Black Activist Points Out Occupy Philly’s Racial Disconnect


Black activists within Occupy Philly have created a “People of Color Committee” last night, largely because of (surprise!) differing views on the movement.

Pan-African Channel Andrews, a Philly native who has been watching Occupy Philly from the outside while studying law at Barry University in Orlando, Fl., says the PCC was created, in part, because some organizers of Occupy Philly continue to buy “Mayor Nutter’s lies.” She says Nutter is taking advantage of the movement for his own political gain and that Occupy “need[s] to make demands to him and not just take pics with him.”

“Nutter is clearly using them…Nutter is the Wall Street of Philly. He’s done more damage to the people of Philly than Wall Street,” she says during a phone interview, adding that the racial disconnect extends beyond the Mayor’s office “pretending” to care about Occupiers. She points towards Occupy’s internal racial conflicts.

“For white people or middle class people, they’re just feeling the recession. It’s not because of the recession for us,” she says.

Andrews says that the PCC was inevitable after some supposed-Occupiers called Pan-Africans–who protested in support of Occupy–”Niggers” because they had a black-only meeting on Saturday.

“Blacks say, ‘Should we join this? Do we want to be identified by this?’ Blacks have been the 99 percent forever—since we’ve been in America. So we don’t identify with the same reasons. Solidarity is important, people should support each other. But it’s not just about class for us,” she says.

According to the blog, complex-brown:

“Saturday, two sisters were called Niggers by two of the volunteers at Occupy Philadelphia at the cell-phone charging stations. They were also told to go back to Africa, and that each white man should own a slave. When the sista’s called security, security asked them to leave the premises because they thought they were apart of the UHURU movement. Even if they were a part of that movement, they should not have been asked to leave. Especially without any mention of their verbal and spiritual abuse. So a small collective formed a drummer’s circle on Sunday and started a rally, only to be met with on-lookers who didn’t understand why there was a Pan-African flag at an “American” event. We were called racist…When we circled up to come up with a constructive way to address the people, we were constantly interrupted by white people who could not respect our safe space. These people said that it was a public space, and we couldn’t have a group that exc[l]uded them. Why is it when black people want to get together to work out our issues in our community we are called out? …We spoke out about RACISM IN THE 99 percent.”

Andrews says that when her black friends “were voicing their concerns, people were calling them racist,” and that the drum circle, which is now a daily ritual for Occupy Philadelphia, is a reflection of African culture.

The Occupy movement focuses more heavily on class than on race, a theme that the mainstream American media usually reverses when portraying social inequality.

Class will likely remain the common denominator in the Occupy movement, but ignoring the historical significance of race translates as a direct insult to non-whites.

Occupy Philly’s failure to address the concern is causing contention that has little to do with Occupy’s main goals of social inclusion and equality, although future social clashes could be avoided. The Occupy movements on Wall Street, in Philly and in most other cities lack any clear leader, and the division in Philly demonstrates what could become of an already complicated movement if a leader does not step up to unify Occupiers.

The idea of a single leader directly goes against the foundation of Occupy, which, above all else, is bound together the idea of a super-majority. It breathes by agreeing on a general consensus basis and shits on the idea of putting power in one person’s hands. But it’s current model creates a inevitable minority, and neglecting to put a singular face to the movement, especially in the midst of ambivalent internal issues, could foreshadow its possible demise.

photo: complex-brown

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