A Lotus Grows in Brooklyn

#J10 and the Small, Important Victories at OWS
January 15, 2012, 2:53 pm
Filed under: Occupy Wall Street | Tags: , , ,

Even at its best, Occupy Wall Street is hard. It’s a difficult, often emotionally abusive lover. But there are times that remind you why you started the relationship at all. #J10 was one of those times.

Since the morning of the eviction of Liberty Square, Nov. 15, there have been police barricades around the entire park and security guards limiting what Occupiers can bring in. I myself have felt uncomfortably like I’m doing something wrong every time I had to pass through the obnoxious security access points. Zuccotti has also had diminished access to the public, tourists, neighbors, and workers, because a penned-in park is not welcoming. It has created a division between passersby and those involved in Occupy Wall Street. Before the barricades went up, anyone could stroll by and become part of a General Assembly or an informal discussion. That’s how many of us came to Occupy in the first place. But after the barricades, our General Assemblies became a show, theater, a zoo of trapped activists.

I arrived early for GA on Tuesday, Jan. 10. I was completely shocked to stroll up to Liberty Square at 6:30 pm to find no barricades and completely open access on the north side. I hesitantly strolled in, but began feeling the freedom immediately, a new breathing space, and saw that Brookfield security and a few of their fancy-looking supervisors (I can only assume) were removing the metal barricades from the perimeter of the park and stacking them near the bench that used to be home to our People’s Library. I saw people celebrating, calling friends to tell them to get down to a newly liberated Zuccotti, people singing and chanting and calling out for Livestream teams to come witness this sudden party.

What followed was several hours of spontaneous celebration. Someone brought out a bucket and restarted the long-dormant drum circle. More people flooded in. We held a quick GA, during which a member of Housing erected a tent in our midst that was immediately confiscated by security, but we just laughed. Press arrived, and livestreamers.  Cameras popped up everywhere. The OWS Kitchen showed up to feed us in the park for the first time in nearly two months. The People’s Library appeared out of nowhere with dozens of books (which we had to defend from security, who made a “no libraries” rule on the spot). Friends hugged and everyone was beaming. It seemed like we’d won a victory. And I am truly grateful to the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the National Lawyers Guild for making this happen, having filed a letter the day prior to declare the barricades an unconstitutional blocking of public space.

So, on one hand, it was a beautiful night. On the other, it’s sickening it even had to happen. It’s an outrage that  our constitutional rights to peaceably assemble were hampered for two months. I hate that we were relegated to celebrating what should have been our right all along. It was not a true victory, or a moving forward of the movement’s goals, but a pathetic concession.

And yet, we strive so hard, day in and day out. My friends are those who attend countless, seemingly endless Occupy Wall Street meetings every day. We put our all into going through the messy, frustrating process of consensus. We learn to understand and love those who try us. So we deserve a little happiness sometimes. And #J10 was a night that reminded me why I devote my life to OWS. On  #J10, I watched the faces of my close friends light up–people I didn’t know till the past couple months but who I now truly love. I watched them dance and chant. I saw a community come together, ready to be arrested to protect a library and the freedom of information. I felt love, pure joy, and true solidarity.

And it’s these spontaneous moments, these impromptu victories, that help us stay connected to each other and to the movement. When I leave a contentious Spokes Council feeling defeated and dejected, I can recall such high points of OWS and trust in my fellow Occupiers that we will get through the hard times. We will prevail.

More of my photos from #J10.

Dear Occupy Wall Street
November 24, 2011, 12:30 am
Filed under: Occupy Wall Street, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Dear Occupy Wall Street,

This is Thanksgiving Eve. And despite a nasty cold, I came out to take minutes and participate in Spokes Council. I could have been in bed, or curled up watching a movie, or going out, or doing the things other girls my age are doing. But I chose to volunteer my time for the cause because it means something to me. It means a lot, actually. I have been involved with OWS since October 10. I came down to Zuccotti and saw a community of people passionately engaged in trying to change the world. But who were also beginning by building a community based on love, respect, and cooperation. I was stunned by this spirit of togetherness. I had never seen anything like it and I immediately felt embraced like never before.

Since then, I’ve thrown myself into OWS, participating in countless marches and giving 4 or 5 nights a week to attending GAs and Spokes Councils. No, I was never an occupier. Yes, I have a day job.  But I’ve also spent many hours of each working day researching, reading about, and tweeting about OWS and editing minutes. It has become my life. I have been an activist in other causes (marriage equality, animal rights, food policy) but I’ve never “joined up” with such an all-encompassing, once-in-a-lifetime revolution.

Tonight, as at many GAs and Spokes Councils, things got contentious. Mostly because of the same few agitators who always cause problems and refuse to respect our agreed-upon process. It’s disconcerting because there are SO MANY crucial issues that the movement as a whole needs to focus on. I thought we were all here for the same reason: “Shit is fucked up and bullshit.” Right? The corporations have completely overtaken the political process and therefore every aspect of our lives. They have turned the country into a place where the common man’s concerns are not looked after and in fact he is overtly screwed by the politicians he puts in place because those people don’t answer to him but to corporate interests. There’s a lot more to our “platform,” but that’s the core, as I understand it.

