Wali "Diop" Rahman: Radical, Resolute & Running for Mayor

By Michael Alan Goldberg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 20 | Posted Oct. 26, 2011

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Olugbala protests police brutality outside City Hall.

Standing next to one of the grand archways that leads to the heart of City Hall, Diop Olugbala presents himself as the face of the masses of Philadelphians he says are being targeted by Mayor Nutter: young, black, mistreated, misunderstood, mischaracterized.

“[Nutter] says we’re all thugs, ‘sperm donors,’ a ‘disgrace to our race,’” Olugbala seethes. The mayor, police and the city’s “ruling elite,” he says, “look at us and simply because of the way we look and dress and talk, they assume we’re criminals. Animals. Inarticulate.”

“But here comes someone who can duke it out with Nutter, and I can defeat all of his ideas,” Olugbala says.

In mid-August, the 34-year-old—flanked by a handful of advisors and supporters—stood outside City Hall and announced his independent candidacy for mayor, taking on Nutter and Republican challenger Karen Brown in a three-way race.

Olugbala says he’s running to stop Nutter’s all-out “war” on the city’s black and Latino populations. An assault that’s been marked, he says, by police brutality and the unfair, disproportionate criminalization of people of color; budget cuts that have decimated programs and services in the most impoverished areas of the city; and the withholding of real economic relief for those neighborhoods in favor of a bloated police “war budget.”

“Michael Nutter’s policies have been far more destructive to black people than [former mayor] Frank Rizzo’s,” says Olugbala. “His regime has stolen resources from us … People want to talk about violence, the so-called ‘flash mobs’? What about the violence of budget cuts? Nutter is responsible for the conditions that give rise to this violence.”

Conditions, Olugbala warns, that make a situation akin to this past summer’s deadly riots in North London a “scientific inevitability” here.

“If the city of Philadelphia goes up in flames, the ashes of this city will be on Michael Nutter’s hands,” he intones.

“I see it as my responsibility as a freedom fighter to step up and challenge Mayor Nutter for leadership of the city,” he continues. “History has shown that whenever we rise up, our demands are met.”

The self-styled revolutionary regards his candidacy not as waging a political campaign so much as leading an uprising of the poor and working-class. He insists he’s not just fighting for people of color, he’s here to pull the city back from the brink of destruction.

“Nutter’s policies are attacking sizable portions of the white community as well,” says Olugbala. “Budget cuts are affecting everyone who wants to go to a rec center, a career training program or a swimming pool.”

As Olugbala speaks, a pair of tattoos on either side of his neck peek out from the collar of his khaki military-style shirt—the kind of ink the mayor believes would prevent young black men from getting a job “cause you look like you’re crazy,” as Nutter said during his infamous speech at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in August.

One tattoo is of a hand clutching a spear, red flames dancing from its tip: The logo of the Uhuru movement, the black liberation crusade to which Olugbala has devoted his life and whose positions inform his current political platform.

The other, in simple script, says “Serve the People”: A loose translation of the African name he adopted when he joined Uhuru a decade ago, leaving his birth name, Wali Rahman, behind.

If he wins on Nov. 8, Olugbala promises to serve the people of Philadelphia with wholesale changes. No stop-and-frisk. No youth curfew. A community control board with the power to fire and hire police. A drastically reduced police force—perhaps by as much as 80 percent—with most of the nearly $1 billion earmarked for police, courts and prisons (roughly one quarter of Philadelphia’s annual budget) reallocated for economic development and social services in poor neighborhoods. Vacant lots turned into urban gardens whereby people would feed themselves and create businesses selling their produce. Funding to charter schools slashed, with that money redirected to strengthening the public school system. Public school curriculum adjusted to provide mainly vocational training. Taxes dramatically increased on corporations and rich people.

Such policies, Olugbala insists, would unite Philly under shared prosperity, not further divide the city along race and class lines. He reasons that his plan will lead to more jobs, less poverty, better education, skilled workers and healthier lifestyles, and therefore less violence and crime (and less need for police or jails). And the haves wouldn’t need to worry about an army of have-nots coming to burn down Center City.

“I’m talking about transforming the entire city,” Olugbala says.

Over the past two months, the Olugbala campaign has focused almost exclusively on areas it believes the message will resonate the most—North Philly, West Philly, Southwest Philly, but also parts of Center City.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 20 of 20
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1. cn2004 said... on Oct 26, 2011 at 12:29PM

“If making excuses was a profession, this idiot would be Bill Gates.”

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2. LimpWristedLiberal215 said... on Oct 26, 2011 at 12:52PM

“Pathetic. This lame-o needs to grow up and stop making excuses and stop acting like a thug. He complains about me me me, us us us. totally self-concerned phoney. 4 kids and he's on welfare and gets food stamps. GET A JOB, YA' BUM!”

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3. Elisha Lowe said... on Oct 26, 2011 at 02:00PM

“Geez Mr. Rahman/Olugbala please take it down a notch. You need to be relatable to all Philadelphians or at least a majority to win an election. That whole angry/ mean mugging thing will definitely take away from your message (which sounds like it needs fine tuning).”

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4. Anonymous said... on Oct 26, 2011 at 02:30PM

“Nutter isn't anti-black or anti-Latino. He is anti-bum. Get jobs, speak like intelligent beings, stop getting together in groups and beating up innocent people, etc. The youth shouldn't be roaming the streets at all hours of the night. When I was growing up my parents knew where I was and what I was doing and sure never included mobs of any kind. Today, I am a respectable adult and productive member of society. This isn't a race issue and it's a bit tiring to hear the race card pulled constantly. Get over it. Act respectable and you'll be respected.”

