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Movin the Masses: Ramblings on political action in the Black Community

garveySome Thoughts on What Young Black Activists Should Consider In Creating a Successful Black Movement

Occupy Wall Street’s name is so popular now that it has entered pop culture lexicon and can be referred to by one name only as in “Occupy”, like “Prince” or “Drake”. This speaks volumes to its ability to gain attention and now to be scrutinized by corporate media. This moment that “Occupy” is still attempting itself to occupy speaks to a major breakthrough in the public conversation on uneven wealth distribution and the tactics to confront such. Tactical responses have already stretched the boundaries of the original theme, from worker strikes and port shut-downs on the west coast to adopting the “Take Back the Land” strategy of physically preventing foreclosures and evictions in other areas.

As Occupy continues to shape-shift the question for those intimately involved is what next? How do they create structure and leadership, radical strategic goals and public politics that will define them past this initial burst of action? One prudent piece of advice is to watch out for the Democratic Party and their associates bearing gifts. Ultimately, their goal is to reduce the militancy of Occupy and to squeeze out a few votes for moderate politicians. These politicians will mostly pretend at wanting to change the political and economic order but do little once elected to challenge real contradictions of class and race. Any alliance that is not well prepared will end in cooptation. Despite the impressive beginning of the mostly white-led left leaning groupings important decisions lay ahead on how to move forward and movement build.

wallstMany have questioned the lack of black support for the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) moment. The most clear answer I can give is that when black folks in mass are presented with a choice they ain't about to go sleep in no damn damp park. When for now some still got a roof over our heads. As acts of defiance go, we don’t view it as a visually appealing spectacle, sleeping in the park is identified as an act of desperation that happens when you are at the end of your economic rope. Sleeping tents are usually a valuable commodity at this stage. For black folks I don't think anyone has tried such a tactic on a mass scale since the Poor People's Campaign in 1968 that ended as Resurrection City, in an attempt to pass an economic bill of rights in the memory of Dr. King who was assassinated before being able to complete this campaign.

Last year while at Atlanta encampment there were plenty of black people in the park, they just weren't there by choice. Clearly at first both groups kept their eerie distance, except as a mutual curiosity piece. In my most cynical view it seemed that each side took stock of a possible attempt to engage in a quick hustle. The homeless look to see what the “liberal” park inhabitants would give up, while the OWS folks hope to get some media millage by cozying up to some real poor people.

The New Southern Strategy

Wednesday, 18 January 2012 09:20 Published in Community Organizing

Kamau Franklin has worked as a community activist for over fifteen years in New York City and is now based in the south. In addition to his work as an activist attorney, he is a leading member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM). An organization dedicated to human rights advocacy and building grassroots institutions in the black community. The organization works on various issues including youth development, fighting police misconduct, and creating sustainable urban communities. Kamau has helped develop community cop-watch programs, freedom school programs for youth and alternatives to incarceration programs. He recently moved to Jackson Mississippi to do political work, and he reflects on that move and its strategic implications in this piece. You can read more of Kamau’s thoughts on his Grassroots Thinking blog.

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About the Author

  • Kamau has worked as a community activist and attorney for over fifteen years in New York City and now in the south. He has been a leading member of several grassroots organizations dedicated to human rights advocacy and building grassroots institutions in the black community. Currently he is building a new organization named Amandla Training and Organizing Project. You can follow Kamau on twitter at @kamaufranklin.

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