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AMBOY SPOTLIGHT: Nathan Fishman

Who is Nathan Fishman?

By Tracy Jordan —

At the Perth Amboy train station, a young man walked into Raritan Bay Coffee one day and asked if he could put out some Occupy Central Jersey flyers. I got talking with him and thought he was a unique resident of Perth Amboy. (He lives in Harbortown). Here is an interview about the work, values and views of Nathan Fishman.

AG: Can you tell me something about Occupy Central Jersey (OCJ) that you think the six o’clock news or established press will not mention?

NF: The one thing I would say is that we are such regular people; however, we have different perspectives and come from different backgrounds – business owners, church goers, ex-Peace Corps volunteers, bicycle riders, you name it. We are not people who were waiting around for something to protest to bring us together. We are average people whose talents come together in order to support what we feel is a very important moment in history.

AG: What is that very important moment?

NF: A moment when there is a severe and intimidating problem but we are effectively confronting it. That severe problem sounds cliché, but it’s not: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. How true that is; how many people are affected. OCJ acknowledges that the money is more and more concentrated and also political power is more and more concentrated. This is not representative of average people but the OCJ movement is.

The small get-togethers we hold are critical – there’s so much knowledge there. This is how we motivate ourselves. The movement has just started. This (OCJ) is my social life now! It’s not going away.

AG: So, if I wanted to get involved, what do I do?

NF: Get on OCJ’s email list – send your request to baperryman@gmail.com. That’s Beverly Perryman. She initiated OCJ after Occupy Wall Street began. Then, come to our conference on June 9th at The Reformed Church of Highland Park starting at 10 am. It’s on Facebook as an event: The Gathering by Occupy Central Jersey and Occupy New Brunswick. There will be six workshops. Also, friend us on Facebook – Occupy Central Jersey.

AG: When and how did you come to be involved?

NF: It was about six months ago. I got my professor at Rutgers Graduate School of Social Work to use one of our class periods to take us to attend a teach-in by OCJ at the First Baptist Church in the New Market area of Piscataway. I was hooked ever since. A lot of people are joining through a current feeling, not through a lifetime of being an activist. They are reacting to what they see and feel around them. You don’t have to be a professional, a “pro.” There are some celebrity protesters, like Naomi Wolfe (who just got arrested and she wasn’t even breaking the law). You just need to be someone who wants to create change through mutual cooperation. At Occupy, people say we need to learn how to cooperate, not just always compete.

AG: Okay. But then, some would say, “So why all of the tents and drums and marching that blocks traffic? It’s causing chaos.”

NF: I heard it best described by Robert Reich (UC Berkeley professor and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich under Clinton). His advice to the movement is to not worry so much. Don’t worry that we aren’t as organized as people might want us to be because all successful movements for social justice come out of a feeling of injustice, followed by peaceful assembly and building solidarity. Do that and the rest will take flight.

AG: Talk a little about Perth Amboy and yourself.

NF: I enjoy Perth Amboy very much. There’s a lot of spirit in Perth Amboy that you don’t find in other communities. The exchanges are genuine. Often, in more economically advanced towns, shall we say, wealthier towns, a lot of realness and community character is sacrificed when outside corporate investment to take hold.

I came here in a very personal way. I grew up in Woodbridge but moved here through a program called SERV-Center of NJ. It’s a program that provided housing and support at a time when I needed it. I was offered a chance to be a resident in one of their apartments three years ago and I jumped at the chance to live near my hometown.

My full-time job is Community Support Specialist Case Manager at Triple C Housing. I never would have started down the path of working full-time and doing a four-year part-time master’s degree in social work if I weren’t already feeling comfortable and happy. You have to feel that to keep up a schedule like this for four years.

AG: It’s a hot political year.

NF: My thoughts are constantly changing about that. From the Occupy perspective, President Obama is no less influenced by banks and corporate money than his opponent. I always struggle when I vote. What am I saying when I vote? Does it represent my beliefs? Usually the choices are nowhere near the kind of representation I want! If I vote for Obama, it’ll be out of fear of what the Republicans will do with some of the legislation he’s passed. For example, it is now a federal offense to protest near a political person – did you know that? I fear the conservative lack of respect for civil liberties more than I fear Obama’s lack of respect for civil liberties! That practice: “Vote for the lesser of two evils”. That is an omission that we have no power already; the system is rigged and that the conversation is already starting from a point with no representation.

With many people, it’s easy to agree on the facts. However, I find people who believe change is impossible and outcomes are inevitable. I don’t believe that. For example, I’m a big fan of the militant hip hop group Dead Prez. I’ve been sharing a new solo album put out by one of their members, the artist Stic Man. The album title is The Workout and it is exclusively about health, fitness, martial arts, yoga, healthy mind-body connection and self-improvement, without a single curse word or political statement in the whole thing! He raps about these ideas in as cool and exciting a way as you could want. Communities who might have a hard time accessing this info can get it and appreciate it. What a contribution to society that is! The point is, change is happening all the time.

If you would like more information about OCJ, you can contact Nathan at nfishmanNJ@yahoo.com.

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