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Part 1: Mark Baumer Reflection: Impounding Vehicles & Immigrant Rights

This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...

A Five Year Retrospective, Using "Dog, Pig, and Wise Horse".

Rachel was showing me the short videos we made together during Occupy Philadelphia, just months before we moved to New England. I'm amazed at what has changed and not changed about my views on the world since then. 

There may be a way I don't know of it embed Vimeo into Blogger, but my best efforts are not turning up. So follow the links.

The first one I saw was Occupy Christmas

I found this on the internet of the Christmas Village.
This was the "Christmas Village" at LOVE Park. We disrupted it with a candlelit vigil and drew political slogans on the pavement with chalk. It was actually a very nice demonstration, because we had productive conversations with some people at the market. But the underlying premise was that the "Christmas Village" itself was a problem, and that was the focus of the demonstration.

I had mixed feelings about the idea that the Christmas Village was bad from the beginning, but I participated. The premise was that the city allowed people to set up an open-air market in LOVE Park, which is usually a relatively barren concrete park surrounded by wide (for Philadelphia) roads. Looking at the idea then, I felt torn. The group really felt that this was part of a pipeline to prison: a way to push "undesirable" people (homeless people, youth-of-color, skateboarders) from the area and put in "business". They also viewed this as an appropriation of common space for private purposes. 

Today, I still feel as connected to the concerns that younger me had about the Christmas Village. It's true that when places get "nice" that police are often detailed to keep out people who "aren't nice", and I think we need to look closely at that pattern and see how we can not repeat it. But I also feel really separated from the original premise, which is that making places nice inevitably means inequality and disruption of poor people's lives. If older me were to set up a demonstration, I might have wanted to know who felt affected by this feeling of being "pushed out" and find out how they could be re-welcomed into the space without abandoning the niceties of having hundreds of other people out to enjoy a market.

Pope Francis, at Sts. Peter & Paul Basilica.
The second video that really struck me was the one I did talking about immigration.

This one really stands the test of time for me, and I'm really happy with it. I interviewed the Monsignor of Sts. Peter & Paul Cathedral, which--kind of cool in retrospect--is where Pope Francis went during his trip to Philadelphia. That Cathedral has a physical presence in the history of immigrant rights, and makes me feel like maybe I understood something from my great-great grandfather's life.

Then there's this one about the architectural background of Philadelphia life.

Wow. It really brings me back to a different point in my life. Filming a die-in, walking into a bank branch and trying pushily to put the poor bank branch manager on record about the demonstration. I was crazy then (I mean, in a good way, maybe?). I've definitely calmed down and mellowed out.

One of the themes I covered when I talked to my professor, Dr. David Watt, of Temple University's religion and history departments, was this idea of what the built environment says about our contempt for public life. And this is still a theme I think that is important to me. The backstory of Philadelphia's City Hall, which was briefly the tallest building in the world (until 1908), and which is the only "tallest" to be both non-religious and non-commercial, is an interesting one. What does it mean when a society puts emphasis on the public realm? Great question, still.

But the underlying premise that by building taller buildings, we're ignoring those needs is one I no longer agree with. A lot of times, building taller buildings is what is needed to keep a neighborhood affordable, and is what allows more people to live near and financially support great public resources like parks, libraries, and schools. There's definitely been a sea-change in how I view the heightening of skylines.

So many things going on in these videos. It's weird to look back on yourself and see a five year gap, and try to think about how much can change in such a small time.


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