Black activists within Occupy Philly have created a People of Color Committee largely because of (surprise!) differing views on the movement.
Pan-African Channel Andrews, a Philly native and activist who has been watching Occupy Philly from the outside while studying law at Barry University in Orlando, Fla., says the PCC was created, in part, because some organizers of Occupy Philly continue to buy “Mayor Nutter’s lies.” She says Nutter is taking advantage of the movement for his own political gain and that Occupy “need[s] to make demands to him and not just take pics with him.”
“Nutter is clearly using them … Nutter is the Wall Street of Philly,” she continues, adding that the racial disconnect extends beyond the Mayor’s Office “pretending” to care about Occupiers. “He’s done more damage to the people of Philly than Wall Street.”
She points to Occupy’s internal racial conflicts. “For white people or middle-class people, they’re just feeling the recession. It’s not because of the recession for us,” she says.
Andrews says that the formation of the PCC was inevitable after some supposed Occupiers called two black women—who were supporting Occupy—“niggers” because they had a black-only meeting on Saturday.
According to a post on the blog Complex Brown: “Saturday, two sisters were called Niggers by two of the volunteers at Occupy Philadelphia at the cell-phone charging stations. They were also told to go back to Africa, and that each white man should own a slave. When the sista’s called security, security asked them to leave the premises because they thought they were apart of the UHURU movement. Even if they were a part of that movement, they should not have been asked to leave. Especially without any mention of their verbal and spiritual abuse. So a small collective formed a drummer’s circle on Sunday and started a rally, only to be met with on-lookers who didn’t understand why there was a Pan-African flag at an “American” event. We were called racist … When we circled up to come up with a constructive way to address the people, we were constantly interrupted by white people who could not respect our safe space. These people said that it was a public space, and we couldn’t have a group that excluded them. Why is it when black people want to get together to work out our issues in our community we are called out? … We spoke out about RACISM IN THE 99 percent.”
PW can’t corroborate these allegations, but at this point it doesn’t matter what served as the catalyst for the formation of the People of Color Committee. Obviously, people of color here feel compelled to make their voices heard. And it has little to do with PW, contrary to what one Occupier told City Paper early Tuesday. Apparently, the protester said that the city’s alternative weeklies are “sleazy,” and alleged that we’re trying to “divide” their movement by calling out possible racial tension. You (Occupiers) may be upset that alleged tension in your movement may be undermining your goals, but to suggest that we somehow caused or created it makes you no better than every other knee-jerk American who blames the media for their problems.
Class will likely remain the common denominator in the Occupy movement, but ignoring the issue of race is insulting to all people of color.
The Occupy movements on Wall Street, in Philly and in most other cities lack any clear leader, and the division in Philly demonstrates what could become of an already complicated movement if a leader does not step up to unify Occupiers. Its current model, in which decisions are agreed by a general consensus, creates a inevitable minority, and neglecting to put a singular face to the movement could foreshadow its possible demise.
“Blacks say, ‘Should we join this? Do we want to be identified by this?’ Andrews says. “Blacks have been the 99 percent forever—since we’ve been in America. So we don’t identify with the same reasons. Solidarity is important, people should support each other. But it’s not just about class for us.”
Visit us at our news & political blog PhillyNow for ongoing coverage of Occupy Philly.