Call for Entries (Updated!)

From New York to California, and everywhere in between, Occupy has created a massive and media-savvy movement that has captured a lot (perhaps too much) attention. While white author/activists have written that “Occupy Wall Street rediscovers the radical imagination,” we feel that such celebratory rhetoric effectively erases the endless efforts on the part of people of color to dismantle oppression–in fact, we can think of nothing less radically imaginative than surviving under the multiple layers of systems created to destroy us as people of color. Similarly, when other white author/activists write that we “Either […] join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the country or […] stand on the wrong side of history,” they discount the many ways in which Occupy has created a movement that not all people of color want to take part in.

Let’s begin by approaching the name of the first encampment, Occupy Wall Street, by stating what we feel should be obvious: every city on the continent is occupied indigenous land. Wall Street was built on Algonquian land, and has been occupied ever since. After African slaves built Wall Street for European settlers, it was home to the slave market, and eventually became an African burial ground for up to 20,000 bodies. Since its arrival on this continent, capitalism has always been a system of exploitation based on race. Wall Street is one example of usurped land and slave labor, stolen to quell the desires of European colonizers. To attempt to create a movement that ignores this reality is fundamentally flawed, and it is not clear to us that it will ever move forward. When white Occupy Wall Street activists say they want to dismantle capitalism, they should realize its origin and understand why a slouching economy disproportionately affects people of color.  We feel that if these issues had been consciously integrated from the start, people of color in various Occupy locations (including Wall Street) wouldn’t be feeling the heat of white supremacy today, and believe that Occupy’s white organizers bear the full burden of this reproduction of oppression.

This blog seeks to aggregate radical critiques about Occupy around the continent (including Canada, of course). We’ve begun posting links to some of the most relevant existing analysis from people of color who have been disenfranchised from this movement, but we’re also seeking your links and/or direct entries to this blog. For the moment, we’re interested in providing an outlet for people of color who have had to fight to have their voices heard by the white mass that now controls this movement. If you consider yourself a white ally, we ask that you keep your entries to yourself at this time, and instead read these posts and only comment when you feel it is necessary (there’s already plenty of space for your voice at Occupy, and we want to create an online site for, by and about people of color); you can also consider volunteering to run errands and cook a meal or two for a person of color for a day so that they have the time to sit, think and write about their experience for an audience. A few exceptions to this rule: we want to hear from disability rights activists of any identity, to begin to understand what your experience with Occupy has been as well. We also welcome photographs from anyone.

We doubt you need ideas, and would love to simply provide a space for you to share your experiences. But there are many other potential topics of inquiry:

  • One idea includes analyzing the General Assembly and Facilitation model, who it works for, and who it silences. We think that Human Microphone and Stack, and other forms of culturally-white communication can sometimes work in oppressive ways. Because white people enter Occupy as teachers already possessing these “skills,” people of color are left with no choice but to take the place of students who are eager to mimic an often foreign process, and have no room whatsoever to challenge it.
  • Another topic includes challenging Occupy’s notion of police brutality, and the way white folks hog up an issue that so unevenly affects people of color after getting roughed up once or twice by the cops during a protest. Police brutality and state violence are everyday realities in communities of color, but Occupy has made it seem like white kids are suddenly the ones suffering. The day that 700 people were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge, we heard that “the whole world [was] watching.” Is that the reason the whole world wasn’t watching the 1,000 mostly black people who attended Troy Davis’ funeral that Saturday?
  • We also want to hear from those of you who want to examine Occupy’s branding. Aside from the problematic nature of the word “occupy” itself, we’re worried that calling this the “99%” whitewashes reality. As shown by the many blog links we’ve already posted, few people of color feel this is a “democratic” and/or “horizontal” process. Why does Occupy choose to use so many words that obscure the way people of color have been marginalized at this encampment?

We seek writing in the form of short blogs, lists of demands, poems, journal entries, long-form essays (we have no word minimum, but ask that essays be no longer than 1,500 words before discussing this with us), as well as art work, recordings, photographs (we have a feeling a lot of you have taken photos that reflect some of the very misguided signs with racist slogans, white activists wearing “war paint,” endless streams of ridiculously offensive Guy Fawkes masks etc., and we really, really need them, so please send them over!). Please send all questions and entries to, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!



Filed under DisOccupy

32 responses to “Call for Entries (Updated!)

  1. Hello, This critique is really important, I have tried to post it on our Facebook and on Twitter at #OccupyWallStreet but for some reason this keeps not working. I think this is important but the people participating in the discussion at #OccupyWallStreet are not reading it… Maybe send pieces of it into Facebook & Twitter ?


