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VIDEO: “Racism and the Occupy Movement” with Journalist Joanne Griffith and Occupy Detroit’s Lee Gaddies

This past Wednesday, Occupy Supply hosted a webinar on Racism and the Occupy Movement – the latest installment in our online discussion series featuring journalist and editor of “Re-Defining Black Power” Joanne Griffith and Occupy Detroit media coordinator Lee Gaddies.

In my opinion this was one of the best presentations we’ve had and we were so fortunate to finally be able to work out the kinks and get a recording of the entire talk. We hope to continue to be able to provide recordings of our Occupy Supply webinars so that these conversations, ideas, and strategies can be shared for the benefit of the entire movement.

Joanne Griffith provided an excellent backdrop for our conversation by outlining the state of race and racism in America today. Covering the impact of racism on youth, police relations, our education system, and the media, Joanne painted a vivid picture of what “post-racial America” really looks like – a country in which minorities continue to suffer from brutal stereotypes and portrayals as sub-class citizens all the while bearing the brunt of systemic prejudice on a daily basis.

Following Joanne, Lee Gaddies delivered a powerful presentation on race relations at Occupy Detroit and the ways in which his group had to overcome the challenges of building a unified movement in an extremely segregated environment. Occupy protests serve as models for better societies, and as I mentioned in my preview post, there can’t be be credible voices for all people unless they first look inward and address issues of race and racism in their own encampments.

Lee began with a brief history of race relations in Michigan, a state where 7 of the most segregated cities in the entire country call home, and how his occupation grappled with the very same problems of privilege and prejudice that have divided the city since the 1940’s and even earlier. He also discussed what he called ‘the soft bigotry of liberals’ – the paternalism of white, affluent activists from the suburbs who would come to Detroit with the attitude that they were there to help folks who could not help themselves.

But Occupy Detroit did not let race relations tear their camp apart. Lee noted that “the occupy movement is set up to build power in communities” and that the goal is to empower individuals to stand up for themselves. Occupy Detroit held listening tours throughout the city to figure out the problems and needs of its residents; and most importantly, how the occupation could empower them to make change in their own lives, rather than having a bunch of activists show up and, as Lee says, “[save] black people who can’t help themselves.”

That’s only a small sampling of what was covered in this excellent talk, so I encourage you to take a listen and share this video with your friends and fellow activists in the Occupy movement.

And a HUGE thank you to Joanne, Lee, and everyone else who joined us on Wednesday – we hope to talk with you again next week!

Occupy Supply holds weekly, free online discussions about the Occupy Movement every Wednesday night at 8pm eastern. Upcoming talks include:

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Brian Sonenstein

Brian Sonenstein

Publishing Editor at Shadowproof and columnist at Prison Protest.