These days all of my identities are converging: whether I am offering a blessing in the grocery store checkout line, offering a prayer in a poem or experiencing the kinship with all life while walking my or a client's dog - it's all the same. It's all Life.
BENEFIT FOR THE DISPLACED WORKERS OF EARTH FARE WESTGATE
At THE BLOCK off biltmore, 33 Market St.
7-8 community networking and displaced workers marketplace – goods and services, give them some business.
8-11 Storytelling Dance Party
Featuring the Asheville dance party debut of DJ Majo WOW! (“weird old whiteguy”)
Billboard says, “DJ Majo WOW! rocks the mic like a motherfucker!”
Rolling Stone says, “Majo WOW! is actually kind of cool and funky – in his own little 73-year-old fat middle-class white guy way.”
pending me and my pal J-Lo working out some personal stuff between us.
If she falls through, it could be you!
Being a young woman of color (kinda balancing out Majo’s demographic excesses) who loves to dance, has an iPhone and can use or download Spotify could just make it for you. Shit, if I can do it….
Suggested donation: $10 up to as generous as you are willing to be for these folks – who may have trouble paying their rent th No one turned away for lack of funds.
Friday – today!
Earth Fare Westgate Store: 66 Westgate Pkwy Asheville NC 28806
12:00 – dance flash mob in store
Majo is positioned by cash registers, starts music. Dancing begins gradually all through the store – builds – continues for four songs.
12:15 – end dancing like nothing ever happened, move to exits 12:20 – dance party in parking lot – through 1:15?
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.
Amanda was one of our most reliable rally people. Her friend Russ made this Resist graphic.
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.
Community supporters of the workers of Earth Fare – who have all been laid off, all 40 stores across the Southeast, effective two weeks from now – will be gathering at the Westgate store for a dance flash mob in the store and a dance party and rally at Westgate Plaza.
The Westgate Earth Fare store – the flagship store of the whole chain, the “hippie store” that was always allowed to maintain its unique character as all the other stores got more corporate – is a central part of the culture, the heart, of Asheville. The robber barons are attempting to not only harm the lives of 200 employees (at this store alone) – they are taking away from us a store that has a life of its own, that really kinda belongs to us, too.
We aren’t going to take this sitting down. In fact, we are going to stand up and dance!
Activism blog (Westgate Initiative info): avlresist.com
Grocery store blog: Real Life in the Checkout Line, rlcol.com
Personal blog: majowakingup.com
Dear media contact –
We think we can get a lot of people out for this – like fill that parking lot.
We see there being national news organizations covering it – and it drawing the attention of nationally known politicians and media figures. We will continue doing at least the parking lot part of this party every Friday at noon until every last beloved Eath Fare worker has a new job.
We will be featuring the music of Michael Franti and Alecia Keys – why not them? They both have heart for this issue. We are also featuring a wonderful song by maybe Asheville’s newest minister, Amy Steinberg of Jubilee. (Check her great music out on Pandora and Spotify.)
DJ is a young, bearded, scruffy, dirty-clothed homeless guy who comes by the front of Battery Park Apartments several times a day and – when he is not talking to us – is usually walking the streets talking to himself, or to somebody that the rest of us can’t see. I don’t think any of us knows where he stays at night.
DJ’s primary contact at Battery Park Apartments is naturally Diana, who is out in front of the building smoking most of the day. But she is also his natural point of contact because she knows DJ’s world: she herself has been homeless – almost certainly more than anyone else in the building and probably more than all 105 of us put together. Years after getting housed, she had a full-time job managing a women’s homeless shelter for the Salvation Army. She both understands where DJ is coming from and is much less caught in the stereotypes, generalizations and negative judgments that poison the rest of us.
Diana – whose natural/instinctive/ values-based generosity is really central to who she is – is trying to balance that huge open heart with her new practice of solid boundaries. I’ve told her of Brene Brown’s research where the social science researcher found that the personal quality that most relates to happiness is open heartedness – and the personal quality that most relates to open heartedness is solid boundaries. As Diana and I share stories from our day, “boundaries” is one of the lenses we apply to those stories. She might say to me: “That’s a place where you needed a solid boundary” or “You were holding your boundary”.
