Call Out to People of Color [#OccupyWallStreet]

by Guest Contributors the #OccupyWallStreet People of Color Working Group

Right Here All Over (Occupy Wall St.) from Alex Mallis on Vimeo.

To those who want to support the Occupation of Wall Street, who want to struggle for a more just and equitable society, but who feel excluded from the campaign, this is a message for you.

To those who do not feel as though their voices are being heard, who have felt unable or uncomfortable participating in the campaign, or who feel as though they have been silenced, this is a message for you.

To those who haven’t thought about #OccupyWallStreet but know that radical social change is needed, and to those who have thought about joining the protest but do not know where or how to begin, this is a message for you.

You are not alone. The individuals who make up the People of Color Working Group have come together because we share precisely these feelings and believe that the opportunity for consciousness-raising presented by #OccupyWallStreet is one that cannot be missed. It is time to push for the expansion and diversification of #OccupyWallStreet. If this is truly to be a movement of the 99%, it will need the rest of the city and the rest of the country.

Let’s be real. The economic crisis did not begin with the collapse of the Lehman Brothers in 2008. Indeed, people of color and poor people have been in a state of crisis since the founding of this country, and for indigenous communities, since before the founding of the nation. We have long known that capitalism serves only the interests of a tiny, mostly white, minority.

Black and brown folks have long known that whenever economic troubles ‘necessitate’ austerity measures and the people are asked to tighten their belts, we are the first to lose our jobs, our children’s schools are the first to lose funding, and our bodies are the first to be brutalized and caged. Only we can speak this truth to power. We must not miss the chance to put the needs of people of color—upon whose backs this country was built—at the forefront of this struggle.

The People of Color Working Group was formed to build a racially conscious and inclusive movement. We are reaching out to communities of color, including immigrant, undocumented, and low-wage workers, prisoners, LGTBQ people of color, marginalized religious communities such as Muslims, and indigenous peoples, for whom this occupation ironically comes on top of another one and therefore must be decolonized. We know that many individuals have responsibilities that do not allow them to participate in the occupation and that the heavy police presence at Liberty Park undoubtedly deters many. We know because we are some of these individuals. But this movement is not confined to Liberty Park: with your help, the movement will be made accessible to all.

If it is not made so, it will not succeed. By ignoring the dynamics of power and privilege, this monumental social movement risks replicating the very structures of injustice it seeks to eliminate. And so we are actively working to unite the diverse voices of all communities, in order to understand exactly what is at stake, and to demand that a movement to end economic injustice must have at its core an honest struggle to end racism.

The People of Color working group is not meant to divide, but to unite, all peoples. Our hope is that we, the 99%, can move forward together, with a critical understanding of how the greed, corruption, and inequality inherent to capitalism threatens the lives of all peoples and the Earth.

The People of Color working group was launched on October 1, 2011. Join us at http://groups.google.com/group/POC-working-group?hl=en. For inquiries, we can be reached by email at unified.ows@gmail.com. We can also be found online at http://pococcupywallstreet.tumblr.com. We meet Sundays @ 3 PM and Wednesdays @ 6:30 PM under the large red structure in Liberty Square.

Slutwalk, Slurs, and Why Feminism Still Has Race Issues

Lennon Ono

Woman is not the nigger of the world.

John Lennon is not the final authority on whether it’s ok to use the term nigger.

Quoting black men from the 60s is not a valid defense against critiques from black women, black feminists, and our allies today.

The term nigger is not “in the past.”

The term nigger has not, and has never been, a term that can be equally applied to everyone.

Arguing that black people don’t have a monopoly on the term nigger is just fucking disgusting. You want it that bad? Really?

