Occupy Wall Street. Three Years Later.

It's hard to believe that it was already three years ago when the counter-culture magazine Adbusters sent out a call to action to Occupy Wall Street. Dozens of people gathered on September 17, 2011 to protest the Wall Street bailouts being granted by our government. After being forced off of Wall Street that night, protesters occupied the nearby public space of Zuccotti Park, and renamed it Freedom Park.

World Revolution Day is September 17. What Will You Do?

World Revolution Day is September 17. What Will You Do?

Dozens grew to hundreds and then to thousands. Protestors from all classes made their way to the park in hopes for a revolution. Three years later, the park is unoccupied by revolutionaries, however, the work started there is still being done. 

In 2011, Occupy Wall Street received thousands of dollars of donations. Since then, some of that money has been used to bailout everyday Americans who have debt that has gone to collection agencies. Find out more about Strike Debt! and Rolling Jubilee's work here. 

I visited Freedom Park regularly during OWS and captured some very moving clips. I wanted to share this video from day 25 of the occupation three years ago.

Adbusters has issued another call to action and September 17 is now known as "World Revolution Day," and asks the simple question, "What will you do?"

Zuccotti Park, three years later. September 2014. 

Zuccotti Park, three years later. September 2014. 

Occupy Wall Street year 2

I grew up believing in the power of the microphone and having some inner need to be aware and socially conscious.  Sure I had public school teachers inspired by the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement to urge me to think.  And as a singer -songwriter I was deeply influenced by the work of Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Odetta, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, ...and I could go on. The Occupy Wall Street gatherings in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan that began last September 17th and grew to a movement inspired me. To witness something shifting, something to cling our anxiety, frustration and disbelief to. How could we arrive at such a historical economic crash and continue to allow corporations and organizations to have unfettered access to funds without oversight, tossing regulations aside, allowing greed to override "right action" in the name of profit and "free-market driven policy"? The "We Are The 1%" mantra stuck.

I went to Zuccotti Park many times over the months including before and after the NYPD raid that shut the park down.  I sang Amazing Grace with a small crowd standing in the rain, surrounded by barriers and showing a stamina and resolve to continue the fight for justice that I hadn't seen since my youth.

Today I am mindful of the anniversary and how it is not the celebration of the past year so much as it is looking forward to how the next days, months and years will unfold.

Here's a little a recap of my time at Zuccotti Park:

blog Occupy Wall Street Day 25

Cathy Grier aka NYCSubwayGirl sings

The best way to show why I perform in the subway and in public spaces, is to share some of my experiences.

I am usually the one performing and filming so I don't get a chance to show you what I do.  These clips were taken in various locations around NYC above and below in public spaces. With some surprise spontaneous guest performers.

Performing songs Question Of Desire, Dedicate, Cool Trick, Comin' Back To Me, What Fools Do- words and music Cathy Grier Singerfish publishing SESAC with Amazing Grace-traditional, Love Is In Need Of Love Today-Stevie Wonder

A week of NYC life

The past week of subway performances went really well.  I enjoyed a trip out to Staten Island on the ferry to perform in the St. George terminal.  What a life where my commute is actually where I work. The crowds were welcoming and warm.  I also played at Grand Central shuttle stop and had a conversation with a Columbia student who is a journalism major doing her thesis on Subway performers.  It's always interesting to chat about the experience.  There definitely is a curiosity about performing in public spaces and quite a social experiment.  We walked through the station and passed Select Blenz a Doo-Wop group I've known for years, who perform on the subway cars.  We chatted and for the first time we sang spontaneously together.

I also played at the Bowling Green station for the first time and musician Vo Era walked by and jammed for the crowd.  My partner Michele came by and did a clip of us playing. Since it was so close to Zuccotti Park we went above ground and came upon fabulous Eve Ensler in a gathering of people sharing stories of why they were at Occupy Wall Street.  I filmed Melanie Butler a young woman who stopped by to check out the tent and donate supplies.

Saturday we went to the Big Apple Film Festival to watch Give and Take, a documentary about street musicians made by Carl Kriss and Chris Viemiester.  Funny true story is I got stuck  for 40 minutes on a downtown N train on my way.  Never having been stuck on a subway car before, I was happy to be chatting with a group of French people in town to run the NY Marathon. After 35 minutes of my rusty french speaking, I interrupted the passengers to tell them about the runners, and to sing La Vie En Rose.  No sooner had I begun the song, but the car lept into movement. We all applauded and I was happy I actually sang on a subway car for the first time. 

The film Give and Take has a wonderful narrative with a score by Luke Brandfon. Carl and Chris used one musical motif perfectly to bring in each story creating wonderful transitions. Many street performers I know are in the film including Natalia Paruz the Saw Lady.  Her story is remarkable. Having been a dancer, one fateful day she was hit by a taxi ending her career. Her parents in wanting to cheer her up took, her on a trip where she was captivated by a Saw player.  Her new life began. The film also captures other heartfelt stories, Renard Harris a harmonica playing bluesy storyteller waiting to hear if he was accepted into the Music Under NY program, Douglas a homeless man endlessly acquiring on e-bay replacement guitars from the ones he kept "losing." And of course yours truly.  It was fun to not only see me on the big screen, but to hear my song Good Thing over the end credits. check out the trailer and hopefully you'll get a chance to see it one day.