JUNE SIMMS: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I’m June Simms. This week, we take a look at the Occupy Movement on its one year anniversary…
And we visit a rock solid museum show in Washington and play some of the music that inspired it…
Occupy Wall Street One Year Later
JUNE SIMMS: September seventeenth will mark the one year anniversary of the American protest known as Occupy Wall Street. The leaderless movement spread around the world, but has yet to realize its main goals. Shirley Griffith has more.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Zuccotti Park in New York City is where it all started. The park is close to the New York Stock Exchange and financial offices. Many of them are on Wall Street, the name often used for America’s banking and financial industry.
A year ago, activists called for a protest to take place in Zuccotti Park on September seventeenth. They set no end date. Protesters brought temporary shelters, food, extra clothes and other things necessary for an occupation. And they stayed for several weeks. In November, police forced the activists from Zuccotti Park.
The protesters expressed concerns over economic inequality, corruption and the power and influence of banks and other financial companies. The housing market had collapsed, people were losing their homes and many Americans felt Wall Street was to blame. But, it seemed that no one was being held responsible.
The Occupy Wall Street movement spread from New York to other American cities and overseas. But, the movement never became the revolution activists had hoped for.
Occupy activists have not seen their major goals met. These include stronger laws on banking and the environment; limits on the influence of big business on politics; and help for people late on housing payments.
However, sociologist Todd Gitlin of Columbia University says Occupy Wall Street has been influential.
TODD GITLIN: One will use the term ‘one percent’ and ‘ninety-nine percent’ and most of America knows what you’re talking about. You’ll find it now in common usage in newspapers articles that have nothing to do with Occupy itself.”
Within months, police nationwide moved Occupy protesters out of public areas. Today, the movement’s daily presence is a few volunteers in city parks and sidewalks. They attempt to publicize the Occupy message and increase support.
Justin Stone-Diaz has been with Occupy since its first day. He says small changes are important.
JUSTN STONE-DIAZ: The revolution is the technology that’s in everyone’s pockets --- the cell phones, the information age. What Occupy Wall Street, at its core is, we’re trying to foster a paradigm shift towards a more direct democracy.”
The activist says Occupy protesters now spread their messages electronically. When needed, larger groups gather as they did at the recent presidential nominating conventions in the United States.
Sociologist Todd Gitlin says studies show that Americans support Occupy causes more than the movement itself.
TODD GITLIN: “When people are asked how they feel about such measures as progressive taxation, driving money out of politics – sort of the implicit thrust, the unstated demands, let’s say, of a demandless movement – those causes remain popular.”
Today, Zuccotti Park is just a place where office workers eat their mid-day meals and people might sit a while. Whether the protesters made enough noise there last year to cause the change they want remains to be seen. Justin Stone-Diaz is hopeful. He says Occupy continues to push for direct action through discussion.
Women Who Rock
JUNE SIMMS: The National Museum of Women in the Arts has been celebrating its twenty-fifth year during twenty-twelve. It is closing the celebration with an exhibit honoring women in rock and roll music. Now, Christopher Cruise and I take you to the “Women Who Rock” show and play some of the music from the artists represented in the show.
CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll” could be the theme song of “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power.” The show explores more than seventy women musicians from early last century to now. More than two hundred fifty objects are included in the exhibit. They include a Lady Gaga costume made entirely of meat, and a guitar used by the coalminer’s daughter, Loretta Lynn.
JUNE SIMMS: “Women Who Rock” was organized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper was the reported inspiration for the show. While visiting the museum, Lauper repeatedly asked “where are the women?”
“Women Who Rock” opens with a display on Maybelle Carter and Mahalia Jackson. Carter was called “Mother” and was a founding member of the Carter Family, a country music group from Virginia. It was formed in the late nineteen twenties. Maybelle Carter played guitar, banjo and autoharp.
Mahalia Jackson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in nineteen eleven. She earned the title “world’s greatest gospel singer.”
CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Mahalia Jackson was also one of the first African-Americans to be used in cosmetic product marketing. She helped sell a hair care treatment in print advertising. A poster at the show has her picture and the message, “you too can have beautiful hair naturally.”
JUNE SIMMS: The Women Who Rock show is heavy with rock star clothing. Barbara from Washington, DC, says that part of the show especially interested her.
BARBARA: “I’m a member of the Women’s Museum so I always come to see the new shows. But I was particularly curious about this one because I like costumes. So, that was kind of a draw.”
And, what about rock and roll?
BARBARA: “I like rock and roll. I’m not a big music fan. But you hear about these women and it’s great that their up there and out there.”
CHRISTOPHER CRUISE:The costumes cover almost every possible style. Singer Cher has one of the wildest in the show. The costume was one she wore on her nineteen seventies series, “The Sonny & Cher Show,” to sing her song “Half-Breed.”
Cher is part Native American. The costume is based on Native American dress. It includes a huge headdress with feathers.
Other costumes include punkish jeans and a tee-shirt from Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon. There is also a very nineteen-sixties looking dress from Mary Wilson of the Supremes. The dress is made of yellow and green teardrop shaped plastic pieces.
But it was famous footwear that drew two young women to the show. Twenty-six year old Tatiana from Germany had one last day of her vacation in the United States. She saw a poster for “Women Who Rock” featuring Patti Smith.
TATIANA: “First of all, I love Patti Smith. I adore her. And I saw her shoes, her boots, in the Metro station, on the paper.”
So, Tatiana’s cousin Jenny decided to bring her to the show.
JENNY: “I know this is something she would enjoy. We’ve been listening to this kind of music years on. So, it’s something we enjoy to do together.”
Jenny said she could not pick a favorite performer at the show.
JENNY: “There are things I like and I don’t like about each of the artists. I like Debby Harry, Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell. I did enjoy seeing some of the really early blues singers like Billie Holiday.”
JUNE SIMMS: The National Museum of Women in the Arts will close “Women Who Rock: Vision, Power, Passion” in early January. The show then travels to another city.
Here is the rocker who is said to have inspired the museum exhibit. This is Cyndi Lauper performing “She Bop.”
JUNE SIMMS: I’m June Simms. This program was written and produced by Caty Weaver. Peter Fedynsky provided additional reporting.
Join us again next week for music and more on AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.