Yesterday, our family went down to Occupy Pittsburgh to donate some wool socks, knit hats and loaves of freshly-baked pumpkin bread. It was an outing my eldest daughter (a second grader) was quite excited about, for Occupy Wall Street is a topic that often reverberates within our walls at home.
So much so that, on occasion, my two girls (the youngest in kindergarten) will spontaneously dance in the living room and chant "We are the 99 percent" as I write about the movement.
However, my eight-year-old daughter didn't really understand what the phrase meant. We are the 99 percent. Sure, she knew it was about fairness, but she wanted more. She wanted the whole story. And so, before we traveled down to Occupy Pittsburgh, she sat on my lap and asked me, "What is it all about?"
And so we talked. We talked about money. About influence. About how big companies give politicians and political institutions huge sums – millions of dollars – and how politicians will in turn make laws that help those companies. I didn't call it corruption – a word she wouldn't understand – but I described it.
And immediately, she got it. She understood, saying, "You mean like how our family can't give a lot of money, so the government won't make laws that help us?"
"Yes," I said, nodding.
"So all the Occupy people are protesting to tell the government to make laws that help people who don't have a lot of money?" she asked, seeking confirmation.
"Exactly," I said. "Exactly."
Occupy Pittsburgh is camped on Mellon Green, a "public" park owned by BNY Mellon, which, with its $25 trillion in assets, is the largest holding bank in the world.
BNY Mellon's headquarters towers over the park, creating a striking metaphorical image for anyone who visits Occupy Pittsburgh – a packed collection of tents huddled beneath the building. It was a metaphor my daughter recognized the moment she stepped in the park.
"Woah," she moaned, looking up and pointing. "They do have a lot of money!"
We brought our pumpkin bread to the people's kitchen, which was bustling and full of fresh fruits, grains and shelves of supplies. A young woman graciously took our three loaves, thanked my daughters profusely and offered them Halloween candy.
"I like this place," my youngest said, clearly taken by the candy, colorful tents and unique characters milling around.
We stayed for a bit, talking with people, visiting tents and a yurt that was just built for the winter. We saw the green, stationary bike that charges media batteries for Occupy Pittsburgh. We ran into Celtic Merlin, who my daughters loved.
When we were leaving, we passed a group of impromptu musicians stationed at one of the park's entrances closest to Mellon's front doors. They were using an amp and loudly jamming on an electric guitar and singing. I'll be honest, at that moment the music was off key and horrible. But it was festive. And loud. Really loud.
On our way back to the car, after my eight-year-old had taken her fill of pictures, a bank employee in a crisp suit was standing on the steps of BNY Mellon in front of the musicians. He was taking a smoke break, pulling quickly. He was clearly agitated.
As we neared him on our way to our car, the banker yelled to nobody in particular, "Get a job!"
My daughter looked up at me and asked, "Is he saying that to the musician?"
"I think so," I said.
"Why did he say that?"
"But isn't that his job?"
"What is?" I asked.
"Playing music for people protesting. That is his job."
"Exactly," I said, smiling. "Exactly."
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Author's Note 1: I actually meant to post the recipe for the pumpkin bread, which is one of our family favorites, but I've misplaced it. I hope to do so a bit later on when I locate it as a small offering of thanks to this community. It's not much, I know. But it's what I have.
Update: so, I'm a bit embarrassed. I thought the recipe we use is some great family secret from my wife's side. Turns out, it's the Joy of Cooking recipe for pumpkin bread used as a base, with a few "special" ingredients added, namely: a dash of vanilla, plenty of chocolate chips, a bit of molasses, honey, and (the kicker) a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Author's Note 2: For those who need help finding a community bank or credit union where they live, we have found this resource to be a great jumping-off point from moveyourmoneyproject.org:
Author's Note 3: While I didn't have a camera with me, my daughter was snapping furiously with her kiddie camera. Later this afternoon, if I can figure out how, I'll download and post a few of her pictures to give you a sense of her view. (She actually asked if I could post her pictures in my "writing stuff.")
Update: I actually found the installation disk for my daughter's camera. Here are some pictures she took from yesterday. Keep in mind the quality is due to it being a children's camera. Enjoy: