Keep on Occupying!
Last fall, after 2+ years of solitary programming and soul-searching in various far-flung corners of the world, Jonathan was putting the finishing touches on Cowbird when a movement suddenly hatched. A handful of protesters set up camp in New York City’s Zucotti park, and Occupy Wall Street was born.
As the movement grew, it gave Cowbird its first saga — Occupy — and helped us articulate a vision for the platform as a place for the public to tell its own account of the events that shape human life on our planet today.
Jonathan started by documenting his own experience at Occupy Oakland — its faces, its stories, its observers, its jokes, its teachers, its heroes, its accidents, its funerals, its opponents, its gatherings, its arguments, and what happened when the tensions overflowed.
He contacted people in other cities and asked them to post stories about what they were witnessing in their own camps — and word of Cowbird spread from Boston to Missoula to Oklahoma City to Spain.
Some authors used Cowbird to record the messages of the movement for posterity, while others played the part of observers, capturing the people who joined the movement, its unforgettable scenes, and how the protests opened the floodgates for new conversations.
In the late fall, the police response to the Occupy movement swelled. The public was riveted by news accounts of hundreds of people arrested in California and New York, and Cowbird recorded this later stage in the movement as well.
Now that winter is upon us, and the protests have mostly moved indoors, we at Cowbird are seeking stories that go beyond the cardboard signs and the strident cries, going a little bit deeper into the underlying problems facing our society today, and which inspired the Occupy movement in the first place.
If you quit a job out of disgust with the financial system, like this man, or if you know someone who lost his or her job or life savings because of the economic crisis, we invite you to tell that story. Other good stories would be those of foreclosed-upon homes and businesses that have had to close during the last few years. The chronic unemployment of our younger generation is another topic that we’d like to explore.
As you start thinking about how to chronicle your particular experience of complicated events like Occupy, remember that the best way to tell a complicated story is simply.
The story of your community, your family, or your life path can be analyzed in abstract language, but it can also be expressed much more directly: through the image of the worn fingerless gloves you wore when you camped out at Zuccotti, a photo of the bruise left by handcuffs, or a picture of a simple meal eaten with strangers.