Over on Facebook, the woman posing with the infamous Slutwalk NYC photo (and the woman who created the sign) defended themselves. The tl; dr version of their statements: “It was wrong to use the word nigger, but the song is true!” Here’s the convo:

Christina Jaus How does this photo speak to inclusion?
Yesterday at 11:23am · Unlike · 9 people

Betty Chantel Jesus Christ, this is just shameful! SlutWalk &SlutWalk NYC what do you have to say about this??
Yesterday at 11:29am · Like · 5 people

Nicole Kubon This sign was not made by an organizer and, when it was noticed, an organizer respectfully requested the sign be put away and took some time to talk with the sign holder about why this message was not in line with our cause. Unfortunately we cannot police all attendants to our event, or any event, but it is a sign that was frustrating to all of us and has sparked discussion amongst organizers. We do not agree with the message being displayed here and addressed it as soon as we saw it.
Yesterday at 11:50am · Like · 2 people

Clare Mackay i don’t get the sign. is a word(s) on the poster out of view?
Yesterday at 2:02pm · Like

Amina Ali This is the title of a song written and performed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the 1970s. You have to listen to the whole song to understand it. It is not offensive to anyone other than sexists in its entirety and was a very powerful message, then and now. I can understand how the sign out of this context would be disturbing. But I urge everyone to check out the full lyrics and listen to the song and judge for themselves.
Yesterday at 2:59pm · Like · 6 people

Tyrra Kiri Adrien Ramos Whether the Lennon song is meant to be offensive, that word should just not be said by any white person.
Yesterday at 5:16pm · Like · 6 people

Amina Ali I think it is more productive to look into the deeper meaning of things than to exercise censorship.
Yesterday at 5:20pm · Like · 5 people

Christina Jaus ‎@ Amina, did you talk to any Black people (women or men) in the 60′s and did they themselves tell you at that time that they felt empowered by that John Lennon song?
Yesterday at 5:41pm · Like · 6 people

Christina Jaus And, the sign “out” of context or not is still offensive. When is the N word ever in context outside of dehumanizing?
Yesterday at 5:43pm · Like · 4 people

Continue reading

Police mistreatment of transgender man during #OccupyWallStreet arrests

by Guest Contributor justin adkins, originally published at justin adkins

My name is justin adkins.

I am a transgender man who was arrested at the Occupy Wall Street Protest October 1st on theBrooklyn Bridge. This was my first arrest. This was the second weekend I participated in the Occupy Wall Street protest. I have been coming down on the weekends because I work 2 full-time jobs to make ends meet. One of those jobs is as Assistant Director of the Multicultural Center at Williams College in Massachusetts. The other is as a website developer.

I was toward the front of the march and after being trapped by the police on the bridge; I was able to watch as they arrested people one-by-one. I went peacefully when it was clear that it was my turn. My arresting officer, Officer Creer, found out I was born female when I yelled that information to the legal observer on the bridge. My arresting officer asked what I meant when I told the legal observer that I was “transgender” so I told him that I was born female. He asked what “I had down there”. Since it is a rude and embarrassing question to ask someone about his/her genitals no matter what the situation, I simply told him again “I was born female”. He asked, appropriately, if I wanted a male or female officer to pat me down. I told him it was fine if he patted me down. He then turned and asked a female officer, I believe her name is Officer Verga, to pat me down explaining to her that I am transgender. She patted me down and then preceded to refer to me as “she” even though I kept correcting her that my preferred pronoun is “he”. Luckily she disappeared after about 40 minutes, as I sat cuffed at the apex of the Brooklyn Bridge with hundreds of others.

Once we arrived at Precinct 90 in Brooklyn, the male officer taking everyone’s belongings asked if it was ok to search me. I said. “yes” and he proceeded to respectfully empty my pockets. I was arrested with a group of 5 other guys, and once they got us to the precinct, they initially put me in a cell with those same men. They asked if that was ok with me and I said yes. About 5 minutes after they took the cuffs off and shut the cell door an officer came back to the cell to move me. When he opened the door and looked my way, I was aware of what was happening. I knew that my transgender status would potentially be an issue once at the jail, which is why I told the legal observer that I was transgender. The officer glanced at me motioning to come out of the cell and then told me to put my hands behind my back as my fellow protestors looked on in bewilderment.

