Tuesday, Roxbury rabble-rouser Jamarhl Crawford finally addressed the
Occupy Boston General Assembly (GA). Indeed, it seemed only a matter
of time before the Blackstonian editor became attracted to the
momentum on Dewey Square; the crowd downtown is screaming for many –
if not all – of the same issues that he's been mobilizing on for
many of the Occupy legionnaires, Crawford is skeptical of authority figures.
More specifically, he's one of the few outspoken critics of Boston
Police Department behavior, recently coordinating actions in response
to Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley's controversial
findings on the 2010 arrest of a 16-year-old male at Roxbury
Crawford tends to draw ire from the same conservative hemorrhoids
that are up in Occupy's ass. Which is why there's already been a
flurry of online swipes – some tongue-in-cheek, others downright
racist – since he announced official plans to Occupy the Hood on
Friday night in Dudley Square.
Similarities aside, Occupy Boston and Occupy the Hood need more than just common enemies if they plan to coalesce. There's been a lot of talk
about diversifying camps here and elsewhere, but what will it take
for that to really happen? We asked Crawford what the “'hood” can
bring to the budding Occupy movement, in Boston and beyond, and what
communities of color should expect in return.
were you approached to go down to Occupy Boston?
wasn't approached. Initially I had no plans of going down there
because nothing was speaking to me, but I finally did after much
trepidation, and after people I know and trust went down and reported
positive things back to me.
were your observations on racial and ethnic diversity down there?
was almost non-existent. On top of that everyone was being too polite
– no one was saying what they really think. The polite
conversations have gotten us nowhere – they've gotten us to
assimilation, co-optation, and infiltration. If white people are
truly sincere about wanting us to be a part of this, then they have
to be willing to endorse whatever it is that we do – without
judgement, and without suggestions about how the actions should take
shape. They can either come as observers, or as supporters – that's
fine either way. They don't have to come silently, though, because
when we say, 'Can you feel that?' – we want them to say, 'Fuck
opportunities did you see at Occupy Boston?
the clusterfuck, but I also saw that this moment was pregnant with
potential. A lot of people didn't know what was going on as far as
issues that I'm concerned about, but when I expressed what I thought
would be some good moves, they listened, and they seemed to like the
idea that they should do something in communities of color. Like I
said, they need to be in support of current organizational efforts
that are already pre-existing, because people have been doing this
work for years, on everything from police brutality to educational
seemed to be a big response to your call to occupy foreclosed homes
in the black community. What exactly do you mean by that?
a list of foreclosed homes, and a lot of those homes are concentrated
in the black community, where there's been a huge impact – whole
streets are condemned. If [Occupy Boston] wants to do something in
communities of color – I said that they should occupy some of these
spots. Because if anybody's getting fucked, we're getting fucked the
worst. Our mortgage loans are higher, and we get foreclosed on at a
higher rate. On top of that, we have to deal with having all these
abandoned homes in our communities. Some of the foreclosed houses
were the nicest homes on their street, and now they're overgrown and
disregarded. I wish the banks maintained their properties, since they
have more money than the people who used to live there. But they
don't, and now foreclosures are the new crackhouses – the most
fucked up homes on the street. These banks take no ownership, they
don't cut the grass, and as a result the whole neighborhood is more
susceptible to break-ins, fires, and you name it. It's a problem.
should Occupy Boston activists consider if they want to attract
communities of color?
should think about what it's like for a dude like me – from the
'hood, with the experience that I have – listening to a 24-year-old
white kid talking about being brutalized by the police when they
started arresting people [on the Rose Kennedy Greenway]. Did any of
them get killed? No. But where I'm from people really do get
brutalized and killed by police. I hear what they're talking about,
but it's a different level of shit. They need to realize that no
matter what issue they're worried about, my people probably suffer
from it at an exponentially higher rate than the rest of the
can the black community bring to Occupy Boston?
community end, a lot of people who are on board have already been
working on these issues. They've been organizing in the 'hood.
Together, we're going to continue to organize, and hopefully this is
the time for us to find common ground and use our momentum to show
people that the entire world is tired of the shit that's been going
exactly is Occupy the Hood, as far as the specific actions are
night you'll see a community speak-out with multiple organizations
and individuals who will speak to their own issues – the issues
they know best. I'll also have politicians there – that's something
I haven't seen much of [at Occupy Boston]. As long as you have a
legitimate issue, a track record, and have been working on that
issue, then rock on – please. People have been asking, 'What's it
going to be?' And we've been asking them, 'What are you going to do
when you get there?'
this just be a one night thing?
We've already been doing this work, and we'll continue doing more of
it in the future. Moving forward with Occupy the Hood, though, I
promise that a lot of people will be surprised by the places we
decide to show up and occupy.