And the award of inclusion goes to………………
*Gets up and smiles a pageant smile, walks to the podium*
I soooo was not expecting this! Sike, yes I was. BUT—wow, I can’t believe it!! THANK YOU! First of all, I’d like to thank the academies—-ies, yes all of them, who have screwed the pooch (I love that phrase) and catapulted an entire generation and their parents into debt. Brilliant work and I’m sorry you lost so much endowment money in the first crash...better luck in the next one. I’d like to thank my friends, without whom I’d surely be in some hole of despair (different from this hole of despair—one of total detriment and less fun parties) and with whom I’ve shared so many feelings of worthlessness and then hyper-motivation that it would certainly blow the mind of generations before and after us, if they weren’t so busy dealing with their own crises. I’d surely like to thank my family, who taught me how to hustle and grind, who pray diligently for my survival and who let me know very early on that the odds were stacked against me. My percentages don’t ever reflect the majority of anything—certainly not anything transformative and powerful. You’ll excuse the latent shock as I make my way into your crowd.
As you know very well, liberal, left-leaning, jobless, white, America—the statistics that get tossed around about me and people like me (young, black, gay, woman) are not…well, they aren’t that encouraging. And the reason why you’re so upset is because your percentages, which have been encouraging for so long—your prospects so sure—your future so painted have, for the first time in a long time, been rendered unattainable. This nation has officially lost the means to guarantee you the future its reputation is built upon.
One thing I know about the ‘99%’ FOR SURE, and this is where this award of inclusion gets hairy, is that the journey through legislation, historical determination and social engineering that places me at the bottom of America’s totem pole has really not been a huge issue for anyone, much less the majority of this nation. That is to say, before you lost your job, before they started ignoring and misrepresenting you in the media, before they entrapped and arrested you, before they called you lazy and looked down on you from their balconies as they sipped champagne, before banks started ruthlessly exploiting you—before all of that got aimed toward the heart of America, I was the target and I continue to be. Wherever the numbers are bad for you, they’re worse for me. And by ‘me’ I mean black and brown people, I mean queer people, I mean families who didn’t get foreclosed on because they can’t own homes, I mean poor people. I mean people who are half as likely to get interviewed for a job but 10 times as likely to be stopped and searched by the police. I mean people who have no place in the health care system. Who have been criminalized body and soul. People you avoid on the train. Me.
But, true to the role I’ve always had to play, it’s now my job to swallow that and pick up my picket sign and join you in demanding Wall Street to give you your future back. Back? I want my future period. I want big pharma to not be bankrolling contraceptives in Africa that double the risk of HIV in women. I want people everywhere to stop giving a fuck about how low a black man wears his pants and focus on why we’re intent on arresting him for smoking the same weed the rest of America smokes. I want Sallie Mae to stop acting like a bunch of swole-ass pool sharks and take the L for loaning millions and millions of dollars to people with no damn money and then blowing their money and then blaming us for them blowing their money and then bullying us. Stop it. I want BET to come out of the closet as the KKK. These among many things. Things that would be welcomed, I’m sure, at One Liberty Plaza but forgive me if I don’t immediately trust my place in this collective.
(Plus, I cannot guarantee lawful behavior in the face of police who are exacting violence on people without provocation. I have stories you don’t have. Don’t underestimate that.)
But! I accept this award of inclusion because, the truth is: I have to. I’m not so bitter and jaded that I don’t see the value of strategy and community and voice. I’m not dumb. I am the 99%. I am losing at the hands of ultra-wealthy America. I am not interested in continuing in this fashion and I agree that we need to do something.
I am a hard working, empowered, educated, in-debt American. If there was a checklist for the hallmarks of disenfranchisement of the ‘99%’ all my boxes would be marked. But even in this newfound majority, I already see mimicry of the system we’re trying to disrupt: White males dominating the message and the means, tokenism among minority voices, intellectual separatism…for you, these things are neither problematic nor central to the concerns of the occupiers worldwide. For me, they’re a reminder that as we march together, my fight is more complex than demanding something from Wall Street or the 1% of this nation. I’m demanding things from you too.
Never forget this era (that will surely pass) of knowing what it is like to live in a country with your back against the wall.
Morgan W., (bbh Head Writer, Stategy & Development) is an adventurer, writer, educator and creative consultant based in New York City. Originally from Washington, DC she has been a writer (and consultant) since way back; forged parental excuses, commissioned by the lovestruck for sincere notes of admiration, varsity team term papers--and then poetry. A recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College’s Master of Fine Arts program in Writing, she has been a feature writer for Bklyn Boihood, Queer Memoir, Dark Phrases, autostraddle.com and Razor Wire Women. Her work in every genre emphasizes the need for light in dark spaces. For over five years she has taught and/or led creative writing, community-based theatre, prison education and college access workshops throughout the United States. As a consultant she works with collectives, organizations and individuals to develop and refine their creative strategies and written materials. She lives (and loves) uptown.