As we walked out past the other protestors waiting to have their pockets emptied, one woman looked at me with a puzzled look, we had connected on the long drive around Brooklyn as they tried to figure out where to take us. I told her that it looked like transgender people got “special treatment”. Within the first 15 minutes of being at precinct 90 I was being segregated and treated differently from the rest of the protestors arrested.
Continue reading

An Open Letter From Two White Men to #OCCUPYWALLSTREET

by Anonymous Guest Contributors

Occupy Wall Street

We—two white men—write this letter conscious of the fact that the color of our skin means we will likely be taken more seriously. We write this knowing that because people of color are thought to be too biased to speak objectively on issues of race, our perspective in this context will be privileged. We write this aware of the history of colonization, genocide, and slavery upon which this country stands, which has created this oppressive reality.

We write this letter to the organizers and participants (ourselves included) of #OccupyWallStreet out of great love for humanity and for the collective struggles being waged to save it. We write this letter because of our support for this nascent movement, in the hopes that with some self-reflection and adjustment, it may come to truly represent “the 99%” and realize its full potential.

#OccupyWallStreet has shown itself to be a potent force. The movement—which we consider ourselves part of—has already won great victories. New occupations spring up across the continent every day, and the movement for true democracy and radical social change is gathering steam worldwide.

According to the main websites associated with #OccupyWallStreet, it is “one people, united,” a “leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions,” and an “open, participatory and horizontally organized process.” In other words, it professes to be the universal protest against the greed and corruption rampant in our society, open for anyone to join and shape.

But a quick survey of the movement so far shows that that the good intentions outlined do not reflect the reality of the situation. Continue reading

On Racism, Theater, and Trouble In Mind [Culturelicious]

Trouble in Mind

I’ve been to a great many plays on race. Some, like August Wilson’s Jitney, manage to survive through the ages and provide a stunningly timeless view on the problems of the colorline.

Others, like David Mamet’s Race or Neil Labute’s This Is How It Goes, make me realize how much of an abstract concept racism’s pervasiveness can be for white people. Unfortunately, much of the mainstream art world is controlled by white people, and therefore what is considered worthy of production is shaped by white perceptions.

Trouble in Mind has been resurrected, but there are always complications. Over at the Arena Stage website, Irene Lewis speaks to the cause of the persistent racial gap in evaluation of material:

For years, the play Trouble in Mind, by African-American playwright Alice Childress, was recommended to me as a show that, as artistic director of CENTERSTAGE, I should produce. I had read the play several times over the years and found it to be “old-fashioned/old hat,” especially concerning the depiction of the character of the white director. Finally, I decided to ask the opinion of an African-American actress whose judgment I have always valued. She read the play and told me that she liked it. When I asked if she found the role of the white director dated and unbelievable, she said, “No.” So I came around to the opinion that this was another case of – what should I call it – whites (me) being “out of touch” with the experiences of African-Americans. I decided to produce and direct the play at CENTERSTAGE in Baltimore. It subsequently transferred to Yale Repertory Theater. I am delighted that Molly is bringing this groundbreaking piece to Arena Stage.

“Out of touch” is the last term I would use to describe Childress’ noted work, considering it was originally performed in 1955. Considering the play was created more than five decades ago, it should not be so fresh and contemporary. And yet, we live in an era in which a white woman’s tale about a white woman and the black maids she liberated swept the bestseller’s list and the box office – clearly, things haven’t changed that much. So why the disconnect between black and white theater aficionados? As Childress herself has stated:

“There aren’t any black critics who can close a white play. But in black theater, black experience has been fought against by white critics. The white critic feels no obligation to prepare himself to judge a black play.”

And so, here we are. Continue reading

Which Women Are What Now? Slutwalk NYC and Failures in Solidarity

Over at Parlour Magazine, I spotted this photo yesterday:

Slutwalk NYC Woman Is the Nigger of the World Sign

Lord. The original reference is from a song written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and performed mostly by John Lennon. At the time, Lennon and Ono justified their decision openly, using both the “my black friends said it was cool” defense as well as a more substantive critique based on ideas of “niggerization” – that nigger can be redefined to include anyone who is oppressed.

But can you appropriate a term like nigger if your body is not defined/terrorized/policed/brutalized/diminished by the word? Can we use it in a context that is supposed to belie gender solidarity, without explicitly being in racial solidarity?

