The Rapidian

OGR 2012: Mandi Creveling's happy accident

Mandi Creveling stumbles upon Occupy Grand Rapids and finds a reason to be active in something bigger than herself.

/Mary Brown

Underwriting support from:

/Mary Brown

The Occupy Grand Rapids movement that began in October of 2011 has many different faces and stories. One of those faces is Mandi Creveling, a 24 year old GRCC student who has been with the movement since the beginning, although she sort of happened into the meeting by accident. It was one of those happy accidents that life sometimes puts in your way.

Creveling, a vivacious redhead with a messy ponytail, jeans, sweatshirt, and hiking boots wiggling with nervous energy, grins as she speaks of stumbling into an Occupy meeting at her boyfriend’s house. She admits speaking in front of groups of people is not in her immediate comfort zone; however, with her hands in the dirt making things grow so she and others can eat, she is comfortable and at home. In fact, she grew up on a farm in Comstock Park where she and her family grew vegetables and flowers that they sold at area flea markets. A graduate of Sparta High School, she is the first one in her family to matriculate to college and is currently a biology major at Grand Rapids Community College. Creveling has already traveled around the world, exploring Australia and Europe where she was involved with Willing Workers on Organic Farms, also known as "wwoofing," to help pay her way. She lives in Eastown near the farmer's market, where she is very comfortable amid the fruits of the earth, and she works part time for Martha’s Vineyard Catering. This spring, she'll begin working with the Circle Pines Center.

At that Occupy first meeting in her boyfriend’s home, Creveling met an older woman name Joy who really helped kindle her own desire to get  involved. "Joy said she was waiting for this her whole life and made me want to be involved. I wanted to be part of something bigger.”  Creveling sees all social and environmental issues as part of something bigger. Connecting people for social change is what she feels the Occupy movement is all about.

She believes that capitalism is unsustainable, that the government is overinvolved, that politics is corrupt and that "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is the best way to live in this world. She has been a strong believer in the golden rule since she was a very young person. “I couldn’t understand why it was on the wall. Didn’t everyone know that was how to treat people?” Her eyes shine as she affirms, “be the change you want to see in the world.” Her motto, adopted from Muhatma Ghandi, is her own personal reason why she decided to stick with the movement after that first haphazard introduction. In high school, Creveling had some excellent teachers and they made her read George Orwell’s 1984, which started her thinking about how this world was being affected by government intrusion. It was also in her high school years that she began wondering, “Is the system looking out for me and others?” Now, she has concerns that the system is very masculine, rigid, and is not looking out for the nurturing component of humanity.

As a strong believer in sustainability, Creveling is actively involved in trying to help get more community gardens going in the Grand Rapids area. She is proud of her involvement in the Circle Pines Co-op, one of the oldest co-ops in the country. She readily admits “Trying to go local as much as possible is a lot harder than it seems.” She also believes it is “very important to build real community, by having the conversation with others who are not necessarily involved in the movement.”

Since being involved in Occupy, she has been working on her knowledge of history, realizing that when you don’t know how things have gone in the past, you are less able to project accurate future outcomes. She has also been actively searching out learning opportunities to tune in to the greater picture of the world. To that end has been attending a free class at GVSU called “Change U," a social justice course led by Jeff Smith of GRIID, with recent guest lecturer Sherri Wolf. According to Creveling, Ms. Wolfe believes that the Occupy movement is in the zygotal stage of development: it is just getting started.

In Mandi Creveling’s opinion, the Occupy movement is an outcropping from the idea that “people are sleeping through life, physically and emotionally tired. People are becoming numb to what is going on around them.” She admits that currently she hasn’t been to an Occupy meeting for a couple of months. She says she is very committed, however, and looks to the Occupy movement as a “lighthouse” waking us up from our sluggish state to invest in our neighborhood associations, and go from the bottom up, not from the top down.


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