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Dispatches from Dewey Square: What is Occupy the Hood?

Posted by Alex Pearlman  November 4, 2011 06:22 PM

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occupythehoodboston.jpgBy Max Chalkin

Occupiers agree: Corporate greed harms the people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, who are, by and large, minorities -- and yet the Occupy movement is eerily devoid of color. Enter Occupy the Hood: Based out of Dudley Square, Occupy the Hood’s Boston rallies have drawn large crowds from the Latino, Black, and Cape Verdean communities of Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester, in solidarity with the grievances, spirit, and goals of Occupy Boston.

Tabias Wilson is a Tufts University sociology major with a focus in critical race theory. He is president of the Tufts Pan-African Alliance and a member of the People of Color Working Group, an informal Occupy Boston Working Group, and the Tufts Occupiers. On Oct. 21, Wilson went to Dudley Square for that evening’s Occupy the Hood Boston event. The following is his account of that rally and the OTHB movement.

***

The headline for the Oct. 21 rally read, “Occupy the Hood: Black-upy Boston -- Black, Latino, Cape Verdean.” I expected a boisterous crowd of black and brown faces. However, the rally that night was much more diverse than the flier led me to believe.

While most faces in the crowd were undoubtedly residents of the Roxbury-Dorchester-Mattapan area, there were a great deal of outsiders from Occupy Boston, Tufts, BU, MIT, and other unexpected places. For those ‘outsiders’ who took the T to Dudley Square that night, the OTHB rally was an eye-opening experience. For residents of the neighborhoods surrounding Dudley, this was a chance to show the rest of the 99 percenters the strength of their community.

From the 5-year-old girl who was angry about gun violence to the 75-year-old civil rights veteran, people were fired up. The latter -- a self-described “survivor” who “knows a thing or two about social change” -- drew a raucous response from the crowd when he announced that he would die fighting for equal opportunities for inner city residents. The overarching message from all protestors was that the issues raised by Occupy Boston are felt disproportionately in the Black, Latino, and Cape Verdean communities around Dudley Square.

Much has been said about the lack of “color” within the Occupy Movement, and Occupy the Hood stands as a constant reminder that people of color in the inner city neighborhoods of America are engaged and invigorated. The Dudley Square rally, too, showed that there can be “nothing about us, without us.” The strength of the Occupy movement will rise and fall with its ability to truly represent the 99 percent in a way that resonates with policymakers and business leaders, including those who have not traditionally been sympathetic to inner city issues.

While Occupy the Hood Boston stands in solidarity in with Occupy Boston, it isn’t waiting around for the larger group to take up its cause: OTHB is taking the lead on issues that disproportionately affect Bostonians of color, reaching out to other concerned individuals and organizations, and advocating for social change in the communities around Dudley Square. Still, Occupy the Hood is as much concerned with local issues as it is with national ones; for example, low graduations rates in inner-city Boston have been a focal point for protesters.

Compared to Occupy Boston, which relies on hand signal and consensus-based process, Occupy the Hood is a bit more reminiscent of the organizational structure of the Civil Rights Movement, but without a MLK- or Malcolm X-esque figure at the forefront. Any member can propose an action, and those who agree form a “Coalition of the Willing” and take direct action. Whereas participants at Dewey Square must be on stack and use hand signals for the chance to be heard, OTHB participants need only to rise and speak. This freewheeling nature of Occupy the Hood allows for vigorous debate and unrestrained free speech, if only participants have the fortitude to speak out.

Despite those differences, it should be noted that both groups are essentially fighting for the same thing, each using the strength of its collective voice to create awareness of social and economic injustice in Boston. Occupy the Hood Boston is simply the group representing the people most grossly affected.

Max Chalkin is spending time "in the trenches" at Occupy Boston, speaking with occupiers, attending general assemblies and marches, and learning what camp life is like. His thoughts and observations will be published twice each week as TNGG Boston's “Dispatches from Dewey Square” series.

Photo by Bob Jagendorf (Flickr)

About Max -- Max Chalkin is a recent graduate of Tufts University and is currently working in biotech marketing. His interests include entrepreneurship, technology, politics, food, and nightlife. He is an avid photographer, cook, and scuba diver.

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