On a rainy Tuesday in a sea of drenched mainly white faces, Kamar Duncan, 21, stood out as one of the few African-Americans involved on the fourth day of Occupy Wall Street – the largely Internet-organized protest questioning the federal bailout of investment banks and large corporations.
“I’m here because we need to do something to fight corporate greed and to reform the system because we can’t perpetuate making people poorer and poorer,” he said.
Duncan, who now lives in Sunset Park, said his mother’s house on Rochester Avenue in Bed-Stuy was foreclosed on recently, and that he has been at the gathering in Liberty Plaza – a stone’s throw away from Wall Street and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York – since the protest started on Saturday.
When asked why he thought more people of color weren’t part of the protest, Duncan surmised that perhaps younger blacks were scared because police have made arrests every day since the protest began.
“It’s not about white and black, it’s about rights and wanting the world to be better,” he said.
Duncan noted that the loosely-led protest, which has facilitators rather than leaders or spokespeople, has yet to make a list of demands of what they wanted to see happen as a result of the open-ended protest, which is gathering steam via such social Web sites as Facebook and Twitter.
Duncan said he might try to incorporate more jobs for people of color into the list of demands that the ad hoc group of protestors expect to release within days. Another possible demand might be for Wall Street higher-ups to set up programs in communities of color to teach how Wall Street works.
Walking among the estimated 200 protestors revealed one group of facilitators discussing a rough draft of six general principles that came from protestors being broken into smaller groups for brainstorming sessions.“One of the demands is for more jobs, but it was not broken up along racial lines,” said one man in the group.
When pressed over the fact that the unemployment rate among African-Americans is roughly 16 percent – nearly double the national unemployment rate, the man said there is talk of adding in a demand to empower marginalized groups including race, gender, class and sexual persuasion.
Ari Cowan, 21, originally from San Francisco and most recently a community organizer in Massachusetts, said there has been an ongoing effort to get more people of color involved in the protest.
Besides social networking there are planned outreaches to go directly into housing projects and unemployment offices to get people involved in this movement, he said. “The message is to join us. We want you here,” he said.
“Speaking for myself any list of demands should be accompanied by a creation of a new capitalist system,” he added.
While many in the protest resembled those of the old hippie and Yippie movement – complete with acoustic guitars and comical masks, others mingled around dressed more fashionable and were there to support the protest for a few hours.
“I support this protest and plan to donate some money,” said Guyanese immigrant and Harlem resident Joy A, who was in the neighborhood to take care of some personal business.
“People need to speak out as far as the economy and bailout of huge corporations. There is general agreement in the public about this and we need millions out here,” she added.
People wanting to learn more about the growing movement can visit www.nycga.net or www.occupywallst.org.