One thing I have loved about OWS is that I’ve met people I might not have normally. We, at our best, have had fresh, open conversations about our differences, and the consensus process forces us to resolve them.  In theory, everyone has a voice. We all win. We all come together.

What I experienced tonight was a culmination of many of the Spokes Councils I’ve been to, where a few vocal people take control by shouting (against our principles) and we have no effective way to deal with them. But tonight (a night I thought would be warmer, being that it is almost Thanksgiving), things turned even darker. Once again, the race issue was raised by the  historically marginalized among us. And I respect what they have to say. I really do. I wish they could state it in keeping with the process we agreed upon, but they don’t. Instead, a few of them tend to shout over everyone. And tonight, they chose to express their ire at “white people” again and again, very disrespectfully. Which is fine … to a point. But they started accusing Finance of being corrupt because it happens to have a lot a white males involved in it. Same thing with Facilitation. I was called a bitch for being the girl taking the notes who happens to have an (old-ass, janky, given-to-me) laptop. There were repeated calls of “white people, step back!”

The thing is, this is a (painfully, sometimes) open movement. If you want to join Finance, you could do so. Same with Facilitation. Same with Minutes. It’s easy to sit back and shout epithets. It’s harder to be really engaged. The people I’ve seen at Spokes Council are, yes, probably majority white or Latino. But when you assume things about us because of the color of our skin, you are denying the very accepting principles of our movement.

So, to the unendingly shouting guy sitting behind me who assumed I am privileged because I am white:

I was raised by a single mother making $15,000 a year. I’m pretty sure we were below the poverty line at many times. Yes, I have a graduate degree. That came on loans and via jobs and at the expense of my financial well-being for basically the rest of my life. I declared bankruptcy last year because I had $75,000 in credit card debt, due to the nefarious schemes of the credit card companies, to give me a card at 18 on my college campus and continue to reward me for overspending by raising my limits, and then charging me 25% APR for years when I couldn’t make minimums. What did I put on my credit cards? My rent. My groceries. Cheap clothes. This went on for years, as I had to explain to the bankruptcy judge. I still have $50,000 in student debt. Tonight, when you were assuming I’m a privileged white girl and questioning my involvement in this movement, I have $40 in my bank account. Many people my age have homes and cars, things I can never possibly fathom.

So I fight. Not for me, although I am demonstrably part of the 99%. But for people even worse off than me. For all of us. For you. For me. But when you call me out, when you disrespect all of us who are here fighting so hard on behalf of people who aren’t among the 75 people at Spokes Council, when you lose sight of the larger goal because you’re so focused on your own prejudices and bullshit. … you make me want to leave. And that’s sad. Because, as another fed-up white woman said tonight, she didn’t come here for this. She came here to make things better. And when we’re infighting and name-calling, there’s no way for us to focus on making things better.  I love you, OWS. I just don’t know how we can move forward when we allow such unfounded, irresponsible division. Tonight, I feel defeated. I feel disappointed.  I don’t know how to move forward. I am sad.

Tacos à la Inwood
January 21, 2011, 1:50 pm
Filed under: Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , ,

I have not been very good lately at making big, creative, ambitious meals. What? It’s winter! I can hardly bring myself to schlep through vast reservoirs of slush puddles to get to the local crappy bodega, much less muster the energy to be a master chef. That said, on Friday, starving, cold, and idea-less, a friend and I stopped into Whole Foods to find inspiration for a quick meal.

Ultimately, I had him as soon as the word “tacos” was out of my mouth. Now, my template for a taco meal at home comes from my childhood, where it would be hard shells, ground beef with packaged seasoning, tomato chunks, and iceberg lettuce. Not bad, of course! But I wanted to see if we could make something a little more “baja,” like the tacos I loved getting from California taco trucks before I went vegan. Here’s what happened … deliciousness!


Whole Foods small flour tortillas, in white or wheat (I’m telling you, this is important: They are cheap and hold together real nicely.)
Package of vegan ground beef (like Lightlife Smart Ground)
Can of black beans
Spices! This is very important. I don’t think you need the packaged taco seasoning when you can throw in generous dashes of cumin, ground red pepper, pepper, salt, chili powder, and hot sauce.
Vegan cheddar cheese (like Daiya, or shredded almond or rice varieties) Tomatoes
Red onion
Lettuce (iceberg, if you must)
Bunch of cilantro
Vegan sour cream (like Tofutti)

So, the process here is pretty intuitive. I sautéed the ground “beef” and black beans together and spiced to taste with the seasonings suggested above. Meanwhile, I warmed the tortillas in some oil on the stovetop, but you could warm them in the microwave (I don’t have one) or the oven (I didn’t have the patience for that). Also, you should dice the tomatoes and red onion, slice the avocado, and chop the lettuce and cilantro in advance so it’s ready when the meat and tortillas are warm.

When it’s all ready, layer the meat and veggies in whatever order suits your fancy. (My boyfriend and I had slightly different theories of this. Mine are above, his are below—both tasted amazing!) Plop on some sour cream, sprinkle on cilantro and squeeze on some lime. Yay, easy vegan fiesta!