The rest of us, who do not know DJ’s world – and may not even have had much real interchange with homeless people over the course of our lives (hosting Room In the Inn at Jubilee has been a real game-changer for some Jubilants, but I have volunteered just twice for this project where homeless women spend the night in the first floor at Jubilee – Patton Ave. side). We may only have ever “talked” to a homeless person to help ourselves feel less guilty over the fact that we have so many judgments about them.
DJ is kinda sweet and very polite – and probably mentally ill, another world that Diana knows well. I think that he and Diana genuinely like each other, though his frequent intrusions get irritating even to her and she knows that he would clean her out like a vacuum cleaner if she let him.
DJ can be so intrusive and softly pushy.
“Miss Diana, can I get a cigarette?
“No, honey, you’ve come by four times already today – no more.”
“Uh, ma’am, maybe just one cigarette?”
“No, I’m very low myself – I’m almost out.”
“If I give you 50 cents, would you give me a cigarette?”
Diana will acknowledge openly to us, when DJ is not there, that he does eventually piss her off. She doesn’t like to be angry at people – it’s way outside of her comfort zone, but she really kind of embraces the opportunities to practice holding a boundary. Already in the last few months she has started to get better at this, will save up stories to tell us about how she held a boundary (sometimes with DJ) – and really believes she is already a slightly healthier person because of it.
In my maybe four encounters with DJ, I have been consistently slightly mean and unwavering in my resistance to his (polite) requests for cigarettes (and money? I can’t quite remember if he ever asks us for money. Certainly cigarettes is the main thing.) I’m not usually this nasty to street people. I think that in certain areas my newfound commitment to solid boundaries has not yet translated into more open heartedness. I don’t like it that he invades our turf with his panhandling. I have not quite said to DJ, but certainly have thought: “It’s one thing to keep it over there, on some other street corner. But don’t start bringing your begging over into our peaceful, happy, playful – and private – place.” And, finally and probably the most central, I do get very protective of Diana’s space and mad at DJ for being so pushy with her.
Yesterday afternoon at five, we had mostly run through an encounter with DJ that already had showed most of the qualities I describe above. He was politely pushing Diana for a cigarette and almost sweetly refusing to take no for an answer – even though Diana had just done a pretty good job of protecting her boundary.
My voice is naturally louder than Diana’s. And it is more readily capable of carrying assertiveness, meanness and even a hint of menace – as a couple of weeks ago when I said to the old bat who, from half-way down the street, was continuing to yell at me that my Pancho was the real problem between Pancho and her wonderful little dog – and, actually, that I was the real problem. I don’t know what threatening movie character I channeled when I yelled, “Don’t make me come over there!” And I think I was probably breaking some building policy that you are not allowed to threaten another resident – but it was such a new behavior for me and popped out so effortlessly that it was totally thrilling, and got the job done. She did shut up and go away. She probably was thinking, “Fuck, he has totally snapped. He’s going to come over here and beat the shit out of me.”
In this case with DJ, I don’t think my voice was really carrying menace when I said to him, “She already said ‘No‘.” But it was so curt and sharp that DJ was apparently deciding he had worn out his welcome and was getting ready to go.
(The real problem with my intervention was that no intervention was really needed. Sure, Diana’s “No” had not gotten DJ to back off – but she had said it and had not given up a cigarette, so this was already a success for her. Could she take the next step and raise her own voice – maybe put more of a non-sweet edge in it, to drive away the intruder? Maybe she would have risen to the occasion yesterday. But, if she had not quite gotten there, we could have debriefed the event together and gotten her more ready for the next battle. I’ve got to stop pushing into the middle of the altercation to protect her. I mean well, but I am not being genuinely helpful – it’s her fight. And I will get my turn, because as soon as DJ gives up on Diana he is going to turn to one of the others of us and start with them.
