The Forest That Overwhelmed Trump Tower

a_tree_grows_in_trump_tower.jpgIt always starts with the vulnerability of risking arrest.  The activism is the purest citizenship.  We enter Trump Tower.  We walk through the submachine guns and dogs, the body armor and the golden name of the white supremacist president that hovers in space above the door.  

We are only doing what tourists do.  Ta-Nehisi Coates would say that we are walking into The Dream.  Trump Tower’s public area, where we are welcome as long as we show signs of being willing consumers of The Dream, is a 5 story high vertical mall, with gold-plated escalators zig-zagging upwards.  The hanging garden of Trump.  Fake plants on gold pillars!  We walk across the threshold of The Dream carrying the intention to subvert it and replace it with our Earthalujah!

Let’s call The Dream what it is – The Nightmare.  We have here in this building in concentrated form exactly what most Americans have everyday – the complex of responses to state-sanctioned violence on behalf of race and property and profit.  We feel the manufacture of fear, the itching-the-imagined-wound of Trump nation.  As we walk by the silent staring Secret Service we feel the fantastic imagination made by American fear – the conspiracy theories, the deadly tribalism of police, the scandal of alternative love, the remake of everyone everywhere into a monstrous “Other.”

Our destination is on the 5th floor.  There is a legal never-never-land called a “Privately Owned Public Space” or POPS, and the upshot is that in 1979 Trump agreed in exchange for height variances to keep a garden open to the public.  And by the time we get to the glass door of the garden we are ready to shout.  We have such a need to re-establish our own body.  It is real and direct.  We’ve been coming back here a lot since the election, releasing our personal arts in this garden, our songs, outlandish costumes, dancing, lecturing with the lurid statistics of species extinction and climate chaos.

What we have dedicated ourselves to over the long run, meeting three days a week in the Trump garden, is to turn over our personal soil by silently writing our responses to The Nightmare.  We are finding a way to our counter-dream.  We start with a wisdom quote.  One quote recently was from Emma Goldman:  “Love is the molder of destiny.  Love is the defier of laws.”  

Then we write together for 45 minutes.  At the end we stand with our writing and recite or shout or sing our words at the 700 foot tall gold-tinted presidential erection.  One veteran activist that we met at Occupy Wall Street called the garden “A Zuccotti Park with walls, the Zuccotti Prison.”  It is like a back alley lifted into the sky, with rotting tables under USA flags.  

We find the weeds and the moss in the cracks of the garden’s fake granite and we talk to them in confidential tones.  They are our leaders.  We ask the rebel plants for advice.  Clearly they are activists.  We want to be super-weeds ourselves.  We want to evolve to live to change The Nightmare.  We tell the weeds in the cracks that we know their descendants will flourish in a forest here, that the tower will come down.  

We ask the weeds that we be admitted as one of the species in the eco-system they are making as their roots take hold in the seams of The Nightmare.  We promise we can co-exist with life, to wake up from this bad dream having learned that we don’t have to be the apex predator.  We can do this!  With our species, we’ve learned that a strict program of love works best for us.  We know that now!  Please don’t forget us!  Take us along!  

 

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Uprising By Sunflower

20526086_10154854785443963_1468539888673584547_n.jpgHere we have clear instruction for defeating Trump. Let the radical miracles all around us bring out the revolution that we suppress into "style" or "culture". We need to reach for the sun! What if the Women's March never left D.C.? The million citizens would be still there, spilling into the stone buildings, making policing impossible, stopping the corruption with the concentration of bodies. Life doesn't live one weekend a year. Earthalujah!

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Reverend Billy In Secret Meeting At Trump Tower

trump_savi_stare.jpgWe’re in a strange place, a garden inside Trump Tower.  We are facing blank pages with our pens.  There are 15 of us. Savitri D and myself and singers from the Stop Shopping Choir and friends who heard about it. We’re waiting for the timekeeper to say “Write.”  We will write nonstop for 45 minutes. 
 
The Trump Company is required to let us sit here under this 700 feet high slab of gold-tinted glass.  Years ago, Trump agreed with the city to keep this garden open to the public, in exchange for 24 extra floors.  This is Donald Trump’s business headquarters and sometimes home, with body-armored men at the door with submachine guns.
 
