Gumption trotted around the house yelling “Happy Birthday!” in her most excited trill. We sometimes describe the sound as a squeaky wagon haphazardly rolling down a hill. I’ve been sick with the flu over the last few days and so I was a bit perturbed that she would disrupt my nap in such a brazen fashion. I called her back to my room to ask her what was up. She exclaimed, “It’s the twenty fifth birthday of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. I love those guys.” I was a bit surprised she remembered. I’d been planning for weeks to go out to celebrate the big milestone with OCAP, but I hadn’t mentioned it much to Gumption. I asked Gumption why she was so excited about the birthday and she responded, “OCAP and Gumption are the same!”
At first, I didn’t get it – but then, like a barricade at City Hall, it all came crashing down. I knew what she meant. At its inception 25 years ago, OCAP could have gone in many directions. It could have become another report-making, paper-pushing, anti-poverty NGO. It could have become a part of the union bureaucracy. It could have risen and fallen on the crest of the anti-Harris years. But OCAP from its onset had gumption.
The people who form its core – no matter how much it changes – are driven by the desire to act out of principle. They seize buildings to demand social housing (like when they held the Pope Squat). They create the conditions for people to get money for food and rent (like when they held the Special Diet clinics). They build long-term relationships of solidarity with folks at Tyendinaga by being present and active and willing to drive up there to pick up toxic waste and then dump it on the lawn of Queen’s Park. They force the city to open a 24-hour shelter for women and trans folks by mobilizing and refusing to leave. They rip the microphone right out of Doug Ford’s hands in order to address city council.
“Do you mean, OCAP has gumption?” I asked my little furry friend. She pawed at my chest and then responded with a sigh, “They do have gumption. But we all have OCAP – at least when we need to fight to win.” The cold medicine started to kick in and I drifted in to a deep sleep dreaming of the worlds that we could create if we all had the kind of gumption that OCAP has.