The Occupy Movement brings out the folksingers.
Groups of local folk musicians have formed an “Occupella” group in solidarity with Occupy Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco and other local Occupy movements.
Groups have sung in support of Occupy Cal at Sproul Plaza and in front of the Bank of America in downtown Berkeley, regularly an noontimes at Oscar Grant Plaza (nee Frank Ogawa Plaza), and also on marches for Occupy Oakland. They are also regulars at the weekly Tax the Rich Rallies on upper Solano Avenue.
The group started meeting on October 20. The term Occupella was coined by Bonnie Lockhart, one of the participants. Occupella singers are united in the belief that music should be an integral part of political movements, that music creates a spirit in a movement and allows participation on a level that speeches and meetings can’t accomplish on their own.
Bonnie says: “Our ‘team’ of singers is actually a collaboration between Occupella and Singing For Peace. SFP is a project I and Lisa Hubbell started after 9/11, and I continued it into the Iraq war. It was a similar intention as the current iteration— we sang largely at BART stations throughout the Bay Area, at rush hour, with peace signs and songs of peace. And at demos, marches, etc. Our mission was to include any and all in singing great songs of peace and justice from past and present, and being a witness for peace during the build up and the invasion of Iraq. Find lots more info at communityacupressure.org/joomla/component/content/article/76/162. You can also access updates on our occupy singing from that page.”
Occupella will discontinue the downtown Berkeley and the Grant/Ogawa noontime sings for the rainy season. But they invite all folkies in the community to join in at their new winter locations on Tuesday evenings from 4:45 to around 6. They will also still be in front of the (closed) Oaks theater on Solano on Monday evenings at 4:30 with the weekly Tax the Rich demonstrations.
Everyone is invited to come and have fun with Occupella! No rehearsals! They do mostly zipper songs and have songbooks for the rest.
Occupella meeting times and information may be found online at www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-Songs-Poems/294765330553135?sk=wall&filter=1 or www.communityacupressure.org/joomla/component/content/article/76/192. You can also email to be informed (roughly weekly) of singing opportunities as they arise. There is also a video of Occupella on YouTube: search for “Occupella.”
A similar Occupella group sang on Thursday, December 1, in Pleasanton, at Stoneridge Mall. A group of ten people from MoveOn “occupied” the Mall carrying signs and singing parodies of Christmas songs such as “Wall Street Greed” to the tune of “Jingle Bells” and carrying signs including “Jobs for the 99%.” Some dressed in bright colors for carol singing. Along with them marched a protagonist, Scrooge, outfitted with a top hat and a cigar made of fake money and carrying his sign: “99%—Humbug!” He was true to form, strolling near the group and debunking the 99 percenters’ efforts at every turn.
Phyllis Jardine and Thad Binkley, who participated, report: The Pleasanton police and the Stoneridge Mall security personnel were well aware of the protestors, but confined themselves to watching from a distance. One of the security guards politely informed us of the rules of the mall and handed out the printed rules. One rule, apparently, was that balloons could not be distributed. We had planned to give out balloons with slogans such as “Tax the Rich,” but were told that this was not allowed. We carried them instead.
The group first stationed themselves at one end of the mall and some people took notice while they were singing and a few took photos. Then the group moved to the wall near the children’s play area. After a few minutes, one of the mothers complained and asked us to move. Another place we chose was near the escalators and restaurants, repeating the songs and a few chants, including “We are the 99 percent,” “You are the 99 percent,” and “We need teachers, we need cops.” After about an hour, a security guard suggested that it was time to leave, and we retired to lunch at one of the mall restaurants.
Lyrics to the carol parodies are on this page, and pictures of the Pleasanton “Occupellation” may be seen at trivalleydems.com/StoneridgeMallActionDEC1pics.htm.
The fold-in is at noon, Sunday, February 26, at the home of Abe and Joan Feinberg,
The more, the merrier. Help with the folknik, enjoy a meal afterwards, and make music. Bring a potluck dish and instruments.
All lyrics copyright by Eloise Hamann 2011