Friday Poem

(Un)occupy Oakland: An Open Source Love Poem


They have come for the city I love

city of taco trucks, wetlands reclaimed
water fowl with attitude, gutted
neighborhoods, city of toxic
waste dumps and the oldest wildlife refuge
in North America.
City owned by spirits
of Ohlone, home
to the international treaty
council, inter-tribal friendship house

in which I love and work, make art,
dance, share food, cycle dark streets at 2am
wind in my face, ecstasy
pumping my pedals.

City where women make family
with women
men with men
picnic in parks with their children
walk strollers through streets.

City that birthed the Black Panthers
who took on the state
with the deadliest of arsenals:
free breakfast for children, free clinics,
grocery giveaways, shoemaking
senior transport, bussing to prisons
legal aid.

City where homicide rate for black men
rivals that of US soldiers in combat.

City where I have walked precincts
rung doorbells, learned that real
is street by street, house by house
get the money out and
get the people in.

City of struggling libraries
50-year old indie bookshops
temples to Oshun, Kali-Ma, Kwan Yin.

City where Marx, Boal,
Bhaktin, Freire are taught
next to tattoo shops
bike collectives rub shoulders
with sex shops, marijuana
dispensaries snuggle banks

City of pho, kimchee, platanos, nopales
of injera, tom kha gai, braised goat,
nabeyaki udon, houmous and chaat,
of dim sum and wheatgrass and chicken-n-waffles.

City of capoiera and belly-dance,
martial arts, punk rock, hip-hop,
salsa, bachata, tango
city of funk and blues and jazz.

City that shut down for 52 hours
in 1946, dragged jukeboxes
into the streets, jammed
to “Pistol-Packin’ Mama” for the rights
of 400 female store clerks
to fair wages and unions.

City of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union,
who refused for a record 10 days
in 1984 to unload a ship from South Africa
in the world’s 4th largest port
faced down million dollar fines.

City of nail parlours, hair brokers, tarot dens
nano-tech, biotech, startups
women-owned auto shops
gondolas on a lake fruity
with sewage, magical
with lights.

City of one-hundred-twenty-five
freaking languages
the most ethnically diverse
in the USA.

Here on the shores of a lake
where all the waters, fresh and salt
of history and revolution mingle
they have come for the city I love.


They have come for the people I love
butch dykes and tranny boys
trans men and drag queens
the two-spirit, gender-queer
dreadlocked and pierced
dancers and drummers
unionists stevedores
copwatchers carpenters
labor historians bodyworkers
scholars shamans jugglers
welders mechanics plumbers
painters truckdrivers fruitpickers
immigrant activists hemp weavers
raw-fooders rollerbladers
bikers builders engineers
wheelchair warriors war resisters
musicians journalists co-op creators
bakers of bread, growers of food
reclaimers of contaminated soil
cleaners of polluted waterways
teachers nurses healers
layers of pipe and cable, strippers of asbestos
urban farmers scientists union organizers
radical lawyers artists

the ones who know that making a movement
is a life’s work; know
how to go limp when arrested; how
to eat from the land, make
cities beautiful, livable; heal
without surgery, drugs; raise
a child without violence.

They have come for my people
with military helicopters, armored
vehicles, with rubber bullets, teargas
with flash-bang grenades and gratuitous
destruction, police bussed in
from 17 departments outside Oakland
with pepper spray and sticks
with 40mm canisters aimed
to fracture skulls, they have come
for the people I love.


They have come for the dream that we dreamed
a city of parks and libraries
Jingletown Art Murmur
First Fridays Sistahs
Steppin’ In Pride
Bay Area Solidarity Summer
Women’s Cancer Resource Center
Pueblo Community Health
Destiny Arts, Food Justice
a city of Refuge, a city
of safe streets, where migrants
walk unafraid, vibrant schools
food co-ops in every ‘hood

for the people, yoga
for the people, power
to the people, books
not bars, living wage green
jobs not jails
clean air and water
public healthcare, public transport
urban farms on every block
children making art and science and music
adults making home, community.

Tonight, last night, the night before
the helicopters roared
at 4am, a pack
of jackals in the sky, snarled
contempt at all that lives and grows
desecrated sunrise.


A thousand candles. Look
she who was thrown out
of her wheelchair by the police,
illuminated. See
the ones with the wrist casts, dressings
on wounds, eyes rinsed of teargas
with camomile tea, watch
the street medics check their supplies
mediators earth the rage, watch
how we labor
at strategy, technique, dialogue
at race, class, gender, disability
at coalition-building, at complexity
conversation by careful
conversation. Watch us

See us
fifty, sixty-thousand strong
wave on wave
rolled two miles back
from Port of Oakland, carnival
of joyous justice ¿De
quién son las calles? ¡Son nuestras
las calles!

there under the jeer
of the low-circling ‘copter, three
generations of hijabi women
do yoga asanas
on the straw floor
of Frank Ogawa – Oscar Grant plaza.

They have come
for the city I love
for the people I love
and the people I love
and the city I love

by Shailja Patel