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5. jake said... on Oct 26, 2011 at 05:50PM

“hahaha! the drug dealers and violent criminals can't wait to vote for this clown!”

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6. antoine said... on Oct 26, 2011 at 06:06PM

“he wasn't arrested for holding up a sign. he was arrested because he was asked to sit down and when they tried to remove him, he resisted. You can't go into city hall and disrupt the court rooms and stand up and block other people's views. you have to be civil or you won't be treated with civility or respect. here is the full clip.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmnZs349Euk”

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7. Anonymous said... on Oct 27, 2011 at 10:27AM

“Why do I feel like this guy is going to try to run up to my car and sell me a pie?”

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8. Anonymous said... on Oct 27, 2011 at 10:52AM

“These stats about stop and frisk are just plain wrong, and the journalists have an obligation to go and find the truth. Stop and frisk has been instrumental in making my neighborhoods possible to live in and raise a family. SWCC was a drug-infested hole with a lot of potential that the black community here never tapped for the most part. There were a few black renovators, but not that many, and they were definitely not the norm.

The norm was drugs, living on welfare, in public housing or subsidized housing, and just living for today. No one expected anything of the black community. Democrats just threw money at the community with "economic development" and "housing" funds that no one really knows where it all went.

If stop and frisk only got guys carrying in 1 in 10 stops because they store the drugs and don't carry, or get kids to hold for them, then that is still a success.

Diop/Rahman types are just drug trade stooges, the largest Philly employer.”

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9. Wendy said... on Oct 27, 2011 at 11:57AM

“Diop Olugbala has the necessary leadership skills to transform Philadelphia into a city of opportunity for all people. As a white person, I understand the power and benefit I receive by virtue of the color of my skin. I understand that there is a wealth gap of 20 to 1 between whites and Blacks. I unite with his plan to dismantle a brutal police force and focus on economic development; we ALL benefit from this!

The ignorant comments in response to article confirm even more deeply the need for REAL leadership and REAL change! My vote is for Diop for mayor!”

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10. Joe said... on Oct 27, 2011 at 01:46PM

“He's got a really nice website, anyway. http://www.diop2011.com/”

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11. Frank Dios said... on Oct 27, 2011 at 02:24PM

“Nice try, Wendy. Why don't you come live in da' hood for a few months and then tell me you want the police force cut. This clown doesn't work, gets free food, free room and board while he has 4 kids and he's crying about not getting justice. He wouldn't have lasted a day in 1950s America. He's soft, ignorant and foolish.”

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12. Natasha said... on Oct 27, 2011 at 06:04PM

“I am proud to see Wali "Diop" Rahman running for Mayor of Philadelphia. He is what is needed for the young and old generations, real solutions and real change. Diop has my vote and many other votes from the North Philadelphia community!!”

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13. Ben Fan said... on Oct 27, 2011 at 06:48PM

“I love articles about men like this. Makes me feel so glad that I, unlike this clown, is a contributing member of society. Wali needs a serious reality check as to what is owed to him and his community.”

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14. Anonymous said... on Oct 28, 2011 at 08:56AM

“Thank you Wendy for speaking the truth! To the vast majority of commentators to this article, you all demonstrate EXACTLY what the Brother is talking about as being problematic with the Nutter camp in his[their] depiction of the Voices in the Margins
"...black, mistreated, misunderstood, mischaracterized."

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15. Jay Gaultieri said... on Nov 1, 2011 at 01:33PM

“This kind of Black rage might mean something if it was about the ghetto becoming an economically self-sustaining area, but at the end of the day Rahman is just fronting the same solutions that the poverty pimps and the squishy liberals have for decades: More taxpayer money meant to sustain an ethnically monochromatic hellhole of poverty, crime, and hopelessness.”

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16. Rosemary Reeves said... on Nov 7, 2011 at 12:21PM

“This is not black rage. This candidate is using logical statements, like if you encourage black-owned businesses, it will improve the economy for all races. Also, putting more police on the streets only makes the jails full, which the tax payer suffers for, because it is expensive to keep people in jail. Fix the economic disparity and there will be less crime. That's all he's saying. Look past the dreadlocks and tattoos and really listen, because few of you seem to be listening.”

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17. Anonymous said... on Nov 8, 2011 at 05:54PM

“Vote for Diop! Diop for Mayor!”

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18. Anonymous said... on Nov 24, 2011 at 11:16AM

“4% of the vote for that con artist is too much. Ask him what he does with the million dollars a year Uhuru reports as income.”

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19. Kali said... on Dec 8, 2011 at 08:55PM

“YES!!!!!!! He actually had some good points...if they're just "stop and frisk"? without arrests, thats just harrassment, plain and simple. C'mon and get real...the police are friggin crazy...thats why crooked cop stories make the best movies. Anyhoo, everyone commenting seemed pretty old so ill make the first 21st century girl vote as a YES, if you can hold your own in an interview like that and not look or sound dumb or ignorant, with sensible policies that apply to everyday people, i admire that.”

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20. sid said... on Aug 19, 2012 at 08:20AM

“Someone's gotta stand up for the oppressed. This young man is a revolutionary and this f...g country needs a revolution, like right now.”

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Bullhorn in hand, 34-year-old Diop Olugbala—the tall, thin, resolute leader of the Philadelphia chapter of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement and, as of Aug. 11, independent mayoral candidate—made it clear it wasn’t just happenstance that the corner of Broad and South streets was the gathering point last Saturday night for a protest against the city’s recently instituted youth curfew in Center City.