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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Up came the election results from the 2007 and 2011 Democratic primaries, broken down by ward, showing significant drops in total votes Nutter received in numerous pockets of the city this year compared with four years ago. O’Neal says the numbers suggest voters refused to back Nutter out of dissatisfaction with the way he’s handled his job.

“If there was a better candidate [than Milton Street] they would have won,” O’Neal asserts, urging Olugbala to focus campaign efforts in Philly’s disaffected minority neighborhoods.

“Nutter’s strategy is to make this a nonelection,” says Chimurenga Waller, the 60-year-old Olugbala campaign manager (and younger brother of Omali Yeshitela), who’s up from St. Petersburg. “What he’s trying to do is keep a 15 percent turnout. If he does that, he wins the election ... But if you energize voters, you can create a different outcome as long as you have an incumbent who’s coasting.”

“I’m hearing quite a lot of anti-Nutter sentiment out on the street,” he adds, “but I don’t know whether or not that’s gonna translate into votes.”

Out on the campaign trail, reaction to Olugbala’s appearances, speeches and fliers has ranged from agreement to amusement to bewilderment to outrage.

In August, when he led some 60 supporters on a spirited nighttime march down South Street to protest the curfew instituted to combat youth mob violence—sandwiched between speeches where he called Nutter, Ramsey and Williams the “Uncle Tom trio” and characterized youth engaging in violence as “freedom fighters”—he garnered both smiles and scowls, cheers and middle fingers.

Midday one afternoon at Dilworth Plaza next to City Hall—where Olugbala was a regular presence until Occupy Philly took over the space—a few curious people stopped as he railed against the PPD while his supporters held signs reading “Phila Police Are The Flash Mob” and the campaign mantra, “Economic Development Not Police Containment.” A nearby bike messenger nodded his head, but one older white man in a suit, handed a flier by one of Olugbala’s supporters, listened for a few minutes with his mouth agape, crumpled up the flier, threw it on the ground and stormed off, muttering, “This guy’s a fucking nut.”

And outside a church in Grays Ferry one recent warm night, where he was hosting a youth conference—attended by about 40 people—designed for kids to express their concerns about the curfew and the education system, Olugbala presented his stump speech focusing on Nutter’s “racist and Draconian” curfew (a perspective recently adopted by Philadelphia’s Green Party, which calls the curfew “the new Jim Crow”) and stop-and-frisk policy. Many applauded loudly, but an older black man named Wally stood up, announced that he was a Nutter supporter, and said that he had no problem being stopped at random by police if that meant a safer city. “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry about,” the man insisted.

“I seriously doubt he’s ever been stopped by the police in South Philly,” Olugbala says afterward. “Not only is there a problem with being stopped illegally by the police for stop-and-frisk, any interaction with the police can result in death. That’s real for black people in this city.”

“Stop-and-frisk doesn’t even work,” Olugbala continues, citing the federal class-action lawsuit filed against the city last year by the ACLU on behalf of eight black and Latino Philadelphia men who claimed they were stopped and frisked based solely on their race. The suit, which was settled out of court in June, revealed PPD data showing that “of all of the 2009 [stop-and-frisk] stops, only 8.4 percent led to an arrest, and the majority of these arrests were for alleged criminal conduct that was entirely independent from the supposed reason for the stop and/or frisk in the first place.”

“They know it doesn’t work, and yet they continue to spend hundreds of millions on all these cops just to harrass us ... when they should be pouring that money into economic development for our community instead,” says Olugbala. “If that’s not racist, I don’t know what is.”

Nutter bristles at that accusation. “We go after criminals regardless of color,” he tells PW. “We deploy our police based on where crime is, not based upon the race of people in a neighborhood.”

Sheila Simmons, director of communications for the Nutter for Mayor campaign, flatly rejects Olugbala’s assertion that Nutter doesn’t care about the city’s minorities. “The mayor believes that almost everything he works on and pushes forward seeks to positively impact the lives of people of color and those who are poor,” she says.

Simmons brings up the mayor’s 2010 “Inclusion Works” program, which, among other things, has allocated funds for a 25 percent increase in the number of minority-, women- and disabled-owned businesses in Philly by the end of 2011, and mandated that participation for the same group in city contracts must increase from last year’s rate of 18 percent to a goal of at least 25 percent (those groups were awarded $214 million, or 22.4 percent, of the total $956 million in city contracts in 2010).

She also touts Nutter’s “Way To Work Philadelphia!” youth job-creation program; his reconstituted Mayor’s Commission on African-American Males; the $1 million put into the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy; and several new low-income housing developments, markets and business sites planned or currently under construction in disadvantaged areas of the city that would also provide jobs for those areas.

“To put forth a Band-Aid and pretend that’s some kind of cure, that’s not positive,” Olugbala counters. He believes the massive redistribution of funds from the police budget to disadvantaged communities—in the form of business grants, residential and commercial development, and increased social services—is the ultimate cure for poverty, unemployment, crime and Philly’s other crippling ills.

But to some who’ve caught wind of his platform, Olugbala is simply too radical: Eviscerating the police budget. Instituting total community control of the police force. Creating a community school board with the power to hire and fire teachers. All but eliminating the city’s charter schools. Boosting taxes on the rich to help feed the poor. All of this reinforced by his belief in the Uhuru principles and tactics.

“He and I have some common ground, we do need to give more resources to disadvantaged neighborhoods,” says Karen Brown, the Republican challenger. “But [Olugbala] goes way too far. We need more police on the street, not less.”

“What’s radical about demanding economic development for a community as opposed to flooding a community with a standing army called the police?” Olugbala asks.

On a recent Saturday afternoon in West Philly’s Clark Park—site of the popular, long-running monthly flea market that exists as a Uhuru fundraising venture—some of the movement’s supporters downplayed the group’s extremist reputation as Olugbala walked around shaking hands and handing out campaign fliers.

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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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Mayoral Candidate Diop Olugbala Leads Anti-Curfew Campaign
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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.