DON’T SCREW WITH EARTH FARE!!
My hands are shaking with righteous rage. Around three this morning, after hours of writing and thinking and pacing and planning – what can we do to support those people? – I fell into the bed, ready to embrace at least a little bit of sleep, before walking the next part of the road towards helping my suffering friends.
And I did relax and breathed deeper – and the stress and tension slid out of my body. I was sliding towards sleep. For about two minutes. Then an absolute shot of electricity raced through my body, I sat straight up in bed, and with tears coursing down my face – and simultaneously a tone of menace in my voice (which Tom Kilby and a few others of you have come to know that I have moved into my totally-not-nice, genuinely dangerous self), Said aloud.
“No you don’t – no you mf’ing don’t! We are not going to let you do this! You made a mistake when you decided to mess with Asheville, to mess with our beloved Westgate Earth Fare store. You don’t get to just waltz in and take people’s lives away – like they are just pawns in some little financial game of yours. No! Not on my watch! Not on our watch! You have underestimated the people of Asheville. We are not sheep. We will not just stand by and watch you do this. We are going to stand by our Earth Fare workers.”
I hope that you just felt, when you read this, even a little bit of the power I felt coursing through me as I said it – sitting bolt upright in my bed a few hours ago. I’m pacing, I’m shaking. I’m grunting, I’m breathing like a locomotive. This is not me making up this shit. This thing is way bigger than me – bigger than any individual of us.
Starting today, I will begin releasing the reins of this thing – as others of you come forward and say, “I’ll do this” or “I want to try that”. In the last three days, there was no time to form a committee. Sometimes life taps you on the shoulder and says, “You saw it, big guy – it’s yours now. You can’t unsee it. You know you can do this – so just do it.”
It was like that when I agreed to organize the “No war in Iran” rally a couple of weeks ago. The day before the rally, I never intended to organize anything. I went to the MoveOn site, to RSVP that I would be coming to the event. I really wanted to go. I was very worried – and f’ing pissed off.
When I put in my zip code, the system responded. “There is no action currently planned for Asheville. Would you like to organize one?” My answer was immediate, clear and defnite:
“No – F no! I’m like f’ing busy. I don’t have my Earth Fare check any more and I’m f’ing broke! I’ve got a business to get off the ground here. My dog and me have both been eating food pantry food for two weeks now! Leave me alone! I don’t care if there’s no stupid rally here!”
pause, breathe, heavy exhale, shake your body loose.
“Oh, OK, yes – just this one time, dammit. The thing is tomorrow – I’ll give it 24 hours, then I’ve got other shit to do, thank you. And I won’t do everything you are supposed to do for organizing these events. I won’t make all those calls. I’ll put the rally up on the MoveOn site and make a few calls – then I’ve got other stuff to do.”
By the next morning, people were asking me about it that I had no idea how they would have gotten the word, but they had. From MoveOn. From people’s Facebook pages. When something is meant to happen, it will bloody well happen.
We had over a hundred people there – and Steve Woodsmall, our wonderful congressional candidate came out, totally impressed me with how he hopped up on a short brick wall (from the Air Force, I guess) and really fired us up about the shit going down in Iran. He’s going to be my first call when I finish this post. He may not be able to come – maybe he will send someone. “Steve, put up a note here, will you, about whether you are coming.”
I want you all in the store to know that many, many people in Asheville are asking this exact question. “What can we do for our friends at Earth Fare: those hard-working creative artists and musicians and just generally wonderful, helpful and loving people?”
Many, many, many people are upset about what is happening to you – and, though obviously less powerfully, what is happening to all of us, to our community. Those robber baron hedge fund bastards think that – just because they have a lot of money – they can go around buying and selling anything they want. Well. I guess the financial system we are now sitting with does allow them to own stuff but – to take a line from my activist roots in the 70’s, let’s QUESTION AUTHORITY! people! (“Shit, I can just see that button in the back of my dresser drawer – how did I ever let it get away from me.”).
