Black folk have been in the 99% since the Middle Passage. Slavery made sure the majority of us would never be in that 1% by terrorizing our African souls and dismantling our families, our language, our culture, our religion, our bodies, and our spirit. As poet Nikky Finney reminded us when she accepted her National Book Award last month, “Black people were the only people in the United States ever explicitly forbidden to become literate.” Long before Occupy Wall Street, thanks to Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman and the like, we already had Occupy Plantations so excuse Black folk if they didn’t come a running to Zucotti Park.
Personally I’m down with Occupy Wall Street although I have not gone down to occupy Wall Street. I’ve been busy working and then I figured I’d let my young radicals handle it this time around. I had paid my dues when I marched for Rodney King, Abner Louima and then again, more recently, for Sean Bell. To be clear, I’m more than frustrated with the state of our economy and our selfish government, but even after seeing Angela Davis, Kanye West and Russell Simmons down with #OWS, I still wasn’t moved to pitch a tent and participate. I was all tapped out.
Then On Wednesday when I heard that the Philadelphia DA was no longer seeking the death penalty for Mumia Abu-Jamal, I was relieved, overjoyed and charged. This decision re-ignited something in me that had been squashed, smothered and severed by the executions of Troy Davis, Oscar Grant, Aiyana Jones, Eleanor Bumpers, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Ron Brown, Alberta Spruill, Patrick Dorismond, and Katherine Johnston, not to mention the spirit and visionary sabotage of Barack Obama. I now have hope that change is possible and that the 99% may at least get their mule (40 acres is still outta the question). I’ve read plenty on why Black Folks are NOT down with #OWS, but here’s my take on why we should get down with the movement especially now. Whether we’re talking about the death penalty or fraudulent mortgages and foreclosures it’s all linked to Big Business and more Black faces suffer under this country’s idea of Big Business than any other. So thanks to the always brilliantly outspoken writer Greg Tate here are 5 reasons, besides the dope Occupy The Hoods protests, on why we should get down (DISCLAIMER: Where noted, I’ve added a couple of my own reasons!):
1. (Why We Have Not Joined OWS) YOUR BASIC SOAP-AND-WATER THEORY – We love the funk—metaphorically speaking. Ditto goes for colored folk’s oft-stated ardor for all things “gully,” “gritty,” “grimy,” and “dirty south.” But you out your nat’chall black mind if you think hordes of y’all people will be thronging any protest site that gotta be quarantined, evacuated, or sanitized before the party for rights can continue. Whether from the boojie middle rungs or the bootylicious lower depths, black folk generally refuse to accept the bummy notion that good politics and good grooming need be mutually exclusive.
REASONS WHY WE SHOULD ANYWAY – OWS could surely benefit from an Afrocentric woman’s touch. OWS would become known instead as “Occupy and De-Uglify Wall Street.” Imagine the difference made by scented candles, patchouli, potted plants, and colorful fabrics. Imagine her rage for spotless and sterilized surfaces set loose on Liberty Street. A rage so bordering on OCD, Pigpen himself would be too shook to leave behind one speck of unconsecrated crud. Yoga in the morning, African dance in the afternoon, prayer and meditation before bed, goddess and ancestor worship all the live-long day. That OWS shiznit would get friggin’ spiritual. OWS would get closer to godliness than the Garden of Eden. No silly housecleaning ruses would ever be thrown up again.
