The stirrings of a local response to the Occupy Wall Street movement are starting to bubble to the surface.
A grassroots movement now called Occupy Together Martha’s Vineyard began on the Island just over a month ago in much the same fashion that the nationwide protests began, with a simple call to action, an email campaign and a few people turning up for a series of solidarity photo shoots at landmarks around the Island.
At the West Tisbury photo shoot in front of the town hall, plans were made for a “general assembly” to be held at the Vineyard Haven home of Jeri Dantzig. The meeting led to a series of “actions” — protesters have assembled with signs at the blinking light on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and at Five Corners half a dozen times now.
Some of the key members of the local group were recent guests on Bob Tankard’s show “Tank Talk” on MVTV, and the group will march in the Edgartown Christmas parade on Saturday.
And now the local movement has an anthem, thanks to Vineyard Haven poet and songwriter Michael West. Last Friday, Dec. 2, at the MVTV studios, Mr. West sang his protest song, “I Want To Occupy Your Heart,” accompanying himself on guitar for a three-camera video shoot. BZ Riger, one of the more active participants in the movement, was the producer on the shoot. She superimposed the clip of Mr. West performing over scenes of newspaper clippings and Occupy messages. MVTV’s access coordinator Michelle Vivan was the co-producer for the shoot.
The song and video will be used for a number of purposes and can be seen on the local group’s website. occupytogethermv.org.
“Shortly after occupy Wall Street MV got started I felt like I wanted to connect with others here on the Island,” Mr. West said. “At the same time what I felt was missing was a musical response or a rallying song. Music was so important in the ’60s in the protest movement.
“The movement needed songs. I felt that I had to respond in that way.”
Of the songwriting process he says, “I just heard the song in my head and I started writing the words. There was no editing. The first verse and the chorus came out immediately. Within an hour I had a song. Sometimes you struggle with phrasing but this was intended to be an address. It was an immediate pouring out.”
Mr. West has performed “Occupy My Heart” in public twice — at the West Tisbury Library’s annual poetry reading and at the Chilmark Community Center “Potluk” Jam two weeks ago. He will be adding the song to the poetry and musical offerings at an upcoming Winter Solstice celebration at the Vineyard Haven Library on December 21. Mr. West’s song has also made its way into a promotional video done by Jay DiMare of Cape Cod. Mr. DiMare is looking for funding for a proposed film on the Occupy Movement and he used the song and video to promote his project.
The local movement has also captured nationwide attention. Businessweek recently ran a small feature titled “The Unlikely Outposts of Occupy Wall Street” in which they included the Vineyard among six luxury resorts spotlighted to show that the Occupy movement has made its way into the playgrounds of the rich. The Bloomberg publication used a picture from the West Tisbury photo shoot and a quote from Ms. Riger in the feature. Ms. Riger is quoted as saying, “People think of us as the place where the 1% play and nobody else lives here, but of course that’s not true.”
Ms. Dantzig notes that the local movement is “growing exponentially.” Since the first general assembly, she has held regular Sunday meetings at her home. Local groups are starting to get involved. Last Sunday a gathering of 15 people included members of the local Peace Council, people from the Hebrew Center’s social action committee (of which Ms. Danzig is the chairman), and a representative of the Martha’s Vineyard Democrats. The latter group has invited Mas Kimball of Oak Bluffs to speak at their meeting this Saturday on his experiences in Zuccotti Park. Mr. Kimball was at the home base of the Occupy Wall Street movement on the night that the park got raided.
Ms. Dantzig, who has been involved in activism since she was 15 and has gone to many pro-choice marches in Washington, says, “We’ve got some fabulously bright people involved. People who were involved in the Civil Rights movement the anti-Vietnam War movement.” She notes that the local group also includes a wide range of ages, from retirees to students.
Thanks to the expertise and dedication of Ms. Riger, who is a social marketing consultant and video producer, the local movement has a very comprehensive website and Facebook page. Says Ms. Dantzig of the Facebook page, “There are some really wonderful dialogues and some great postings. Compared to the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War protests, there are so many opportunities to access and share information today.”
The group sends out email blasts on upcoming actions and meetings. The next project in the works is an educational and informational seminar with discussion and videos, which is tentatively scheduled for January 8.
Search Michael West Occupy Your Heart on youtube.com to see the music video.
Gwyn McAllister of Oak Bluffs is a regular freelance writer for The Times.