The East Coast
When I arrived in Philadelphia I was starting to get burnt out. Half-a-year on the road away from home. I’d stayed with nearly 25 couch surfing hosts, and spent 3-months on two farms down south. I realized I had attended 20 different events/meetings my month in Boston. On top of that, money was getting low. Luckily, the Liberty Movement was there to help give me a financial boost.
After receiving some funds and getting settled into my new city, I found myself getting busy with work. Even though I missed a couple of meetings I was still able to meet a lot of activists in the area. I spent some time at a community garden, attended a public feeding (of the homeless), and spread the message of Liberty to all those who would listen.
White Dog Cafe – 3/4
I arrived in Philly on a Sunday with plans to hang out with my friend who happened to be in town at the same time. I hadn’t planned on doing any activism, just to take a break and enjoy some quality company. We ended up grabbing lunch, and drinks the next day, at the White Dog Cafe; which turns out to be a rather influential “sustainable-community” restaurant and bar in Philly.
“Art of Living” Meditation – 3/5
I wanted to try to get some more meditation in while I was in Philadelphia. This ended up being the only session I made it to, but it was good to able to attend. This was a very beginner level practice, however it seemed like at least a few people there had been before. It should be noted though, that every meditation is as productive as any other; it doesn’t matter the level of guidance, the point is to fall into yourself and let go of your thoughts; or rather, your urge to control them.
Philly for Change – 3/7
I attended a “Philly for Change” meeting; a progressive-Democrat that grew from the Dean for American campaign in 2004. Interestingly, 2004 was the only election I had registered Democrat for, specifically to vote for Dean in order to have a motivating challenger to President Bush.
The meeting ended up being an endorsement meeting, where candidates running in the Democratic Primary would talk (or have a representative talk) in order to lobby the group for their endorsement. The tone of the nights was incumbent-versus-primary challenger. Most of the State and House seats were already filled with Democrats, but in almost every district these long time incumbents were facing Primary opposition from young challengers. Many of the challengers were residents of the urban neighborhoods of the cities. One of them was an activist from the Occupy Movement:
Liberty Bell and Independence Hall – 3/9
I typically don’t include my tourist type adventures in my articles, but I felt this particular day was fitting for the work I’ve been doing. I took a day to go see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. On the tour I got to see the court room where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the hall where the Constitution was drafted and ratified. As well, on the same block are the buildings that originally housed the Supreme Court, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. As I’m nearing the end of my tour, I am beginning to see where this whole American Experiment began.
Tibetan Uprising Day – 3/10
On my way downtown to do some grassroots canvassing for Ron Paul I ran across a march for Tibetan Uprising Day. I stopped for a moment to find out what it was all about, and to talk to some of the people involved. As I had plans of my own I passed on the offer to march with them.
Canvasing Philadelphia – 3/10
This was my first of Ron Paul activism in the City of Brotherly Love. I started downtown, but had little success. So I decided to walk down South St. where I had been directed to go by my couch surfing host. I stopped by the Hemp Stores, an Anarchist Book Store called, and eventually found a street corner with heavy foot traffic. I proceeded to hand out Super Brochures and voter registration forms. No one stopped for very long, but I got rid of a lot of my material. While you want to make sure you are giving out resources to people that are likely to make use of them, at the same time, the materials do you no good after the election; I’d rather hand them all out then be left with some.
Wake Up Yoga – 3/13
I got connected with Stephanie through my Wake Up Boston friends that connected me with some of their friends down in Philly. Stephanie was working on becoming a Yoga Instructor and was doing some free lessons in order to practice the class she would have to give for her Final. I made sure to make it to one of these classes, as I was very much in need of a good stretch.
Occupy Philly General Assembly – 3/13
After Yoga I made my way across the city to make it for the end of the Occupy Philly General Assembly (GA). They had already broken up into group to start brainstorming where to take their movement; as their encampment had been broken up sometime ago. Many of the participants had already begun working on a project called “Occupy Vacant Lots.”
One of these activist was Nate Kleinman, whom I had met at the Philly for Change meeting (he is running for Congress). After the meeting I had a chance to talk to Nate a bit more (who was sharing some vegetable seeds with another activist) and met Brennan, a member of Working Families who I would end up working with later in the month. I also found out about a protest of new regulations the City was putting on serving food outdoors. Food Not Bombs had organized to do a food service outside of City Hall and protest the new regulations before the Public Hearing on the subject.
Jill Stein Phone Conference – 3/14
I joined in on a conference call to talk about activism in relation to the Jill Stein for President campaign. Dr. Stein is a Green Party activist that is running for their Nomination for President (and doing rather well, having won every Primary so far with at least 66% of the vote). The call revolved around upcoming events. I took a few minutes to talk to the group about fundamental activism and campaigning, and how to network with other activists around the country.
Outdoor Food Service Regulations Protest – 3/15
I had heard about the cities new regulations (ban) on outdoor feeding of the homeless through some Food Not Bombs activists at the Occupy Philly GA. There was a scheduled public hearing on the ban to be held on the 15. The groups (Occupy and Food Not Bombs) had planned to hold a rally outside of the City Hall, followed by a food services. I joined the activists, took some notes, and ate some food.
