In a first for the Occupy movement, Occupy Boston took to the ‘hood’ last night. Challenged by Jamarhl Crawford of the Blackstonian to show solidarity with people of color “who are the most affected by the conditions that Occupy Boston is protesting,” a crowd marched from the Occupy Boston encampment in the financial district to Dudley Square, the heart of Boston’s black community. Crawford, pointing to the lack of diversity in the Occupy movement, called protesters to bring the “energy, momentum, and attention of Occupy Boston to the issues of people of color in Boston and beyond.”
After the march, hundreds gathered in Dudley Square to hear Crawford and a dozen other speakers address unemployment, foreclosures, violence, incarceration, police brutality, and a host of other issues. The speakers, from ministers to schoolchildren, pointed to the disproportionate suffering of people of color in the current recession. Black-owned businesses, for example, are twice as likely to be denied credit and the unemployment rate for blacks is roughly twice that of the unemployment rate for whites. Residents of the neighborhood were challenged to shut down the local Bank of America branch (which has repeatedly refused loans to local businesses) by moving their money to small local banks (which have worked with local businesses to provide much-needed financing).
The crowd followed the rules of engagement set forth in the Blackstonian (“white people and other members of Occupy Boston will enter the community as SUPPORT ONLY” and “OB’ers will be under the direction and agenda of people/organizers of color”), held signs, and remained peaceful.
The event, an important first step, bridged a glaring gap in the Occupy movement. Organizers promised more to come. Referring to the gathering, Pastor Paris Cherry of the Love Movement Ministries commented, “We are living the dream MLK was talking about, people from the suburbs and inner cities marching together for the betterment of the people.”