Being inside Trumplandia can be unnerving.  For the New Yorkers who join us in the tower garden, Trump has been the city’s unsavory clown for decades.  We encountered the gold lettering of his name everywhere and we glimpsed posturings with hair in the distance.  When we take the five flights of gold-plated escalators up to the garden, we suffer a full-body immersion.  The gold mirrors make a dim, almost soupy light.  God it’s ugly.
 
“Write!”  We all start scrawling. What we write might be called secrets, first-thoughts, recovered memories, streams of consciousness.  I say “secrets” because we don’t share our writing with one another.  Not yet, anyway.  Now in our fifth week, we haven’t read our work out loud or handed off the journals.
 
We’re focused on pre-Gutenberg writing.  We use the older technology of longhand-and- paper. We’re spending time on the nearside of pixels, streaming, virtual reality. This home-made culture of our little band of citizens, at the site of world-wide piracy and hokum and treason – assumes that something has gone radically wrong in our basic social communicating. But it is inside the sentences that you and I speak all day long, let’s admit it.
 
To borrow from science fiction, there a space-time rip in our language. The Trump tweets, Russian hacks, and Koch trolls seem more like symptoms than causes. Our failure is more devastating than Donald Trump. As a nation, and as a species, we don’t know how to communicate with ourselves. Our town crier function is silenced. The attack-noise of products and law enforcement and fear – make our public media conceal more than reveal.
 
Otherwise we would have written or spoken something in public about the racism, compelling enough to Out The Hate. Why haven’t we shown that families must be protected? How can our defense of life itself be demoted to “issues” and “policy” and “write your congressperson?” This 700 foot wall is crawling with Devils!
 
We don’t need to be great writers. We need to say something. Where is the art of effective protest, the howl, the arts as a starting-over point, or call it just plain I-don’t- buy-it independence. Freedom of expression has become as irrelevant as White House press conferences. 
 
This is why we are turning inward for awhile. Margaret Meade said that revolutions start with a few people talking at a table. We’re in the thoughtful inhale before the talk. The stakes are so high and the hour is so late. We’ll spend some time tilling the soil of silence.
 
There are little weeds in the cracks of the pink granite floor of this so-called garden. There is moss and mold along the walls. We talk to the weeds at the end of our 45 minutes. We ask the weeds to remember us as they dismantle this modernist slab. Can we be super-weeds in your forest?
 
Culture starts from inside, quietly under the surface, like a seed in the soil.  The first breath of a thought, before the socializing starts, is the protest that will grow to bury this wall.We sit together at tables in the garden, the police and the tourists eyeing us from the edges of the gold decor.
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My Preaching Heart

19787252_10154541031195974_9162927819115128198_o.jpgFive days ago my ticker began tocking when she should be ticking. Instead of the reggae beat I was born with, with the beat "one TWO three FOUR" the beat converted to "ONE two THREE four" and pumped 25% less blood. This is called fibrillation or heart arrhythmia. 

In my life I've been preaching on street-corners and in bank lobbies, trying to find the evil and shout back at it. I made my voice louder by working with an opera singer, vibrating my heart with the rest of my body. He taught me to make my whole body a big woofer and my volume doubled. I did this because the police kept taking my bullhorn. My cardiologist says I have to learn to carry some kind of stress-reducing walking yoga into those "contested spaces"... 

Last February I had a real episode, with a jolting in my chest. I took the bus to the local hospital and the busdriver took the whole bus to the front door of the ER. She said her father had a bad heart. I spent a miserable three days and nights in the cardiac ward, getting the "fix", with needles in the back of my hands at 4 AM, pills and bad food. Hospitals!

I suddenly knew I had to leave. It was the middle of the night. I walked out. They threatened me, "If you die outside the door we can't be responsible!" I walked home in the dark with my heart tossing and turning. When I got home I was dizzy. I crawled in with the warm, dreaming Savi and Lena. When I woke up my heart was beating, no - I was beating - on the reggae beat I was born with.