I think not. And I am not alone. Continue reading

Cal’s “Affirmative Action Bake Sale”: I want my free cookies.

by Guest Contributor Adrienne Keene, originally published at Native Appropriations

AA Bakesale

[Last week,] UC Berkeley’s College Republicans Chapter decided to have an “Affirmative Action Bakesale” to protest a new bill that has been introduced into the CA legistlature that would reverse parts of Prop 209, which in 1996 banned the use of race as a factor in admissions decisions in the UC system.

The premise of the bake sale is not new, and has definitely been used on other college campuses. The basic idea is that there is different pricing for different racial groups, as follows:

    White: $2.00
    Asian: $1.50
    Latino: $1.00
    Black: $.75
    Native American: $.25
    $.25 discount for women

Screenshot from TV news

The pricing implies that standards are lower for non-whites and women, and that the (poor, innocent!) White males are just royally screwed by the whole system. But you know what I see from that pricing? I GET FREE SNACKS. (I joke, I joke) Continue reading

More Notes (and Voices) from #OccupyWallStreet

occupy wall street vivir latino

JohnPaul Montano on colonization and “occupations”:

It seems that ever since we indigenous people have discovered Europeans and invited them to visit with us here on our land, we’ve had to endure countless ‘-isms’ and religions and programs and social engineering that would “fix” us. Protestantism, Socialism, Communism, American Democracy, Christianity, Boarding Schools, Residential Schools,… well, you get the idea. And, it seems that these so-called enlightened strategies were nearly always enacted and implemented and pushed upon us without our consent. And, I’ll assume that you’re aware of how it turned out for us. Yes. Terribly.

Which brings me back to your mostly-inspiring Occupy Wall Street activities. On September 22nd, with great excitement, I eagerly read your “one demand” statement. Hoping and believing that you enlightened folks fighting for justice and equality and an end to imperialism, etc., etc., would make mention of the fact that the very land upon which you are protesting does not belong to you – that you are guests upon that stolen indigenous land. I had hoped mention would be made of the indigenous nation whose land that is. I had hoped that you would address the centuries-long history that we indigenous peoples of this continent have endured being subject to the countless ‘-isms’ of do-gooders claiming to be building a “more just society,” a “better world,” a “land of freedom” on top of our indigenous societies, on our indigenous lands, while destroying and/or ignoring our ways of life. I had hoped that you would acknowledge that, since you are settlers on indigenous land, you need and want our indigenous consent to your building anything on our land – never mind an entire society. See where I’m going with this? I hope you’re still smiling. We’re still friends, so don’t sweat it. I believe your hearts are in the right place. I know that this whole genocide and colonization thing causes all of us lots of confusion sometimes. It just seems to me that you’re unknowingly doing the same thing to us that all the colonizers before you have done: you want to do stuff on our land without asking our permission.

Meagan La Mala on the colonization of Puerto Rico and framing movements:

What I didn’t see or hear was a self-challenge among the participants regarding the language they chose to use. “Occupation” does not sit well with me. As a woman whose country has been occupied by the United States for hundreds of years hearing white men hand out fliers, inviting people to “celebrate the occupation” made me cringe. In a conversation I has with a friend and her friend, I asked if they had heard any discussion of the language used in any of the general assemblies or anywhere really. It was clear that to some (many?) there is no sense of why using the language of occupation is a problem, how it could alienate the very people who are most impacted by the corporate/government policies.

“I saw a sign that said “occupy Wall Street not Palestine,” I was told, as if that was enough. It didn’t feel that way.
I also saw a lot of signs based in the idea of privilege and the bullshit notion of who deserves what. Young people held signs lamenting not being able to pay their student loans and how having gone to college didn’t bring the jobs and success they expected. I thought about the high Latino high school drop out rates and my own lack of a college degree. Were we included in this dialogue/narrative or even within this “movement” were there some who weren’t worth fighting for – some who don’t deserve the “American Dream” because of not following the prescribed order of things.

I didn’t see one sign about immigration. I didn’t see one sign about people of color and the prison pipeline. I didn’t see one sign in any other language except English.

I’m not saying they weren’t there – I’m saying I didn’t see them. [...]

