By Marlie Pesek
This past weekend, ten panelists representing five different community perspectives, gathered at Lesley University’s Marran Theater for the Social Movements/Digital Media Conference. The conference was organized by Jason Pramas, founder of Boston Open Media. Delegates from Lesley University, the Boston Pheonix, Community Change Inc., WGBH, and Occupy Boston spoke before roughly 60 activists, journalists, civilians, educators, and media members.
The open-panel discussion addressed topic of how digital media has played and currently plays a role in social change, specifically in the Occupy Movement. The four Occupy Boston organizers on the panel expressed shock at how quickly word spread about the idea of having an occupation in the Hub, similar to that of New York City’s. No one expected 300 people to show up at the first brainstorming meeting on September 27th on the Boston Common. Since that meeting, the movement has moved at a rapid pace gaining more supporters every day.
Panelist, local small business owner and OB organizer, Nadeem Mazen says, “This movement is really for the 100%.”
Many topics were covered during the discussion between panelists and audience members. One audience member presented the idea of having defined demands within the movement. The response from panelists was unanimous: the movement is young, and according to Brian Kwoba, “It’s sort of like demanding an acorn to become a tree.”
Panelists were hopeful of a national assembly forming and feel that once local demands are made, national demands can form. “The beginning is near,” says Nadeem Mazen. Panelists agreed that grassroots movements take time and using a truly democratic process takes even longer. Panelist Sarah Manski, representative of the Wisconsin budget protests that began in February, saw as the beginning of the Occupy movement, is no stranger to these topics. “This is a movement with democracy at its core,” says Manski.
While many agreed that social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, have enabled worldwide communication about the movement, the importance of face-to-face conversation was emphasized and said to be vital to sustaining the interconnectedness of the Occupy community. Calls to come to the Dewey Square camp and participate in conversation and in General Assemblies were encouraged.
It is clear that the Occupy movement is gaining momentum, in the social networking world and on the ground. Audience member and Civil Rights Activist Ron Clark, who in the 60s marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said, “I want the young people to know that this is the most spiritual thing to happen in America since Dr. King’s marches.” Perhaps this is why many see the movement as here to stay.