Libertarian Party of Philadelphia – 3/19
I met with the state chair of the Pennsylvania Libertarian Party at a coffee shop in North Philly. Apparently the Philly Libertarian Party meetings are not heavily attended, as we were the only two there. Most of the activists in the area attend a more frequented meeting in a neighboring county.
While it would have been nice to meet some more activists in the area, it was an opportunity to talk one-on-one with a high level activists within the Libertarian Party. The conversation mostly circled around my grassroots work with Ron Paul, and the PA Libertarian Party’s work within the State.
Their main struggle was keeping ballot access. Once a Party in PA gains ballot access, the requirements to maintain that access becomes more difficult. Thus, the LP has had a series of on-and-off cycles. Another issue they are working on is what is called “fusion ballot line” where a candidate can appear on more than one party’s ballot line. A current candidate for U.S. House that is running within the Republican Party is also working on gaining the Libertarian Ballot line as well. This is something the LP is in favor of.
Aside from that, most of the energy within the Party is going toward the National Convention, where they hope to Nominate Gary Johnson for President:
Working Families Canvasing – 3/20, 3/22 and 3/23
I had met Brennan at the Occupy GA on the 13. After sharing what I had been doing for the last half-a-year (volunteer canvassing and grassroots organization) he asked if I would be interested in doing some canvasing for his group Working Families. He mentioned that it would pay $9/hour. A week later I decided to give Brennan a call and see what we could work out.
I ended up being able to commit to 3 days of work with the group. This entailed some door-to-door training, getting familiar with their cause, and heading out to Bucks County to go rally some citizens together to put pressure on their representatives.
The first thing that woke my brain up as I was going through this particular experience was when Brennan told me I needed to bring a resume in. It dawned on me that I actually had a number of references and work experience doing political organization and activism. As well, I realized that in the 6-months of travel and volunteer work, which I was motivated to do exclusively out of my personal passion for the cause, I had created a job opportunity for myself. And now that I actually did 3-days of legit paid work canvasing, I now had yet another skill set that I could turn into income (two of which I built on this trip; Farming/Gardening/Landscaping and Canvassing/Activist Organization; combine these with my previous work experience in the Restaurant Industry and Video Game Industry, and my emerging ability to generate income through my Websites and Writing, and I am becoming a modern day Thoreau).
Greenpeace Philly – 3/21
This was less of a meeting and more of a celebration of a recent victory against a local, out-of-date, coal plant that had been causing serious health effects on local citizens and had been polluting the local environment. We ate Pizza and talked about issues and activism. A lot of the people that attended were new to the group.
Canvassing for Ron Paul – 3/24
My last day of canvassing before the Voter Registration Deadline in Pennsylvania took me downtown, and around the surrounding area. It was cold and rainy, and not a lot of people were out. I had posted an event on the Meet-Up group to meet in front of the City Hall. On my way there I ended up stopping in a “Occult” merchandise store. I wasn’t sure what reaction I’d get at this vendor. As soon as I walked in one of the girls behind the counter saw my shirt and said, “Ron Paul! Yes!” I asked her is she was registered and she assured me she was registered Republican to vote in the Primary. She asked me for some forms and information to give to her friends. As we were talking another girl behind the counter asked my for some information on Ron Paul. It took about five minutes of my time to stop in this store, and the boost from the warm welcome was well worth it.
I headed down town to meet up with the other activists, but no one was there. I was a little late, so I hoped that they ended up heading on without me. I walked around the area for a while, stopping into stores, hitting up other canvassers (including some volunteers for the President) and before I was done, ran into someone wearing a Bob Marley shirt on the sidewalk and got a form and brochure in his hand.
The Simple Way - 3/27 – 3/30
I had found out about the Simple Way through some talks by one of their founders Shane Claiborne. I am constantly research and looking for community support groups that are doing good things, and the Simple Way is definitely one of them. They have “claimed” a neighborhood in North Philly as their home, and have undertaken a number of projects to improve the community. The most recent of these is a Community Garden where their first project is to build a Greenhouse to shelter a functioning Aquaponic system.
Aquaponics is a hydroponic system that creates its own nutrients by incorporating a fish tank into the process. Fish produce “waste” which provides nutrients to the plant beds, the plants filter the water which is then fed back into the fish tank. Ideally a compost/worm bed accompanies the Aquaponic System in order to feed the fish and make use of yard/food waste in the garden/neighborhood. Over the course of the week I helped erect the greenhouse structure, build the beds, line them with padding, and fill them with gravel. I also got a chance to talk and socialize with some truly amazing people. We all came from different backgrounds, but all had a common goal; cultivating community and making the world a better place for all life.
There was a much larger scale Aquaponic system at Coldwater Gardens which I worked/lived at during my stay in Florida:
Greenpeace Bird-Dogging Training – 3/29
Bird-Dogging is the action of asking a question toward a public official with the goal of eliciting a response that reveals either the true thoughts of the official, or a discrepancy in their official platform/statements. I was invited to attend the Philadelphia Greenpeace Training session while I was still in town.
This video is of the organizer of the training session as she “Bird-Dogged” Joe Biden:
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