It’s hard for me to fight for “an America” that has made clear that it’s success is to come at my domination – my erasure.
I challenge those who are so strongly supporting this movement hold themselves accountable for the language and framework they put their struggle in. It can’t all be about fighting the powers that be without the acknowledgement of how we be those powers.

Kai Wright, of Colorlines, on what OWS symbolizes from his perspective:

It’s clear to me that NYPD could and would behave dishonestly. It’s less clear, however, what any of this has to do with the fact that millions of people have lost their homes—many in fraudulent, illegal foreclosures on fraudulent, sadly legal mortgages. It’s also unclear what it has to do with the jobs crisis. Or the trillions of dollars in taxpayer money that banks ran away with, while ignoring congressional orders that they ramp up mortgage modifications and small-business lending in return. I mean, I can’t rightly say I know a thing about organizing a movement and I’m all for “a symbolic gesture of our discontent,” as organizers have described this one. By all means, take over the park, the bridge, the street—you name it. But it’s hard to imagine how this becomes anything more than what it is now: a running battle with individual cops over the right to public space in Manhattan.

Which, by the way, is an important issue. NYPD systematically undermines public protest of any sort, often using unnecessarily aggressive tactics. It happens widely enough to suggest it is driven by policy. You see it everywhere from anti-war marches to the Gay Pride parade. So this city could certainly use a movement designed to pressure the mayor and the police chief to change their “crowd control” policies and respect the right to public assembly. We could also use a movement against police brutality. I’d love to see a national movement ally, for instance, with organizers in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy and Brownsville to help the hundreds of young black men who get harassed daily as a matter of NYPD policy. They could stand in solidarity to occupy precincts until that racist policy changes. But none of this is happening, at least so far.

Nor is it what the movement declared itself to be about. It’s supposed to be about the deeply entrenched economic inequity that has come to define our lives in the 21st century. I argue this inequity grew out of decades of predation on black families, specifically. But the organizers were wise to make room for as wide a range of perspectives on the problem as possible. The point, as organizers have so movingly put it, is that everyone gets screwed by an economic system that amasses so much wealth in so few hands. “We are all races, sexes and creeds. We are the majority. We are the 99 percent. And we will no longer be silent,” they have written.

RodStarz of the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, noted after heading to the OSW:

Out of curiosity we visited with the RDACBX team after a meeting and the result wasnt the greatest. Besides being stared at and looked at as if we were invading their space, the predominantly young, white and liberal Occupiers sent over one of the few African American men over to talk to us. When we asked them why they didnt approach us themselves and build with us, they replied that “they thought we would get mad because they were white.” The situation was pretty bizarre as a woman started ranting incoherently about Nazi symbols being seen over the skies of California, and another man from the Media Team repeatedly offering us the chance to perform if we spoke to the Arts and Culture team. He didnt seem to get that we werent there to perform, rather we were there just to build. After being mean mugged for taking a free slice of Pizza, we decided it was time to leave the hippie fest.

Our intention is not to dismiss it as just this, but the gut feeling was that there is a serious disconnect down there. We left with mad questions! Where was the hood? Where was the poorest congressional district in the USA, from The South Bronx at? Like we say in Hip Hop, where Brooklyn at? Could it be that perhaps the working class couldnt afford to just leave work and the responsibility of bills and family survival to camp out in a city park? Did folks from our communities not know about this? If people of color were occupying Wall St would we have lasted this long? All in all the questions remain, yet with time and reflection , we refuse to just dismiss it. Its a historic time in the world in which general assemblies are starting to happen all over, as cities across the US are also now having “occupations”.

We are looking at race and reactions to the march, but reader Sue sent in a picture that really does speak 1,000 words:

Girl Arrested on Wall Street\

The analysis from the BagNews blog:

Seems like everybody (1, 2, 3, 4- just for starters) led this morning with this Occupy Wall Street photo. Hmm, I wonder why? (The power of the image is not only the 10 for “beauty,” but that it also doubles down on the “martyr/saint.”)

If you can get past the saintly/insanely beautiful girl and her cleavage, though, what we’ve got here also is the latest law enforcement adjustment in the battle for Wall Street — women arresting women.

(Image Credit: Vivir Latino)