    Wow, the human microphone is a white tool of oppression? Who would have thought this novel approach to not being allowed to use a bullhorn could be interpreted this way. These activists are trying to fight the capitalist order, and that should include capitalist property rights. If you believe Wall Street is Algonquin land, then you are no better than the capitalists. The land — all land belongs to humanity for our mutual benefit, those who would attempt to claim it as their own are the enemy.

    • nobody

      Bob – the issue is how mic check’s being used now. It’s been used as a kind of groupthink in LA. Tonight, someone said “mic check,” and there were people way the heck in the back of the crowd repeating what the guy was saying. And they could hear it because the guy on the stage had an amplifier. Yeah, there was a bit of a stage on the steps.

      That’s groupthink in full effect. It’s kind of fun, but also disturbing that people are getting into repeating what someone else says.

    • While I disagree with the author’s generalization of the occupy events (I wouldn’t call it a movement, more a call for a series of protests, and many are organized and led by people of color or where white and POC leaders and collaborating nicely), I agree that the processes used in some of the assemblies can be foreign to many people of color. Many people of color and poor people in general grow up being taught that they are less valuable than those around them with white skin, or who have gone to college, or who have practice leading. These feelings of inadequacy can be deeply held for many people of color, even those who have attained a certain level of social status. For many white folks, it’s just natural to grow up thinking “you can do it.” For many people of color, we grow up thinking “it can be done but it probably won’t be me to do it.” Those are some of the skills that I’m sure the author is referring to.

      We chose to use the stack and facilitation model but added dinamicas and written/drawn participation that allow folks to warm up their skills before stepping in front of the mic. They also allow illiterate folks to express their ideas visually. We also will incorporate a free speech wall where folks can draw or write their ideas of a better world. Using dinámicas based in popular education ( allows the participation of those who have not had the privilege to have been taught to speak publicly or organize their statements concisely or have confidence in their words, or any number of little internal skills you need to hone to be full participants in the model used in the above mentioned model.

      Your comment that “If you believe Wall Street is Algonquin land, then you are no better than the capitalists” shows how important having these critiques and discussions really are for the movement in general in this country. It is not your fault that the US empire has not allowed you to learn the indigenous conceptualization of property. Far from being “private”, property (for lack of a better term) is communal, meant for the communal good, and managed through communal traditions, traditions that are revised based on the needs of the community. There is an indigenous law that says that decisions must be made based on the impact for 7 generations in the future. Impact on people, the environment and society. Native elders have documented the history, use, and health of the land for generations back. In many areas that documentation was wiped away by European genocide, occupation and terrorism. Instead of basing decisions on the common good, capitalists base them on how much profit and control can be gained from them. Again, it’s not your fault you haven’t been exposed to these ideas. But now having heard a little, please try to learn more. Also interesting topics are cosmovision and zapatismo.

  3. Omnia Vanitas

    Critique is GOOD for a movement. If movements, instead of being defensively, egotistically dismissive of critiques, actually LISTEN to critiques and INTEGRATE them, those movements become better and stronger and much more powerful. I would like to see OWS integrate radical feminist and other critiques. The list of demands has invisibilized the vast, endemic, systematic problems women face under capitalist patriarchy. I have also been reading other critiques of OWS by other women, and people of colour. OWS would be WISE to listen up!

  4. This critique is important. It’s true. But it is also important to remember that this movement is imperfect. It is evolving. It is self aware of it’s own prejudice, and most importantly, it has the space to address these issues. There are already Outreach, Labor Relations, and People of Color working groups in this movement. There is space for everyone to get involved. If you want to see things changed, get involved. You can. This movement welcomes you.

  5. As a person of color, my frustration rises from the fact that this #Occupation seems like a very reactionary response by white, middle class America to the reality that people of color have been facing for 500 years in this land. Especially when they spread the rhetoric of “lets put aside gender/race/sexuality etc. differences and stand united as one human race” which would be a nice way to live in a more Utopian world, but the fact is that people of color have been crushed under layer after layer of oppression and middle/upper class white Americans have historically and continue to enjoy their privilege that is made possible by the exploitation of people of color. From the natives that were displaced and enslaved, to the slaves that were wrenched from their homeland and imported here, to the exploited immigrants, ITS ABOUT FUCKING TIME WE STOPPED LETTING THEM IGNORE OUR STRUGGLE AND DEMAND AT THE VERY LEAST TALKS OF REPARATIONS FOR OUR PEOPLE! Privileged white people aren’t able to enjoy their privilege, so they drop everything and go set up an occupation because they can’t. Degraded people of color face this shit for 500 years yet our resistances are crushed or systematically dismantled, and we are labeled “terrorists”, and we can’t go around setting up occupations and huge actions because if we fucking dropped everything then our families would starve and who would pay bills? My ultimate analysis is that #OccupyWallSt was started by the whites because of a decline in their privilege, but it was only made possible because of their privilege.

