There’s an interesting new article on the KALW website that seeks to explain why, unlike so much of the Occupy movement, ”Occupy Bernal Heights” has actually been rather effective.
The secret, it turns out, is a door-to-door, block-by-block focus on local communities:
Buck Bagot is a long-time resident of Bernal Heights, and a self-described leftist activist since the early 70s. He and a handful of other activist neighbors founded Occupy Bernal in early January, coming together around another neighbor’s impending foreclosure.
Bagot says at that point, most members of the group were not facing foreclosure themselves, but wanted to take action to help those who were. At first they didn’t know much about the issue, but once they started to look into it, they found the problem was much more widespread than they would have thought.
Taking the time to talk to people and make personal connections has led to a continuous growth of the organization; Occupy Noe Valley is the most recent offshoot. Many people who wouldn’t have thought to align themselves with the Occupy movement have been drawn in, either through neighborhood door-knocking campaigns or old-fashioned word of mouth.
Larry Faulks is facing foreclosure on his Diamond Heights home, but says he was initially wary about coming to a meeting with these “Occupy people”.
“My vision of it was a group of people with tambourines and bullhorns, and that’s what’s gonna save the world,” he says. But when he went to the meeting, he says he found something different. “I was surprised to see that there was a lot of older people, like me. The group has lots of people of color, like me.” He says the diversity made him feel more comfortable.
Even a seasoned activist like Buck Bagot initially found Occupy’s approach somewhat challenging. While he did visit the San Francisco encampment in the fall of 2011, he was looking for a different way to embody the Occupy movement’s ideals.
“I’m 61 years old. I work,” he says. “I couldn’t camp out. I couldn’t spend six hours in a general assembly.”
Bagot says Occupy Bernal was formed to “try and take the possibilities created by Occupy and the ideals stated by Occupy, and root them in a concrete struggle in our neighborhood.”
PHOTO: Lily Rothrock