Last fall, the Occupy Wall Street movement gripped the world as activists, organizers and plain frustrated folks of all stripes took to the streets and parks of cities everywhere in a strikingly visual demand for change. But the optics of the movement also sparked an ongoing, often difficult discussion over the role people of color have played and should play within the movement. It’s a conversation that will surely remain a core part of the discussion when, as expected, Occupy actions and protests re-emerge with vigor this spring and summer.
So in two-part video series, we’ve asked people of color who are participating in and helping to shape the Occupy movement about their experiences. It’s important to stress, of course, that the movement for economic justice amid this crippling recession is an old one that has for years been led by the communities of color most impacted by it. That work has and will continue. But where do people of color fit within the context of the Occupy movement specifically? And beyond diversity, has the movement embraced a racial justice agenda?
In this short video, shot primarily during the fall 2011 heat of Occupy Wall Street, Colorlines.com’s Monica Novoa hits the streets to speak with various activists who stepped into the Occupy movement in an effort to bring race to the forefront of the discussion there. Participants in OWS’s People of Color Working Group and the Occupy the Hood movement discuss what they saw as OWS’s initial “post-racial” attitude toward the economic crisis and how white privilege may have impacted the movement’s development and sustainability. They also describe how racial justice activists have addressed those concerns and the need for continued work within the Occupy movement.
Next week, we’ll publish a second video that asks similar questions of people of color inside the Occupy Oakland movement, where police reaction to the movement has perhaps been the most dangerous and where communities of color have fought fatally with the police state for many years. Check out more coverage of OWS and racial justice from Colorlines.com.
Also, Colorlines.com and our publisher the Applied Research Center are deeply invested in leveraging young people’s leadership and activism in racial justice. We’re currently researching what motivates 18- to 30-year-olds to action around social justice movements and organizations, and we’re holding focus groups nationwide. Our next focus group is for OWS organizers in New York City on Friday, March 16th at 11am, and we’re looking for participants. If you’re an activist in Occupy Wall Street, and want to share stories about the racial justice dimensions of your organizing, sign up now.
Video produced by David Zlutnick.
Created by Nayantara Sen, S. Leigh Thompson, and Monica Novoa.
Additional OWS footage courtesy of Meerkat Media Collective.
This post has been updated since publication.