And this morning I'm back on the beat again. This time I cut out the hospital part. This picture near my desk, with the smiling heart, is Lena's.

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Trump Tower Earlier Today

19390830_10154479935915974_7668096810246771882_o.jpgSix of us at two tables. Impossible questions, unspeakable acts. The presentation of a completely opaque personality, exteriorizing constantly and on into the twittering night, but in such a way that nothing at all is revealed. Impossible questions, unspeakable acts. Trump Tower scrapes the clouds, all surface, all presentation, but oddly lonely. We huddle in the fifth floor garden letting intimate memories rise in us, into our fingers and onto our journal pages. Strange that with our tender painful memories in the shadow of this man's tower, we have the sensation that we are silencing him.

 

 

 

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Chaleena Lyles

1497891880-charleena_lyles.jpgNow a police murder of a pregnant mother - this racist violence just goes on and on. Yesterday in Seattle, Charleena Lyles was with her three children ages 1, 4 and 11. She had called the police to report a burglary. She was shot within 15 seconds of entry by two white police. This takes place after the acquittal on all charges of the murderer of Philando Castile in Minneapolis, also in front of children. The cop shot Philando through the window of his car as he reached for his identification. And now, with career racists in positions of Attorney General and President, communities of color cannot feel safer from federal monitoring of local police violence. 

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Radical Ritual

reverend-billy-2017-06-15-v03VILPRINT_WEBWEB.jpgOur RADICAL RITUAL AT TRUMP TOWER is free writing gatherings on the 5th floor where the city mandated a public garden. We express our intimate privacy in the shadow of Evil. This may be the seed of all change, of revolutionary change. Emma Goldman reminds us that just a few people sitting and talking begin the process of basic change.

It can also be said that each of these few revolutionaries had to first know their own secrets. They found a way to their own personal freedom. They know what that will look like. And then they found others to share those discoveries with.

We need to do that now. The new knowledge of personal freedom will have to be discovered in the oppressive presence of this Evil. So we sit there with Trump Tower above us, and wait for our souls to testify.

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Trump's Wall Keeps Tumbling Down

Reality-Winner-via-Reuters-640x480.jpgReality we knew you were out there: a person with a conscience who responds honestly to the world that she sees. Now Chelsea Manning comes back to us and you go forward. There will always be a truth-teller. The secrets and lies cannot keep the conscience imprisoned. The truth is a living thing.

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Writing In Trump Tower

trump_gold_labyrinth.jpgA radical ritual begins in Trump Tower.  New York City  artist/activists Reverend Billy and Savitri D. of The Church of Stop Shopping scribble towards freedom under the gaze of the Secret Service.   June 6th marks their 12th day of free writing in the POPS (Privately Owned Public Space) Community Garden on the 5th floor of Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan. The Garden is public space and protected by the First Amendment. Around mid-day, most weekdays, they write quickly for 45 minutes in long-hand. The project will continue until the ritual is completed. If you are interested in joining, RadicalRitual@Revbilly.com. 

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The Way That Earth Makes Life

18766397_10154428354280974_6376228378343306729_o.jpgAMAZING - I'M TELLING YOU ITS BETTER THAN GOD, AMERICA OR TRUMPS WALL. When I wake up in the morning I walk out in the dark and listen to the birds. I promise the singing that starts up in the dark that I believe in the Earth's life, this completely mysterious force that creates everything. If I start there, then the sun rises and fighting the battles of the world falls into place. Loving life means sheltering the immediate life around me, my daughter and my life-partner, my neighbors and the Stop Shopping Choir. I love the soil and water and sky, the living beings of the Earth. 

From that foundation of life, fighting racism and sexism and consumerism comes naturally. Those things are essential to life. Its not like they are second or third in a list of priorities, because when I wake up and love life, the absence of fear immediately faces down these "isms," which depend on fear. In the Life faith, justice isn't an add-on, its basic to consciousness. I get into trouble if I start my day with systems forced on me in my youth, like Christianity, Capitalism, and Patriotism... These systems begin with a Trump's wall, a defense against unfair life, which after all has death waiting within it. My experience is that if life is trusted from the first moment of my day, then living makes sense. Earthalujah!

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