They couldn’t buy what this beautiful store had become to us: a haven, a safe space, a happy place – a place of like-minded people, a place where the genuinely more thoughtful, more creative, more oneness-driven folks in Asheville go to be with their peeps. A place where – in an America driven suddenly mad by a despot who knows how to prey on fears and specializes in trying to pit us against each other, especially those who have less power and status, who seem different…”
One little voice in the back of my head is saying, “Ah, Majo – you’re starting to kind of ramble here – stick to the point.” But I’m actually not rambling at all: this is exactly what Asheville – and, within Asheville – what Earth Fare is to us: a haven in a world gone nuts, an America that three years ago was suddenly and violently ripped away from us. My previous therapist, Lorrie Streiffel, used to say, “We’re all walking around in trauma all the time: we don’t know what just happened to us. We don’t know where it is going to lead – or just how bad it’s going to get before it gets better.”
And here is where talking about Trump and the Republicans is not at all off point: that president and his whole hijacked, corrupt party are totally cheering the hedge fund mf’ers on: “Go for it – make as much money as you want. It’s good for America! What’s good for corporations is good for America. What’s good for us rich people and our rich friends is good for America.”
Praise Goddess that, in Bernie and Elizabeth, we have two candidates who see clearly that, left to their own devices – and the way that capitalism, which really does have some merits, has become corrupted over the last couple of decades (“It’s my responsibility to the shareholders to be driven only towards profit – the bottom line. Anything else – people’s needs, the environment – is only a distraction.”)
Here’s another way I am absolutely not rambling: before this “Don’t screw with Earth Fare!” campaign is done, either Bernie or Elizabeth – or both of them – are going to come here to cheer us on.
THE ‘DON’T SCREW WITH EARTH FARE CAMPAIGN”
What is it? Well there are a couple things I can say about it today that I couldn’t yesterday – because I didn’t understand them yesterday. This campaign is a vast, mighty beast that we have created together and are creating together – and that many of us will discover aspects of over the next few weeks. I have not created it nor will I create it. I come back to visit it early each morning when I and the world are peaceful – and, like a vast, mysterious, unexplored continent each day I explore a different part of it, come to know a little more about it. (I am so grateful that in Asheville I have a community where I can say shit like this and have any hope that at least some people will smile, nod wisely, and say “Right on, brother! Preach it!”)
Tomorrow, noon sharp, at the Earth Fare Westgate store at Westgate Plaza – just west over the 240 bridge over the river. A dance flash mob to show support and love for our heroic workers at Earth Fare. We will be strolling around, with or without shopping carts. (Four people will have Bluetooth speakers in their carts.) If you see others you know, smile or wink – but just act normal, as if nothing unusual is about to happen.
Within an hour, this post is going to race around Facebook and also go out to the media – so certainly Earth Fare management is going to know what is about to go down. But what are they going to do? Try to keep us out of the store? There will be media there – that will make a much bigger splash, probably national news. Are they going to have me arrested as I leave home? I will probably have a Citizen-Times reporter with me – bring it on.
The way I know our local store management, they will be totally cool. They – Brandon the wonderful store manager, Daniel and David the assistant store managers, and all the department heads – have worked so hard to protect us from the predations of the robber barons…from the way they have tried to squeeze every dime of cost out of the store, so they could show a good bottom line and then sell the whole chain for a big profit. They have required all of you to “do more with a whole lot f’ing less”. Everybody’s hours get cut more every week, there are no people on the floor to get the work done, everybody works harder and harder to try keep some semblance of normalcy in the store – and to still try to go out of their way to serve customers.
Customers get crabby and disappointed when the shelves aren’t properly stocked or the bathroom is not clean because they got rid of the “steward” who used to clean it. Ask me about the day that one lovely young front end supervisor brought me about an eight-inch-long toilet plunger and apologetically said, “There’s a major disaster in the men’s room. You’re the only man cashier here this morning – knock yourself out.” I won’t burden you with the visuals, but I had been depressed all morning and dealing with that very concrete, tangible disaster (rather than the disaster that morning in my own consciousness) left me in a very cheerful mood.
