Fight the Power

AS THE OCCUPY WALL STREET movement continues to grow across the country, African-Americans are increasingly showing their disapproval with a protest movement of their own.

It’s called Occupy the Hood. It started online and has already spread from New York City across the country. It now has some 15,000 followers on Twitter and chapters in cities including Detroit, Pittsburgh, Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Cleveland, Chicago, Washington, D.C.  and Los Angeles.

The Occupy the Hood motto: “We are the most affected of the 99 percent.” It’s a spin-off of Occupy Wall Street’s “99 percent” mantra against America’s increasing wealth gap, where Occupiers state that one percent of the population has the majority of the nation’s wealth. Occupy the Hood protesters believe Blacks should be even angrier than Whites in the 99 percent because people of color, particularly in low-income areas, have been disproportionately affected by high unemployment, incarceration and fallout from the housing bust.

The facts support their claims: According to an analysis of new U.S. Census data, the wealth gap between Whites and minorities has grown to its widest level in a quarter-century. In 2010, 27 percent of Blacks were living in poverty, compared to 10 percent of Whites. The recession and uneven recovery—which have left nearly twice as many Blacks out of work as Whites—have also erased decades of gains, leaving Whites on average with 20 times the net worth of Blacks.

In a recent protest in Dudley Square in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, some 400 protesters gathered for an Occupy the Hood rally. All ages and socio-economic levels got in on the activism. Preteens spoke about wanting to feel safe at school while university professors spoke out about unjust laws aimed at keeping minorities disheartened and disenfranchised. They marched from the square to Boston’s Financial District, many chanting, “Occupy the Hood! We’re Spreading Something Good!”

While focused on problems facing African-Americans, Occupy the Hood has the clear goal of bringing more Blacks into the larger Occupy Wall Street movement, a faction that, to date, has been mostly White. Movement leaders hope to galvanize more Blacks by bringing up issues including the heartless ways some big banks have foreclosed on homes after tricking Blacks into getting subprime mortgages. They also want to clearly connect the effects of capitalism with the advent of racism.

Leaders promise that the protest tactics will be nonviolent and similar to other movements, including the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power Movement. Poor Peoples Campaign, March on Washington, Million Man March and even Arab Spring.

Organization will be key to Occupy the Hood’s future success. Right now, local groups take part in national organizing calls to plan rallies and protests. They reportedly have been given advice from Black leaders such as Cornel West, and may have received a phone call of support from U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California’s 35th District.

To donate or volunteer, go to officialoccupythehood.org.  

To read more, pick up the March issue of EBONY on stands now!