Books by Members
Books by Anna Baltzer
- Andy Worthington Discusses the Guantánamo Hunger Strike on the BBC
- The Real Impact of U.S. Policy Towards Syria
- Strength Though Adversity
- The fundamental human rights are universal: Dr. Fai
- Child Victims of Israeli Violence
- The U.S. Recession: What's In It For You?
- American Exceptionalism Rears Its Ugly Head Again
- Abolishing War: One Last Step
- The Man Who Seeks Transparency
- Health law upheld, but health needs still unmet’: national doctors group
|Occupy: What's Next?|
|Written by Paul Barrow|
|Wednesday, 04 July 2012 10:54|
One only needs to talk with her for a few moments to realize that she carries very deep scars in her soul from fighting the corporate capitalist empire and how it has beaten her and her children into the earth and forced her to find ways to survive that only the poorest of the poor can ever know.
She talks now about an underground movement she developed years ago when the shelters were full, and the churches all turned her away. It was then that, in her desperation, she discovered vacant HUD housing that is heated during the winter and she began "occupying" it. I do not know if she still lives like this personally, and I did't ask her.
I asked Dr. Amin if he knew of any effort to reach out to blacks within the Occupy movement besides his own, and he did not. The question is one of marketing, obviously, and the Occupy movement has no official marketing arm, no publicity beyond notice of events, and clearly no set of official political positions or platform that it abides by, no sponsor, no mission other than to meet and allow those who bring their own private issues to speak about them themselves. There is no united effort to reach out to any special interest group. to reach African Americans, he said, "The "tribal drumbeat is in the basketball courts and churches of the black community. If you can get into that," he said, "it will spread like wildfire."
Conspicuous to me in that context was the fact that the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal (ICFFMAJ), essentially the heart of the "Free Mumia" movement, had a tent set up at the Independence Mall State Park in central Philadelphia near Independence Hall at 5th and Market, completely separate from the Occupy action going on just a couple of blocks away. They shared space, although only circumstantially, it was my understanding, with Veterans for Peace. Neither group took up space at the Occupy movement's location in Franklin Square. I have placed calls and sent emails to both groups inquiring about their policies concerning this, but have not received a reply from either so far. Veterans for Peace seemed not to be doing anything but sitting in the shade under their tent. The Free Mumia group had speakers as well as as a white folk (no, I'm not talking about "white folks" here) guitarist who sang protest songs while I was there, but the crowd participating could not have been more than 25 at the most.
Although it has been alleged that there has been discrimination against people of color in the Occupy movement, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to do so, given the open perimeters and lack of structure. No single panel or committee decides who leads or speaks. All you have to do is shout "mic check" to get an audience, and you will be listened to.
Formally, there was a mic set up at a specific location and a group of speakers who addressed the crowd, but given the fact that a black did address the crowd as well as a woman of half Native American descent, Cheri Honkala, of whom I spoke above, among the four or five who addressed the crowd during the short time that I was there, there was no evidence of discrimination.
The greater problem is more likely in the mindset of people of color and their sense of unity with people who have issues with Wall Street and money in politics, the primary topics of Occupy. I wouldn't want to be accused of suggesting that this is over the heads of poor people, who deal much more at a grassroots level with issues of poverty and discrimination in the job market, but there is a problem of relevance in that context. Yet these issues are not divorced from Occupy in the least. Every issue from health care to jobs had a workshop at this event that you could attend, and if anyone chose to raise their voice on any one specific issue, the mic was available for them.
Occupy is not an organization, it is a movement and difficult to characterize, given so many manifestations across the country. In Nashville as well as Washington DC, where I have witnessed it personally, African Americans were prominent in taking a visible role. But Occupy has no official outreach, no money, no publicity that goes beyond networking simply to let people know that an event is being held. The extent to which minorities participate in networking groups is determined by how widespread they are aware of it, and it's clear that the poor have far less access to Facebook than the middle class, with few having access to computers and even fewer having the time to spend blissfully exchanging remarks about Obama and the Affordable Care Act. Few are politically conscious as a dinner table topic, and a high percentage of them are behind bars. Those who do show up must take up the cause of minorities themselves, because the rest of us just aren't paying attention. It is always left to those who suffer to express their pain themselves.
Where Occupy is going is anyone's guess. Given the extremely small crowd of 400 to 500 that showed up to an event that has been scheduled for at least six to eight months, there is clearly the likelihood that these dedicated few will coalesce into a more coherent organized and structured form. Those who managed to make it from many other parts of the country are obviously very committed, and they are communicating in teleconferences and strategizing. This will lead to a more organized effort. The democratic principles and methodology used by Occupy will remain in some form, we hope, and lead us eventually to a political space that is closer to something we all idealize.
I found it interesting that, as much as we gripe about the lack of mainstream media coverage, that NBC television, ABC television, Abby Martin of Washington DC's RT station, and HispanTV were all present, plus a number of off the wall people like me.
In addition, I should correct myself: Occupy now has sponsors. Ben and Jerry's had a truck there handing out free ice cream to everyone, and free cheese pizza was provided by Jake's of Philadelphia. That's not much, but at least people weren't starving.
I have a videotaped interview with Medea Benjamin of Code Pink that I will post later, and we cover briefly the outlook for Occupy from her point of view.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 July 2012 12:17|
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