by Ann Coleman
Dudley Square in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston was transformed on the evening of October 21, 2011 into an open-air public forum for the area’s predominately Black and Latino residents. The meeting, called Occupy the Hood, included speeches and messages of solidarity with Occupy Boston from the more than 400 people gathered in the public park.
Lauryn Hill and Public Enemy blasted from the speakers mounted on a white pick-up truck, welcoming residents of the neighborhood and supporters from campuses and neighborhoods across the city. At 6pm a group of more than thirty people arrived chanting, “Occupy the Hood! We’re Spreading Something Good!” These supporters marched almost three miles from the Dewey Square encampment in Boston’s financial district to what has been described as one of Boston’s hardest hit neighborhoods of the economic crisis.
For more than three hours, Jamarhl Crawford, editor and publisher of The Blackstonian, emceed a list of list of community organizers, ministers, teachers, students, and workers of color. The speakers articulated issues many racially segregated neighborhoods face including unemployment, the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) program, police brutality, foreclosures, lack of diversity in city government, lack of educational opportunity, racial profiling, redistricting, budget cuts, housing, human services, civic engagement, and racism.
On October 17th Crawford and other organizers of Occupy the Hood had publicly launched the vision to bring Occupy Boston residents and supporters to the Black, Latino, and Cape Verdean communities of Boston. Four days later, college students from Tufts University, UMass Boston, Roxbury Community College, and Brandeis sat in Dudley Square, listening to seasoned community organizers and activists share their experiences fighting for social and economic justice.
Aside from the call raised by The Blackstonian, most attendees learned about Occupy the Hood through outreach efforts by the Union of Minority Neighborhoods, Mass Uniting, Jobs With Justice, City Life/Vida Urbana, Alternatives for Community Environment, and the ACLU.
Lovely Hoffman, a teacher at Smith Leadership Academy and organizer with City Life/Vida Urbana introduced several eleven and twelve year old community leaders that spoke directly about their desire to feel safe going to school and to end homelessness and poverty.
Tony Van Der Meer, a professor of American Studies at UMass Boston, spoke of leadership, the redistricting of voting precincts, and the impact redistricting has on under representation in city, state and federal governmental structures. “Leadership is when you take initiative on behalf of shared values. One of our shared values we have is our humanity.”
Van Der Meer put forward the idea of a city-wide people’s assembly led by the citizens of Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan to take up the structural inequality in our city and national political system. “If we don’t change the structure, then we don’t get any change….We can have black politicians and still have oppression.”
Fernando Rodriguez with El Movimiento – The Movement for Ethnic Studies in Boston Public Schools, spoke about inequality in education where the “text books teach us about the history of the 1%.” He asked the crowd, “Where is the education about the 99%?”
Several of the speakers spoke about the need to organize for tomorrow and build support for the issues in other neighborhoods. If this first speak out is any sign, Occupy the Hood and Occupy Boston can build support outside of mainstream press coverage. As Jason Latson of Roxbury explained, “I didn’t know anything about Occupy Boston before tonight. I heard a lot of chanting in the neighborhood and decided to come out to see what was going on. I think this is a wake up call for everybody to stand up for equality for all people from all walks of life. Our common enemy is injustice.”
Occupy the Hood is sponsoring Boston’s response to the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality on Saturday, October 22nd at noon. The rally and march will start at the Southwest Corridor Park between the Roxbury Crossing T-stop and the Ruggles T-stop at the Boston Police Department Headquarters.
For more information about Occupy The Hood: email@example.com