Commentary: Is Occupy Wall Street Sending Us a Message?

Commentary: Is Occupy Wall Street Sending Us a Message?

The Occupy Wall Street movement challenges African-Americans to press for change.

Published October 19, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street protests have captivated the nation as young people inspire us to take a good, hard look at financial practices and economic policies that are deepening the divide between the “haves” and “have-nots.”


The movement urges the so-called 99 percent to challenge the so-called 1 percent to make the capitalist system more equitable for all. The 9.1 percent overall unemployment rate has added fuel to the fire.


But the jobless rate, however deplorable it may be for the masses, is at levels African-Americans have been living with for at least a decade. For Blacks, it currently stands at 16 percent. So where is the picketing? Where are the marchers? And where is the movement to affect positive change in a community that carries the heaviest unemployment burden?


Rev. Lennox Yearwood, President of the Hip Hop Caucus, places at least part of the blame on the typical organizations that represent Black people.


“The traditional Black civil rights communities and church communities have lost their connection with the people," Yearwood said. "This is a paradigm shift. The Occupy Movement signals a shifting away from traditional mechanisms of civil disobedience.”


As the more well-known civil rights groups have become more mainstream, some are questioning whether their newfound relationships with huge companies and corporate donors have tamed their voices and influenced their effectiveness.


Yearwood said, “I think a lot of our institutions have to take stock about whether they are willing to attack the source of the problems. Are they willing to take on corporate greed and say that the 99 percent are suffering? Or are they not ready yet to take on these issues?


Have African-Americans, even in their suffering, become too comfortable to stand up and make demands? Rev. Yearwood says that's precisely the issue.


“This has revealed something that we must deal with. We must ask ourselves: Did we become comfortable when banks were foreclosing on our people? Why did we not throw ourselves in the gears of the machine to stop this from happening?” said Yearwood. “This is no game, this is a situation and we as leaders, churches, and mosques need to ask, could we have done more?”

Written by Andre Showell


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