* As you can see, we enjoyed our tacos with the ever-tasty Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and a nice steel-barrel-fermented Chardonnay we got from Paumanok vineyards while wine tasting on Long Island. Just in case you’re looking for pairing ideas. :)

Easy Weeknight ‘Chicken’ Club
December 13, 2010, 9:17 am
Filed under: Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , ,

The other night my boyfriend and I needed a quick vegan meal made from a few items we could pick up at a just a normal, slightly terrible NYC grocery store (read: nothin’ fancy and not a lot of specifically vegan items). Turns out we threw together these incredibly delicious chicken club sandwiches.

The recipe, generally:

Boca Chick’n Patties
French rolls
Vegan mayonnaise
Pickle relish
Smart Beat Non-Dairy Slices

Bake, fry, or nuke the Chick’n patties, melting the non-dairy cheese on top toward the end; mix the vegan mayonnaise (Vegenaise or Nayonaise brand) with a bit of ketchup and relish to make a tasty sauce, then spread it on good French rolls; top with lettuce and tomatoes and voilà! I can’t believe how good these were, seriously. Mmm mm mmm. Who says being vegan is difficult?

Delicious Veggie Enchiladas
November 22, 2010, 2:23 pm
Filed under: Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , ,

Last night I made really stellar vegan enchiladas. Yup, they were that good that I feel secure in crowing about them. The best part was dreaming up the recipe myself. I think using your past experience in the kitchen to whip up creations all your own is the most satisfying—and often successful—way to cook. So here’s what I did, but I could see substituting all kinds of other elements for the filling. These turned out pretty spicy, too—my fave!

1 zucchini
1 package button mushrooms
1 red bell pepper
1 small onion
1 can black beans
1 small can diced green chilies
Dashes of spices:
     Ground red pepper
     Chili powder
Small corn tortillas
Dairy-free cheddar cheese slices (e.g., Smart Beat)
1 can enchilada or taco sauce
1 jar of chunky salsa
1 small can sliced olives

Chop the zucchini, mushrooms, bell pepper, and onion into smallish pieces. Place in a hot, oiled wok or skillet and add the seasonings. Be liberal here, because this is where a lot of the flavor comes from. Sauté until cooked and soft, stirring in the black beans and chilies for the last couple minutes.

Combine the enchilada sauce with half a jar of salsa.

For each enchilada, place a slice of cheese in the middle of a tortilla, top with a spoonful of the salsa sauce. Spread a large spoonful of the vegetable-bean mixture over that. Roll up the sides of the tortilla and place seam-side down in a 13X9 baking dish that has been sprayed with oil. Repeat until all the veggie mixture has been used up. Place more slices of cheese on top of enchiladas and drench with the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle sliced olives over the top.

Cover and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 minutes more or until heated through and cheese is melted.


Autumn Wisdom
October 27, 2010, 8:50 am
Filed under: Photography, Quotes | Tags: , , , ,


When I walked out my door this morning it struck me that the leaves on the trees in Fort Tryon Park are suddenly changing. Against the dim gray sky and slick black rocks there are brilliant yellows and reds. Perhaps it’s been happening subtly for a time now, but today the transformation is arresting. It got me thinking that one, I wished I could just walk among the trees and not be going to work, and two, that we can look to a natural phenomenon such as this for inspiration to undertake necessary changes in our own lives. On that note, here are some of the better quotes I culled this morning on personal growth. Happy autumn!

“We are either progressing or retrograding all the while. There is no such thing as remaining stationary in this life.”

— James Freeman Clarke

“The most important thing to remember is this: To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.”

— W.E.B. Du Bois

“To change one’s life, start immediately, do it flamboyantly, no exceptions.”

— William James

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

— Anais Nin

Photo by harold.lloyd on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

Weekend o’ Vegan Delights

Ah, Monday. Time for me to gaze dolefully out across the prospect of a long workweek but also to fondly recall all the great vegan meals I had over this past lovely, happy weekend. Highlights!

► A vegan meetup in Williamsburg where we sampled treats from three eateries: the “Tom Hanks” pizza from Vinnie’s with vegan barbecue chicken, bacon, mozzarella, cheddar and barbecue sauce (above); a cubano and the “Merckx Werkx” sandwiches from Boneshakers (the latter featuring: “tofurky, sham, olive tapenade, chipotle mayo, lettuce, tomato, on a ciabatta hero”); and an outrageous selection of cookies, cupcakes, pastries, and pie from the new Champs vegan bakery. Besides the food, the best thing about the meetup was I got a slew of recommendations from fellow vegans on restaurants I am now dying to try. (Just more for me to share with all you Lotus readers!)

► Stood in line at Babycakes on a busy Saturday afternoon for their apple cider doughnuts, one dripping in delicious caramel sauce. Small and expensive, but totally worth the wait. (Sorry no pic, we were too eager to indulge and I forgot to snap a photo.)

► And best of all, brunch at Life Café in Bushwick, where I had the Eggless Rancheros pictured above, which was every bit as delicious as it looks!

And now, back to my regular workday diet of fruit and hummus. Sigh. :)


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