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The Case for Black With a Capital B

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"We Saved A Community"

by Talia Whyte

State Rep. Byron Rushing joined local community activists at Hibernian Hall Oct. 19 to discuss the history of the 45-year-old Madison Park Development Corporation, as well as highlight the roots of black activism in Boston.  It was an enlightening conversation among elder activists that showed that change is possible when all people organize as one around a common agenda and goal.

So it was interesting when Occupy Boston activist Brian Kwoba got up during the discussion to ask the panelists what tips the current Occupy Movement could take away.  Panelist and Dudley Main Streets executive director Joyce Stanley said that unlike the Roxbury activists of the 1960s who organized around not allowing the I-95 to be built in the community, the Occupy Wall Street movement doesn’t have a clear agenda nor has it made any specific goals for their protest.

“If you don’t have clear goals when you are organizing a movement, eventually people start to lose interest in what you are protesting about,” Stanley said.

That have been the main problem with the Occupy movement because the complaints by the protesters are too broad and they are not making any realistic, specific demands or suggestions for how they would change the system.  Shouting that you want to “end capitalism” or “stop the world order now” is pretty broad and doesn’t really help to advance the conversation.

The Occupiers could take a lesson from the national housing justice group (and multi-racial) Right to the City’s recent protest of Bank of America’s alleged predatory lending practices.  The organizers were making a simple and clear demand: close your account with the bank because it is contributing to the foreclosure problem among its most vulnerable customers.  

While one can say that the “Occupy the Hood” movement is better late than never, it can also be argued that the sudden attempt to attract people of color to the larger Occupy movement is an eye-opening commentary on race relations in the progressive community.  The fact that the Occupy organizers didn’t think to actively recruit the very people who are suffering the most at the hands of Wall Street - blacks, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans - into their movement from day one does say a lot about life in so-called “post-racial” America...