2. (Why We Have Not Joined OWS) THE WHERE IS THE COLOR PURPLE IN YOUR RED, WHITE & BLUE THEORY – If you watched the YouTube video of activist Angela Davis addressing OWS participants gathered at Washington Sq. Park then you heard someone interrupt her “Public Mic’d” speech by shouting “Bullshit” when she said that differences must not be merely tolerated. Yes y’all this may be a liberal movement, but there are still some white folks who think the ideas presented by Black feminists like Prof. Davis is crap. Although OWS is a diverse group of people, the core are white men who still see Capitalism and its fallout like a golf tournament—a man’s turf with very little space on the green for brothers and less for women and nil for Black women. Yet and still sisters have rallied often with men and at times alone for better jobs, housing and public education, only for our struggles to be labeled “A Black Woman’s Thang.” If men didn’t come out (and they did not) to show their support for Nafissatou Diallo who accused Dominique Strauss Kahn of rape then why should we risk getting pepper sprayed for them. –N. Moore
REASONS WHY BLACK WOMEN SHOULD MAKE MORE THAN A STYLE STATEMENT WITH THEIR ANGELA DAVIS T-SHIRTS – True, Black women have done the marches, the sit-ins, the takeovers, the breakfast programs, the prayer meetings and true, we’ve grown tired of not getting our slice of the pie or worse, making the friggin’ sweet potato pie, only to have Martha Stewart take credit for its flaky crust or the ultimate shank, getting our own pie thrown back in our face without so much as a fork or napkin in sight. But last week, OWS proposed a, dare I say, radical new development, that may make this movement one of the more forward thinking and womanist protests we’ve seen in like forever. Last week OWS instigated a series of female-led meetings where only women can speak. This new development was announced to the media by a Black woman mind you. OWS activists Kanene Holder and Manissa McCleave Maharawal are taking no shorts when it comes to racism and sexism within the 99% and says that women are not only on the frontlines dealing with the po-po, but they are also at the head of the OWS table plotting strategy and talking equality within the movement. And since we can’t wait for Oprah to swoop down on Liberty Plaza like she did in New Orleans post-Katrina (not so much because she’s in that 1% but mainly because homegirl is too busy busting her booty trying to keep her network afloat), we may as well pick out our fros, tighten up our weaves and head to the next OWS protest and say wassup. Remember the streets are now listening… they have no choice. –N.Moore
3. THE OWS BEST GO GET A LATE-PASS THEORY – The sudden realization by OWS-ers that American elites never signed the social contract and will sell the people out for a fat cat’s dime—hey, no news flash over here. Black folk got wise to the game back in 1865 when we realized neither 40 acres nor a mule would be forthcoming. Also, as one sharp strapping ready for whatever you got youngblood recently put it, “I ain’t about to go get arrested with some muhfuhkuhs who just figured out yesterday that this shit ain’t right.”
REASONS WHY WE SHOULD RECONSIDER BEFRIENDING NU PEOPLE VIRGIN TO DAILY NYPD ASSWHUPPINGS – Repeatedly finding oneself on the business end of a NYPD nightstick and expecting the same result is either a sign of madness or a sign of virtual blacknuss. Either way, even your most hardened Pan-Afrikanist should now be open to giving the OWS-ers a hug of solidarity. Maybe if organized, this form of outreach could function as the larger community’s first olive branch. (Air kisses and arms length for some snooty African noses still, I know).
4. THE MOM AND POPS AIN’T HAVING IT/I NEED MY PAYCHECK THEORY – Currently employed grown-ass black folk will tell you they can’t spare not one day off the plantation for this worthy cause. More than a few young black folk now in college have an inbred fear of being cut off by mom and pop if caught on camera decrying capitalism and inviting arrest when they need to be hitting those books. Such parents might even harbor high hopes of their prodigal progeny becoming well-paid corporate shills. Coming out Rad, Green, and Anti-Goldman Sachs in some black families can require more heroics than coming out punk rock musician. Or even sapphic Muslim MC. One just imagines the fallout that might occur in the Herman Cain household, for example.
ONE REASON WHY WE SHOULD TAKE OUR RESUMES AND JACK & JILL ASPIRATIONS TO OWS – Herman Cain!!! And please note, if quoting Pokemon is his political best and he (allegedly) reps this country’s idea of Black potential, then playing bass and stage-diving at the Afro-Punk Fest is more winning than tiger blood! -N. Moore
5. THE GREAT RACE AND CLASS DIVIDE/SCHOOL-LUNCH-TABLE THEORY – It’s hard to locate many instances in American radical or cultural history where goo-gobs of black folk leapt to join predominantly non-black movements. Or even school lunch tables. Post-racial as Obama’s voting bloc might have been, America remains a country more divided by race than class. Even the most progressive non-black folk tend to only have that One Good Black friend in their social clusterfuck. Radical politics can make for less estranged bedfellows, but OWS still has America’s mucky river of racial segregation and alienation to cross. Not to mention a certain perception, right or wrong, that OWS is white privilege gone wild again. More enlightened self-interest than interrogating whiteness on the agenda.
REASONS WHY WE COULD AT LEAST OFFER OWS A SPARE BAG OR TWO OF C-TOWN KALE OR COLLARDS Although we used to have the dibs on kick-starting revolt, these OWS kids are onto something big and quite necessary here. The groundswell looks globally awesome from here in Harlem. How many times have you, à la Malcolm X said, “White folk need to get their own people organized and out on the frontlines.” Well alrighty then! No danger of anybody being the next Crispus Attucks here. Not unless you wanna step to the front of the line that is.
Click HERE to read Greg Tate’s complete list of “Top 10 Reasons Why So Few Black Folk Appear Down To Occupy Wall Street.”