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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In 2001, the then-23-year-old Olugbala attended InPDUM’s national conference in St. Petersburg and listened to Yeshitela speak. “That changed my life,” he says. “It gave me a way to understand every issue facing the black community in a much more holistic way.”

During a visit to Philadelphia last week, Yeshitela, 70, recalled the young Olugbala being committed to Uhuru from jump. “For a long time we’ve seen young black people stray from meaningful progressive political activism, but Diop was different,” says Yeshitela. “He was obviously passionate, deeply concerned about workers and African people. I was very impressed by him.”

With newfound belonging and purpose, Olugbala soon quit his union job to become a full-time organizer for InPDUM, which sent him to different cities to establish Uhuru chapters. Back in Brooklyn for a spell—where he was doing InPDUM work and rapping under the moniker “Africa’s Trigga”—Olugbala made news in the spring of 2004 when he led a protest against the police killing of unarmed 19-year-old Timothy Stansbury on the roof of the Louis Armstrong projects in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Stansbury, by all accounts a good kid who was taking a shortcut home across the roof of the projects, allegedly surprised a patrolman who shot him once in the chest. Though an NYPD investigation found “no justification” for the shooting, a grand jury ruled the incident an accident.

Bullhorn in hand, Olugbala led a contingent of outraged residents to the nearby 79th police precinct, where they demanded an end to rooftop patrols and that the city rename the stretch of street going past the projects “Timothy Stansbury Avenue.” The city acquiesced on both counts. “That was really significant, seeing that when you struggle sometimes you can win,” says Olugbala.

In 2007, InPDUM sent Olugbala to Philadelphia—a city, according to Yeshitela, that’s teeming with oppressed minorities and “has been scarred in its recent history by an atrocity committed against black people with the bombing of the MOVE house and the incineration of an entire community.”

Olugbala immediately got to work building up a chapter on Lancaster Avenue and leading small protests against the policies of Mayor Street, then Nutter. “Part of what I learned early on as an [InPDUM] organizer is the need to always agitate around issues,” says Olugbala.

Agitate he did. In December 2008, Olugbala barged into Nutter’s town-hall meeting at Ben Franklin High School to deliver a subpoena for an InPDUM tribunal charging Nutter and city officials with “crimes of genocide against the African community.” Nutter didn’t show up for the proceedings, where he was ulimately “convicted.” Two months later, Olugbala showed up to another town-hall meeting to hand Nutter the guilty verdict, which included demands for immediate reparations to black and Latino communities. He was thrown out by a civil affairs officer. The following month, Olugbala and other InPDUM members attended a City Council meeting where the mayor was unveiling his budget. Olugbala unfurled a sign that read “Throw Nutter in the Gutter” and he and others began shouting at the mayor. Olugbala says the same officer that tossed him from the town-hall meeting grabbed his sign and put him in a choke hold. A scuffle broke out, and Olugbala and another Uhuru member were arrested and charged with aggravated assault. Following a trial in August 2010, Olugbala was found guilty and sentenced to two years’ probation.

“I’m a political target of Nutter, [Police Commissioner Charles] Ramsey, and [District Attorney] Seth Williams,” Olugbala says of the conviction. “It reinforced my understanding that Philadelphia is being run by a triad of criminals.”

Also in late 2008, after leading a candlelight vigil to protest the shooting death of 14-year-old Shareef Jones in Frankford by a retired police officer who was working as a pizza delivery man—the PPD said Jones was trying to rob the ex-cop when the shooting occurred—Olugbala met Alberta “Nanny” Twyman, grandmother of Daniel Giddings, the 27-year-old paroled convict who gunned down Sgt. Patrick McDonald after a traffic stop before being killed by another officer.

Twyman denies that her grandson killed McDonald. “People told me it was other people with guns who got on a bus,” she says. “[Officers] told him seven days before they killed him that they were gonna kill him,” says the 68-year-old. “Nutter tried to make my grandson into a monster.”

Olugbala sympathized with Twyman, and made public statements doubting whether Giddings actually shot McDonald and suggesting that if he did, it was justified.

“Diop got a lot of death threats for that,” says Harris Daniels, 31, a longtime member of the African People’s Solidarity Committee (a group comprised of white Uhuru allies like himself) and press secretary for the Olugbala campaign. “But we’re not going to stop standing up for the black community, regardless of how unpopular that might be.”

“I stand by everything I said [about Giddings],” says Olugbala.

Olugbala and Twyman developed such a bond that Olugbala has been living at her Germantown house for the past three years. “He’s a strong, hardworking young man,” Twyman says proudly. “He stays up late at night. I can hear the pitter-patter back and forth upstairs all night long.”

But aside from the polarizing nature of his politics, life in Philly hasn’t exactly been easy for Olugbala. He says he hasn’t received “one penny” from the Uhuru movement for his decade of work. “It’s not as if I’m on some salary for being a grassroots organizer,” he says. “I knew that going in. They don’t really have the resources to provide me with a stipend.”

Instead, he’s relied on the generosity of others, as well as a monthly welfare check and food stamps. He says it’s enough to survive.

“I get welfare, I get food stamps, I have four children and they’re taken care of,” says Olugbala. “I keep it real. People want to know that you’ve experienced the same struggle they do.”

“I live this,” he says. “That’s why I have an interest in the realization of my program, not only for myself but my family and my neighbors and my people. Michael Nutter does not live this. He doesn’t understand.”

On a recent Monday night, Olugbala, Daniels and about eight supporters were packed into a tiny Africana shop on Lehigh Avenue in North Philly for a campaign strategy session. Everyone listened as independent political consultant Earl O’Neal—up from D.C. for the meeting—delivered a PowerPoint presentation demonstrating, he explained, just how vulnerable Nutter really is.

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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.

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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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