Occupy Wall Street wants to represent the “99 percent.” But if you’ve been down to observe the goings-on at Zuccotti Park, you’ll have noticed that the majority of participants are white, which — at the risk of sounding obvious! — does not represent 99 percent of the U.S. population. Now, labor unions are in on the act repping more working-class minorities, but that isn’t reflected in the makeup of the Zuccotti campers.
In response to OWS’s crunchy white image, two activist friends based in Detroit and New York have started a sub-movement called Occupy the Hood, which is focused on bringing minorities into the protest. On Facebook, the group’s page reads:
We are The Least Represented
We are Among The Ignored
We are Among The Unemployed
We are Considered The Under Educated
We are Considered The Minority
We are The Consumers
But most importantly WE ARE THE HOOD!!
The neighborHOODs is where the hearts of the people are. Our homes, our parks, our selves. It is in our best interest to have all abled voices heard to bring forth a peaceful solution in this world we have been given. There are millions of people that are effected by the Wall Street crisis. The questionable, unethical activities downtown Manhattan… and in Corporate America directly effects our economic struggles and the future of all business and personal endeavors.
Occupy the Hood is the brainchild of Malik Rhasaan, a construction worker and father of three from South Jamaica, Queens. He went down to Occupy Wall Street near the beginning and liked it, but “I noticed there isn’t a strong black and Latino presence, or a strong Asian presence for that matter,” he said. “I realized a lot of people just don’t know about it.”
He brought on his friend in Detroit, Ife Johari Uhuru, a stylist specializing in natural hair and mother of two boys. She’s a longtime community activist. The two know each other through the Internet. Uhuru and Rhasaan are running OTH, which is for all intents and purposes an awareness campaign to get people of color involved, as Rhasaan stressed: “People don’t know why Wall Street affects them. It affects us the most when we’re not knowledgeable about it.”
Strategically, Occupy the Hood doesn’t want to separate itself from Occupy Wall Street. But the leaders say that minority concerns are often left out of the OWS discussion. “I see Occupy Wall Street putting forth demands and a lot of times those demands don’t speak to the 99% that we all claim to be,” Uhuru said. “Some people can’t speak for certain people.”
We just heard about Occupy the Hood today through Twitter, which the leaders have been using to spread their message over the last two weeks. And the message has apparently started to blow up in recent days; Uhuru said she fields calls from every major city in the country and recently heard from California congresswoman Maxine Waters. According to Rhasaan, who was down at Zuccotti when we spoke, he’s been bringing in people off the street every day, and noticing Occupy the Hood’s influence in other ways.
“There are white kids out here holding signs saying ‘Occupy the Hood,'” he said. “It’s a family thing.”