joke. We have hosted 7 such events in this area over the past 2 years. It all started when People Project members happened upon several truckloads of goods a local church was needing to get rid of. The high spirits that ensued from this first give-away led into conversation about what had made the event unique and special and why it felt so different from the other “institutional” charities we have all experienced in one way or another.
Inspired to affect compassion, sharing, empowerment, and community cooperation; and eager to re-imagine what community could look like, and feel like, PEOPLE PROJECT members carried the dream into action. It was in the spirit of this tradition, that on the 6th of January we rolled up our sleeves to host the event which had not been able to happen on the 24th. Only a little bit sheepish from the spin-off of our mistake and the title of “evil Grinch”, we set up our canopy and tarps and put on a great event. There was hot food, live music, educational videos, children playing, and lots of free stuff picked out. As was so beautifully illustrated in the Miracle on Wabash story, those moved to help were not necessarily coming from a place of affluence and privilege, and the real show of wealth came from the spirit of sharing.
Such is the case consistently in our organizing, where many among us are houseless, and where in working together to create a space where humanity and care are held in priority over material success and profit, the result is the kind of empowerment and community uplift bestowed by the spirit of sharing itself. We hope to join forces with those who rose to the occasion on X-mas day to ensure that this wonderful occurrence does not get buried in the past as a one-time thing. Past experience confines us to the unfortunate expectation that should the “miracle workers” endeavor to act on a continuing grass-roots basis, in collaboration or otherwise, they will be met with many of the frustrations, obstacles and harassment we have and continue to struggle with. However, of course always optimistic, we pray that in this case things may be different.
On Tuesday afternoon, some of the most significant obstacles standing in the way of such ongoing community self-determination were made clear. A property manager, more concerned with what he stands to lose than what he has to give, and a police force, obligated to enforce policy based in social anxiety rather than optimism and hope, put an early end to Tuesday’s Grub-n-Grab. The officers dealt fairly with us and we in turn, though disappointed, complied in the prompt breakdown of the event. Community members scrambled for last minute finds and bites of food as we packed.
The take home message would seem to be that an isolated instance of spontaneous humanity is permissible, but that the ongoing work of lifting each other into a stance of dignity cannot be allowed. Whether this condition stems from class prejudice or from the general cultural anxiety around disparity and issues of social justice, or any number of other possible reasons, it is difficult to say. It may be that this treatment stems from the belief that if our houseless community members are treated with respect, a larger population of dispossessed people will be attracted. Meanwhile, frustration and anger mounts for those of us faced daily with the deterioration of health, dignity, and life of people being pushed into extremes of poverty by a system unwilling to address its problems and which penalizes those who most need help and protection. We would hope that the colossal adversary of poverty and systemic blindness in our communities would be villain enough to rally ongoing response. But if it takes a fictitious evil Grinch to rally folks from the couch cushions, we will gladly show up in costume.
I am excited to have been involved with my first Grub n´ Grab; an ongoing struggle to share with people our intent and compassion. The GNG practices mutual aid with creativity and is acting as a catalyst by pushing for a market-less way to distribute within a very market dependent culture. The GNG allows people to become peers amongst each other; diminishing the ideaś of class, salary, and capital. Autonomy and dignity share this special space with the proles and the elite, while both browse freely amongst the excesses of yesteryear’s forgotten product.
There is another definite symptom of creating such a space. The folks who involve themselves in the event, whether it be browsing for clothing, eating some ´taters or setting up tarps and tables, seem to adopt a sense of respect and responsibility for that space. On Tuesday we turned a beaten up and neglected church into a safe haven from the rain and in some cases the hunger. People who came away from that came away with a sense of respect for the location, us, and other participants.
When the Realtor Ron Queen, arrived his demeanor and attitude were authoritative. Immediatly he proved this to be true by demanding to know who was in charge of the event. Having understood that this space was shared by everyone and we all participated in setting it up and maintaining it, I answered him by acknowledging that fact. After i took a look at who he was barking at, i realized he had been speaking towards(at not to) KRSTNA and CRTNY. As if to let people know who was running the show ´now´. During our confrontation with him we repeatedly tried to talk outside the sphere of capital, and property. He was intent on remaining decided in his favor and ignored our attempts to express our discontent with having to leave after an already successful day of sharing. He informed us that the police were arriving shortly and that we were to break down our tarps and tables, food and clothing, banners and fliers, immediatly. Upon arrival the PIGZ tried to make sense of the situation. Doing what they know best to do, they confirmed the Realtorś claims, identity, and ´supposed´ right to eject us from the property by giving us an hour to break down. Ron Queen, during all this time, stood on the side of the law. Shoulder to shoulder with the two officers he had ordered to remove us. After their departure more folks showed up to ask about the event. Many took clothing as fast as we could break down. As we finished up we realized the hour had passed and still no intervention.
Grub N’Grab is a space that means i can detach myself from capitalism and engage in true community solidarity. Reaching out to those who need us just as much as we need each other. We can attach ourselves to something that is more real and more tangible than the state would ever believe. We have made a collective effort to escape from that which has confined us, and that to me means everything. It means Survival.
p.s. Final analysis: Smash Capitalism; Off Da Pigz, Everything for everyone!