Several hundred marchers came from Brownsville to Wall Street last Saturday to protest the result of economic inequities and to speak on the many connections between the targets of the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the situation of African-Americans.
Not forgotten is that the 1% got to be the 1% by first stealing the labor of African-American ancestors and using it as “starter capital” to clear the land, build the roads, and plant and harvest the crops. To load ships with slave-produced goods, and then use the unloaded ballast as cobblestones on New York streets.
The march was organized and led by Mr. A. T. Mitchell and his community empowerment organization, Man Up!, known for working in the hard world where the results of economic violence are everyday affairs and where and the people were saying they were sick of it. “This is where the money we spend every day ends up. We’re tired of people misusing our tax dollars,” said Mr. Mitchell. “This city is the largest city in the world. There is no reason why we don’t have jobs and programs and services for our young people. If you want to make some investments, invest in these young people right here.”
Speaking of the financial elites, National Action Network Executive Director Tamika Mallory said that the reason the communities lacks the resources, and “make no mistake about it,” is that “they do not care. We have to show them that we care,” and wake up the rest of the community. “These people are where they are, in high places with our money, because they are organized. We have to get organized.”
City Councilman Charles Barron said that the killers of Zurana Horton have been caught, but one of those who the Councilman said are “still on the loose” is Mayor Bloomberg. As an example of the mayor’s priorities, he says, “Mayor Bloomberg gave $200 million to a white group in Brooklyn to build a theater for Shakespeare.” Barron suggests instead the mayor should, “build us a youth center in Brownsville and name it after Zurana Horton. It would only cost $20 million.”
One of the mothers who had lost a child offered that, “We have to stop allowing ourselves to be used. We are just numbers to them. We have to say give us the funding and we will take care of our situation. Instead, they use these dummy organizations with people who do not know us, do not care about us and give them the funding.”
Ms. Williams of the nonprofit Not Another Child, who lost her own son to gun violence, told the assembly, “We can’t bring our babies back but we can do what we can to make tomorrow better.” Ms. Williams’ son was killed in August 2008 and she said, “If we had summer youth opportunities, if we had jobs and resources, this 15-year-old would not have been able to pull the trigger that killed my child.”
Referring to the two coffins that symbolized lives lost to violence a speaker said, “We bring the casualties of the economic system that is devastating our communities more than the little black boys and little brown boys in our neighborhoods. It is a government that always runs out of money when it’s time for health care programs, but always has money for things that kill. How does that work? Why is it my government has millions upon billions to drop bombs on black and brown people throughout the world, but they don’t have the millions and billions to invest in the education of our kids? That question is why we are here.”
The marchers from Brownsville had come across the Brooklyn Bridge, passed south of the African Burial Ground and went down Broadway past the Zuccotti Park encampment, and on to 25 Broadway, across from that very apt symbol of market capitalism, the tourist-surrounded and police-protected, Raging Bull sculpture.
They had gone past Zucotti Park and I saw no one join in, as though to say that the battle of the bottom stratum of the 99% is their own lookout. And even though the target is the same, for the white 99%ers we see gathered in the park, the reaction is to losing their share of an “American Dream” that had been created by unpaid labor and held in place by a relentless low-intensity ethnic warfare. So no, no one joined in. It wasn’t their concern.
If those 99%ers took a moment, they might look at the economic situation of African-Americans as a miner looks at a canary in a mineshaft and perhaps see what the 1% has in store for them. Although the recent use of pepper spray on young white girls and the serious wounding of an Iraq war veteran by police using flash bang grenades is opening their eyes.
And where once manual labor was in demand, now cheap labor is what’s called for. And now with the efficiencies of global networks, labor of all kinds, formerly middleclass labor, can be shopped for around the world like buying cloth. And the closest capital can come to using slave labor, in whatever job category, the better it is for capital. Witness the explosion of Indonesia, Thailand and China as manufacturing centers. And of course behemoth companies need fewer and fewer people, to handle more and more business, as shown by Bank of America laying off 30,000 and is no less efficient.
Now the occupiers of Wall Street have found that real hard times could happen to them. That they can be trapped before life even starts for them. They look at debt and see no future. No path to a better life than their parents. Subject to a government that is not their friend. Not to have control of their lives and subject to arrest and brutality. Welcome to Brownsville.
I hope that on the two-week march to Washington that some of the occupiers began Wednesday the 9th, they will find their way to the Brownsvilles along the route-because if there isn’t a coming together now, we will all be in that Brownsville state of mind.