Customers get grumpy with us and say, “This store is really going downhill – what’s going on here?” What do you say? Do you give them the whole capitalism root-cause analysis? Or do you just smile politely and say, “I’ll get someone over there right away.” It all wears you down. You used to be so proud of your store – and now it’s hard to be. You’re still proud of your teammates – and, if you are lucky, proud of the work you do. But it’s all so stressful and so damn sad.
Oh, OK – I guess I actually did digress there, but I want our beloved customers to finally know what has actually been going on for these many long months – when it has felt that to tell them the truth would be unprofessional…and such a downer to have to say it all over again. (“Why am I staying? Is there something wrong with me? Am I really that afraid of the genuinely grim job market in Asheville?”)
OK, so back to business. At 12 noon sharp, I will push a button on my phone and gradually bring up the volume of the four Bluetooth speakers throughout the store – which I am told should still be receiving the signal from my phone. (It’s really not very feasible to go into the store today and just try them out :).)
Bob Dylan – The Hurricane. A really angry song about how “The Man” treats the little man – especially the man of color. The hardest I have ever heard Bob Dylan rock. Click the link at the bottom of this post and start getting deeply into your bodies – so you can have a complete, total blast, and provide great video for the TV news. (click above to open the YouTube video – not the exact version I will be playing tomorrow, which I think actually rocks a little harder than this version.)
Scattered throughout the store, you all very slowly begin to stir your bodies – very subtly at first, almost imperceptibly. If someone notices you moving, they might think you simply have a cramp or something. Then, little by little, you bring it up. The song starts slow for maybe 15 seconds – then immediately jumps in energy. Feel free to release your bodies as they want to be released.
Unless something untoward happens, we will dance four dances in the store, ending with our own wonderful Asheville/Jubilee rock ‘n roll goddess Amy Steinberg singing her song “Get Up” – which routinely gets me going when I am sagging.
After four songs, we simply go back to our business of shopping as if nothing unusual had just happened. Then we head for the exits – and for a dance party in the parking lot.
If, a lot before noon, we have already filled that bloody store to capacity and more, some of us will stay outside and dance there. I and my speaker will be stationed in the front end – by the cash registers – and I will wheel my speaker outside and dance with y’all there.
We will be repeating this every Friday at noon until every displaced worker gets a new job. It won’t always get to be the dance-flashmob-bit-of-American-political-history that tomorrow may well become, but they may even grow in size and in media attention – and in the consciousness of the whole country.
Asheville, perhaps the most special city in the country, is sitting perhaps on one of the biggest political news stories of the year. In the press release, we say,
“At 12 PM sharp this Friday, the Earth Fare Asheville Westgate store will become Ground Zero for the revolution of the American people against corporate greed in America.”
We mean it.
This event – and all future Don’t Screw with Earth Fare! events (and there will be others to support our workers, in addition to every Friday) will also be a benefit for the Westgate Displaced Workers Contingency Fund. Bring a few bucks if you can – or more if you can (I can’t this week). Let no Westgate worker live in their car!
PLEASE “SHARE” THIS, EVERYBODY! TELL AND EMAIL YOUR FRIENDS! IF YOU HAVE MEDIA CONTACTS, USE THEM!
We have less than 24 hours to get the word out. If we pack that store – and maybe even the parking lot – tomorrow, then maybe the national media will come next week! Hell, New York Times and Washington Post, NPR – there maybe won’t be this juicy flash mob next week. Tomorrow is going to make it into the history books about 2020 – the year the American public really got it about the tragic slide of capitalism and started to take their power back from the fat cats. Put a couple of reporters on a plane this afternoon.
Let’s all of us who can, meet tonight at 7 p.m. at THE BLOCK off biltmore. Great beer, kombucha, herbal tea, etc. in a lovely little club that long-time progressive activist Cam MacQueen created for events just such as this. Chat with her – she’s awesome.