Decolonize Oakland: Creating a More Radical Movement
Oakland is home to many communities. To better reflect the multiracial dimensions of our city, the Queer People of Color/People of Color Caucus propose that the name be changed from ‘Occupy Oakland’ to ‘Decolonize Oakland.’
Oakland is the ancestral homeland of the Chochenyo Ohlone, an indigenous community that has no collective territory of their own and no recognized legal status or rights. As detailed in The Memorandum of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, which the General Assembly passed with 97% support on 28 October 2011, the Chochenyo Ohlone have survived a brutal colonial history and ongoing occupation, which makes them strong members, allies, leaders, and guides to the movement of the 99%. In passing that memorandum of solidarity, we “declared that ‘Occupy Oakland’ aspires to ‘Decolonize Oakland’ – to ‘Decolonize Wall Street’ – with the guidance and participation of indigenous peoples.” Let us honor that memorandum and work in meaningful solidarity to “initiate a new era of peace and cooperation that will work for everyone, including the Earth and the original inhabitants of thisland.” Let us heed the encouragement of our native sisters and brothers, elders and youth, to choose a name that reflects the society and culture we plan to build: Decolonize Oakland.
As members of the 99%, we want to spread our message, swell our ranks, and use political language that is inclusive of our many communities. We want to open our movement to even greater participation. For many of us, including our local native communities, the terms ‘occupy’ and ‘occupation’ echo our experiences under colonial domination and normalizes the military occupations that the U.S. is supporting in places such as Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan. Colonization, occupation, segregation are still active forms of violence in our communities. Our neighborhoods exist under a police occupation. Gentrification, which is pricing poor families out of their homes, is colonization under a new name. Segregation continues in education, as wealthier families send their children to private schools while our public schools suffer and shrink.
This name change is not about words but about deeds. At the now dismantled Ogawa/Grant encampment, we created a home for all, providing food for the hungry, medical treatment for the sick and injured, and counseling for those of us suffering from depression, addiction, and fear. We offered workshops on preventing foreclosures, resisting police violence, and organizing against corporate capitalism. We hosted healing circles and talking circles. All of our efforts were geared at actualizing gender, economic, and racial justice. We will continue this work whether or not we rebuild the encampment. In both words and deeds, we have been practicing decolonization at Ogawa/Grant Plaza.
Decolonization means connecting to the land and each other by growing and sharing food. It means connecting to the traditions of our ancestors and creating new forms of authentic human connection. Decolonization is a practice of healing from violence in forms such as slavery, occupation, and poverty. It is about raising our children to find beauty and meaning in their cultural identities. Decolonization means telling stories that emancipate our minds and dreams. It is education as a practice of freedom, not a lucrative career path.
While we know that "Occupy" is the terminology used around the country to explain and unify this movement, it does not address the real issues of colonization that happened in this country and particularly to Oakland and the Chochenyo Ohlone residents of this city. For years the Bay Area and Oakland have been the birthplace of revolutionary movements and innovations in movement work.
Changing the name to "DeColonize" is an innovation that would also speak to the brilliance and community of OO to address the current issues of gentrification in Oakland and the social problems that gentrification have perpetuated as well as pay homage to our revolutionary ancestors who fought for a better, more inclusive and respectful Oakland.
We want to deepen our efforts at political transformation by using language that heals, unites, and educates our communities. This name change signals our deep and lasting commitment to liberation and meaningful political education against corporate and capitalist violence, which are rooted in colonial relations.
The divisions that exist between the 99% and the 1% are built on colonial relations. It is our lands, our labor, our bodies, and our voices that have been stolen; at the encampment at Ogawa/Grant Plaza and in our local neighborhoods, we have come together to decolonize our minds, restructure our relationships to oneanother, and build political institutions that meet the needs of all people. What we are doing is decolonizing Oakland. Let us choose a name that reflects our actions and beliefs. Decolonize Oakland! Liberate our communities! Practice freedom!
Corrina Gould, Morning Star Gali, Krea Gomez, and Anita DeAsis
from white ally Michelle Steinberg:
Hey everyone- I’d like to encourage you all to consider coming out to the Oakland General Assemblythis Sunday December 4 at 2pm to support the passage of a proposal changing the name of the local Occupy movement to Decolonize Oakland instead. This promises to be a contentious debate in which many voices appear poised to fight against this critical step towards acknowledging the concerns of local Indigenous peoples, whose land has in fact been occupied for over 500 years.
While the space at Oscar Grant Plaza and its transient satellite locations in no way reflect truly decolonized areas, this reality is precisely why we must aspire to a clearer articulation of what we are actually attempting to accomplish in Oakland’s chapter of this now international saga. Though the ease with which the GA passed a unanimous measure last week supporting the annual Black Friday protest in Emeryville against the desecration of an Ohlone Shellmound is commendable, several recent issues make it even more imperative that the GA take this opportunity to demonstrate that it is can pay more than just lip service to the notion of solidarity with Native peoples- and People of Color more broadly.
The complete lack of inclusion of local, historically significant land occupations, such as those at Alcatraz and (the very timely) Sogorea Te/Glen Cove in this past weekend’s discussion of the “History of Occupations in the Bay Area", is an egregious reminder of the continued marginalization of both local Indigenous activists and the history of Native-led struggles. Further, the potential erection of a tipi in OGP, characterized as somehow reflective of ”historic struggles of the Sioux Indians on the Plains of the U.S.” is outrageous, when precious few of the usual GA suspects can likely cite the names of California Indian tribes, let alone their traditional dwellings. I was led to understand that this movement was meant to reflect the concerns of local communities, so the collapsing of the vast diversity of Native cultures with the flagrant use of this stereotypical pan-cultural icon is ridiculous.
A vote to support this resolution set forth by California Native people, including a member of the Ohlone tribe on whose land OGP sits, would not only demonstrate long overdue respect. It would also allow a group of primarily white GA participants (which includes myself) to suggest that they might have the ability to act truly in solidarity; a central tenet of which is supporting motions put forth by marginalized peoples, rather than attempting to continually impose one’s own framing of what those needs and concerns might be or only invite said communities to join one’s own struggle in predetermined ways at opportune moments (or engage in creepy cultural appropriation!)
I’m not much for the social media outlets, but feel free to forward this information around as you see fit. The exact language of the proposal is below. Hope to see you this Sunday, 2pm at Oscar Grant Plaza (14th & Broadway, Downtown Oakland.) Thanks! Michelle Steinberg
Hey all- So you may notice that there is now a dead hyperlink in my last email about the plan to erect a tipi at OGP. In the last few minutes, folks have swiftly addressed the problematic language that was on the Occupy Oakland website... That's a good sign- appreciation to those who orchestrated it.
Also, another consideration on this issue of changing the name to Decolonize Oakland is that arguments suggesting that it will somehow create disunity among the "Occupy movement" fail to address the central role that Oakland can have in encouraging other cities to take similar steps. In fact, several places across the country have already done so and it stands to reason that given the militancy originally shown by OO, this would be an important continuation in the right direction... Just sayin. -Michelle