The most recent Occupy Raleigh (my hometown) protest-a supporting movement of Occupy Wall Street-coincided with several other movements across the nation and around the world during the weekend of Oct. 15.
Globally, the Occupy movement was intensified by protests in several countries and cities including London, Rome and Spain. The 99 Percenters raised their voices on Wall Street and in at least 1,200 cities across several states, including the Tar Heel State, North Carolina.
The Jobs and Justice March in Washington, D.C., that Saturday was a prelude to the exultant crowd that gathered the following day against the lush backdrop of the Tidal Basin for the formal unveiling of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
At another location in the nation’s capital, Dr. Cornel West joined a protest on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court and was arrested with others for challenging the manner in which corporations are left unpunished for their pervasively indifferent policies that prove harmful to the American public.
Yet, in spite of the brilliant spirit that has fueled many of these efforts, the presence of African-Americans among the Occupy protests has been minimally representative in some places and disappointingly absent in others.
Have many in our community embraced the sentiment expressed by Republican Rep. Allen West of Florida, who said that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “would not have backed these types of protesters?” Or is there a comfort zone in some parallel universe that allows them to believe that they are somehow removed from the basic tenets of the Occupy movement, which loosely rejects the economic policies and institutions that foster the ability of the wealthiest Americans to control the wealth for the rest of the nation?
First, a bit of news. Only one Black American made the list on the Forbes 400 for 2011, with a net worth of $2.7 billion. There were only 17 others who received honorable mentions as the wealthiest in this country. So, unless you go by the name of Oprah, Tiger, Tyler or Jordan, you may wish to explore the Occupy movement a bit further.Moreover, if you believe that the principles or doctrines of the Occupy movement are too nebulous for you to embrace, consider these facts.
Within the African-American community, we have one U.S. attorney general; at least one prominent state attorney general; one governor; one former governor; state prosecutors, defense attorneys and our own bar association. Yet we could not come together to halt the execution of one Black man on death row, whose conviction had been called into question by everyone from the pope to a former president.
Within our community, we have mayors of major U.S. cities; former mayors of U.S. cities; 43 members of Congress proudly representing our communities; one former U.S. senator; and so many state legislators around the country that they have their own caucus. Yet, with all of our summits and conferences, we have not devised an authentic jobs plan to address the long-term unemployed and underemployed among us, whose numbers routinely exceed those of state and national averages.
Within our community, we have commentators, professors, pollsters, radio show hosts, television commentators, a billionaire with a network, fraternities, sororities, magazines and national organizations for every activity under the sun. Yet, we have not coalesced to develop a unified strategy addressing our concerns for health care, education and housing in order to present it to an African-American president who we are too quick to scrutinize.
The Book of Luke in the Holy Bible says, “To whomever much is given, of him will much be required.” Our community is not lacking in the resources to enable you to gather the information necessary to take a principled stand in support of those who are advocating issues that will enhance and benefit your subsistence. At this point, if your idea of protest or civic involvement is simply getting out to vote every four years, you are subscribing to an apathetic-which-is-soon-to-be-sympathetic ideology.
If you are not joining Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Cedar Rapids or Occupy-wherever-you-live, you should invest in several mirrors to place around your house. Then, whenever you are prepared to complain about the state of your city, state, job or bank account, go and stand in front of one of them and just point.
You are only occupying space.