Thursday, November 8, 2007
Day one, and evening two - an update
From the center of Butler Lawn. Day one gone. The evening of day two is approaching. The hunger strikers have slept their first night, outside and subsisting solely on water, electrolytes and the love of friends and adherents to the demands. We have had a number of questions over the past two days, and we write this letter to begin to answer some of those questions, and continue the conversation around these issues.
The question that most frequently arises is, “How are you feeling?” All of us are in different states but on the whole, there are the hunger pains, a slight light headedness and fatigue. All of us however are out and about, attending our classes and taking exams, talking with those who approach our tent. Also interacting with those who last night attended the first of the nightly vigils in support. Today again there was a rally at the sundial, and statements were shared in solidarity. These showings have been crucial for the other thing we are feeling is the cold of being outside, and it is the growing strength of the movement that keeps us warm.
Another question we often get is, “What do you need?” So many have kindly offered blankets, sleeping bags, tea and other material needs. We have appreciated every offer, and feel that our material needs are being well looked to. One level of support that can be extended is providing inspiration for us to continue – think art, music, good conversation, does anyone have a boombox? With that we want people to also know we need your support around these demands. So we would like to turn around the question of “what do you need”, as instead a question of “what can I do, for the hunger strikers and myself?” It will be the creativity of others who want to see these changes amongst themselves and in relation with this administration that will support us the most, and get us eating again.
Which leads to the question, “what are the plans of the hunger strikers?” We plan to strike until the demands are met. If change comes slowly (which unfortunately it often has on the watch of this university) we will hold out, until change is made or doctors say we can go no longer. If change is moving slowly we ask one thing of our supporters and believers in these demands - take action.
But how can we ask you to take action if you are not totally clear on what we are depriving ourselves of food for? This is one comment, and very valid critique we have gotten from sympathizers and skeptics alike. Our demands seem too many, our demands seem too broad, our demands seem unachievable. We do believe our demands are very simple things, which can be achieved, in a timely fashion. What they require however is a different orientation of the university, and its community. This is exactly what we are calling attention to: that addressing one of these issues alone does not reveal the systematic nature of the problem. The question is not “why do you have so many demands?” but “why has the university left so much to be demanded?” We ask those who see our demands as not specific enough, or too broad, or too many, to take a look again at the detailed version (core, expansion, ethnic studies, admin reform - we know it may appear verbose, apologies are expected from the bureaucracy making it complicated) and not try to weigh each individual demand on its own but instead look behind these demands. Look to what they stand for, a beginning of the end of repeated marginalization, exclusion and silencing of students within this community.
So once again, tonight there is a vigil at 9pm as there will be every night the strike lasts. We ask people to also take the time to sign our petition, come by the tents, and talk to a friend about what’s going on. Saturday look forward to a community rally, with Harlem residents and people from throughout New York.
Finally discussions with the administration will begin tomorrow at noon. Wish us luck, and ohh... dont forget to come out. We want students there to hear for themselves what is on the table. Expect an update later tonight on where that meeting will be.