Real Talk Q&A: Jeff Johnson Talks Occupy Movement and Black Folks
1 year ago
Does the Occupy Movement have our best interest at heart?
Protestors might have been evicted from New York City’s Zuccotti Park last week, but participants in the Occupy Movement are still making noise all over the world, from Oakland to Washington DC to Cape Town. While on the street accounts say that many of the occupations are short on a Black presence, a poll from NBC News/Wall Street Journal/TheGriot.com found that we support the movement more than the general population; 45% of Blacks have a positive view of the protests, versus 32% of all Americans. But does the Occupy Movement have our best interest at heart? We asked expert organizer Jeff Johnson, Chairman and CEO of the Jeff Johnson Institute for Urban Development, in this, the first of our Real Talk Q&As:
Loop 21: What is the mission of the Occupy Movement as you understand it?
Jeff Johnson: The mission of the Occupy Movement, as I see it, is for regular citizens, those that view themselves as people that want the best America possible, for the most amount of people possible, are protesting what they view to be control of not only the economy and finances, but power in many cases by the 1%.
Loop 21: How does this mission account for the needs of the African-American community?
Johnson: I think in a general way, those that are occupying fundamentally and symbolically represent fighting against a power structure that rules over most of us. And so if we were to say that African Americas are part of most of American people, I think we would say yes. I think in a more specific way, there isn’t a direct benefit for African Americans. But that’s only because I don’t think Occupy has been very specific with what they want to change. And until that happens, until there is a fundamental pragmatic and focused outcome that they’re fighting for, we won’t really know who Occupy is actually benefiting. And I think that there are those that want that sooner, rather than later, and I think I was initially was one of those people, but in hindsight, I think that the Occupy Movement, whether it’s Occupy Wall Street, or whether it’s Occupy Oakland, or whether it’s Occupy Minneapolis, has provided a space for people to become part of a movement that’s yet to be defined. And I think the potential in that is great, because right now, there’s nothing for these folks to argue about. They’re all there under the guise that we know that there is a power structure in place that is holding the majority of the American people in a place of oppression. And that’s what folks are agreeing upon. So I think that until there is a defined goal, a defined target, a defined strategy and a defined mission, we can’t begin to say who the Occupy Movement is really helping.
Loop 21: Do you think the needs of the white 99% are different from those of the Black 99%? If so, how?