#OccupyTheHood meets #OccupyBoston this Friday (10/21): Q&A with Roxbury Activist Jamarhl Crawford

Last 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 years.

Like 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 Community College.

Furthermore, 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.

When were you approached to go down to Occupy Boston?

I 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.

What were your observations on racial and ethnic diversity down there?

Diversity 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 yeah!'

What opportunities did you see at Occupy Boston?

I saw 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 disparities.

There seemed to be a big response to your call to occupy foreclosed homes in the black community. What exactly do you mean by that?

There's 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.

What should Occupy Boston activists consider if they want to attract communities of color?

They 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 population.

What can the black community bring to Occupy Boston?

On the 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 down.

What exactly is Occupy the Hood, as far as the specific actions are concerned?

Friday 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?'

Will this just be a one night thing?

No. 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.


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