“Uhuru is moderate,” says 51-year-old Louis Fornwald, a white man whose wife is black. “We honestly just try to work for justice and bring people together.” The Fornwalds’ son Milo was shot and killed by a PPD officer in South Philly in 2003 when police tried to apprehend the 20-year-old after an alleged drug deal. Fornwald—who says his son was innocent and provides a PPD memo stating that the officer who shot his son “did not discharge firearm according to departmental policy”—got involved with the Uhuru movement after they showed up to protest the killing.
Fornwald says Uhuru is considered extremist because, “you know Philly—it’s kind of a prejudiced town, and any kind of group like this is ‘scary.’” A perception that definitely spells trouble for the Olugbala campaign. “People find out he’s with Uhuru, it sets off the scary meter and he might as well be in the New Black Panthers,” says Fornwald.
For his part, Olugbala insists that if he wins the election, he’ll be everybody’s mayor. “I make no apologies for saying that I represent the historically oppressed black and Latino communities in the city. But I also see it’s in the interests of everyone in the city—white, black or whatever—to unite with the struggle to empower the disadvantaged,” he says.
“Why would it be such a threatening thing to a rich white lady who lives in Rittenhouse Square for me to demand economic development and the opportunity for others to enjoy the same comfort of living that she does?” he adds.
“When black people say, ‘We want self-determination and we have to have economic development,’ for some strange reason sometimes that makes white people feel like, ‘Well, that means you’re going to do something to me,’” says Waller, the campaign manager. “We never say we’re going to do something to you. We say, ‘This is what our community needs.’ Why should that scare you?”
Back outside City Hall, Olugbala says that the only thing that scares him is four more years of Nutter. “If we allow him to get in there again,” he says, nodding toward the building, “we can expect a lot worse than what we’re getting right now.”
“We need an alternative,” he says. “Someone who’s really going to serve the people.”
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.