So DJ was getting ready to leave when white 60ish Joe (one of our neighbors who has not been directly involved in any of these encounters, but has apparently been building up a charge against DJ) strides kind of aggressively down the street (too close really to DJ) sticks his finger out almost in DJ’s face and, with a low note of masculine menace says “I’m psychic, because I know why you are here – you want money from us.” Really pretty stupid and uninteresting as a mano-a-mano challenge. I at least am thinking, “Really? Is that the best you got?”
I was immediately more pissed off at Joe than DJ and – just to jerk him around – said “He actually doesn’t want money, he wants cigarettes”.
Now that my interruption has stopped the mighty Joe in his tracks and that there is a moment of quiet, I launch us into a little debrief of what had just happened between Joe and DJ – with the two of them still standing there. I started by saying, “You never should have stuck your finger in DJ’s face – that’s rude and aggressive.”
Lisa – “Yeah, and your tone of voice was too angry.”
Suddenly, even though Joe was in many demographic and personal style ways more like us than is DJ – and he lives in our building – we had been down this road with DJ and kind of knew how to negotiate the curves. As far as this conversation now was concerned, DJ was more a member of our pack than was Joe and we kind of closed ranks around him. Nobody actually said, “Who the fuck are you, Joe? This isn’t your business – go away”. I would be the most likely to say it, but – having spoken my little piece to Joe, I had immediately shifted my focus to DJ, who I was already starting to kind of like. Joe left.
Then DJ was getting ready to leave. As he turns west to face Page Avenue and the AT&T building, he says “Bye everybody – I’ll pray for you all.”
Me: “You’ll pray for us all?” (“Not just for Miss Diana, who is the closest thing to a friend you have here – and maybe anywhere.”)
DJ: “Yeah, I’ll pray for all of you.”
Me: “You’ll pray for me?” (“after I have been so mean to you?”)
DJ: “Yeah, I’ll pray for you.”
Me, fumbling in my Earth Fare grocery bag: “Well then I’ll give you a cigarette, if you’re going to pray for me.”
Before I even get my cigarette pack out of my grocery bag, DJ starts to pray:
He throws his head back and looks skyward. His prayer is at moments kind of halting, but mostly really pretty self-assured. His voice is almost too loud, but the loudness is really mostly effective. None of us is thinking that he is a professional preacher or leads the prayers at some little Christian church, but he clearly has done this before, if maybe never for other people before or never before at this volume. It probably is “some of the crazy things he mutters to himself as he wanders the streets of downtown Asheville.”
DJ’s prayer was all about forgiveness, trust and love. He was asking some higher power to bless us all – all of us, no exceptions. I don’t think he said one thing that any of us had any theological problem with. And it all was very beautiful – strong, self-assured, calm, trusting in this God that DJ never attempted to describe. He needed a little help from the ever-more-assertive Diana to wrap it up: was clearly warming to the task, might have prayed well longer if allowed to – but he responded well to Diana’s guidance, and then promptly took off.
This leaves us Battery Park residents who can (maybe just barely) afford to go the Up In Smoke shop on Tunnel Road next to the Ingles and buy cigarettes (not $6 American Spirits, but $3.50 Natives – American Spirits knock-offs that claim to be similarly additive free, and so basically healthy.)
We look at each other and, almost in unison, say “Wow!” DJ had given us something that we did not expect. Lisa says, “That was beautiful!” and we all agree. It would be a great understatement to say I will never see DJ the same way again. I may even be nice to him. I may even give him a cigarette – at least until I quit, which will probably be next week. 🙂
My Toni with David Wilson Brown, who is again running to represent the 10th Congressional District.
He made points with me back in 2018 by bringing his big chocolate lab with him to a Candidates Forum at the Dem. Party HQ. When all four candidates had had their chance to speak and the meeting was breaking up, I don’t think he stuck around to press any flesh. Me and Toni left right after the meeting was over and David was already running his dog down the road.
I went on to volunteer with David, once a week through the election cycle. He is such a great guy! Smart, warm, real. His campaign manager, Kathie Kline, was a dream – such a real, warm, rich supportive person. I don’t know if she has come back for this cycle – I emailed her last night.
David is up against Patrick McHenry, who has been in office since 2004.