  6. laLopex

    OWS needs anti-racism 101 every day, since new folks show up constantly. It needs to be seen as being *as essential* as tactics for marches, etc. I was down there today checking it out… there are a few folks of color, the vast majority white. I spoke to two black men who had been camping out down there. They said they had felt welcomed and that what they had to offer / their opinions were important. I think that the idea that people of color don’t have the luxury of organizing there and reclaiming this movement because we have to pay rent is not necessarily accurate: if you dont have a job, you dont have a job. And the consensus process used by the general assemblies is alienating to anyone who hasnt been around consensus process, which is an issue of class privilege as much as it is about race. The working groups themselves seemed very insular to me, and don’t get me started on the tech center, staffed almost entirely by white men when i was there. I have never seen anything like this before and I honestly think its like this runaway 18 wheeler. No one thought it would last this long and people who have the luxury of being there – or the shit luck of not having a job so they’re there – are just trying to keep it from crashing for as long as possible. For this reason, I think if people of color, folks *from* here, went down there and demanded to be involved on their own terms and alter the culture of the space, it would probably be welcomed. These are just my observations and thoughts. Thank you for creating this forum.

  7. 1. I am heavily involved with #OWS 2. I work on Wall Street 3. I’m Filipino-American 4. I’m a hip-hop artist 5. *Everyone* has the right to speak, including bankers, policemen, judges and soldiers

    6. This criticism kind of misses a point I feel should be obvious or made more obvious: we are speaking directly toward the colonial aspect and facet of ‘Occupy’. Zucotti Park is the Occupied Territories. Let’s inject Indigenous Culture and Politics into the mix (into the Park) so that we can Manifest our Destiny on Wall Street. Word to the Gaza Strip. p.s. this movement was launched in large part by AdBusters: they know a thing or two about the power of Words, Symbols and Layered Meanings. #OccupyGaza (Think hard about that one for a second) #OccupyLanguage

    • Thanks for contributing, KobaSounds. We never said there was one monolithic experience, and welcome dialogue from other people of color. We’re happy to hear that you’ve been able to participate at OWS without incident, although we realize that many people of color have been marginalized from doing so (there’s plenty of evidence on this blog to illustrate that).

      As far as “the power of words,” we all know it was never the intention of white organizers to challenge the colonial occupation of Manhattan. It’s a nice afterthought, but not much more than a fantasy. Again, we all know there was never any intention to recognize the five centuries long grievances of indigenous people in the Americas. And if you want to talk about power, consider OWS’s statement that stands “in solidarity [with] Tel Aviv.” No mention of how Israelis are occupying the Palestinian Territories, of course. Think hard about that.

      • Anon

        Realistically, what’s your solution? Do you want all the white people to go back to Europe and all the black people to go back to Africa? It’s a little late for that now.

  8. There are some valid critiques in this opening call (especially regarding police brutality and the racial imbalance of effect in an economic collapse, also the problematic nature of “the 99%” slogan), but it also makes a number of statements which have me scratching my head:

    >What exactly is “ridiculously offensive” about Guy Fawkes masks? Why is “war paint” presumed to be an exclusively indigenous-American tradition?
    >What evidence do you have that the people’s mic, stack, and finger wiggling are :::culturally::: White forms of communication? What alternatives are there?
    >Following from that, what evidence is there that Whites come into these spaces with knowledge of these communication forms?
    >Even if OWS acknowledges that Manhattan is Indian land, how would that change the slogan?
    >Wouldn’t you agree that 700 people being arrested on a bridge is generally a more ‘exciting’ news story than 1,000 attending a funeral, regardless of race?

    • Thanks for contributing, Natalio.

      * Guy Fawkes was an English Catholic conservative with whom we feel no affinity. Horrible pro-monarchy politics aside, we also can’t stand his powder white face and bad mustache.
      * War paint is not an “exclusively indigenous-American tradition,” nor did we say it was; we just don’t like it when white hipsters wear face paint and a headdress as if it means something to them.
      * The facilitation model being used in OWS was developed and instituted by white people who are leading the General Assemblies. We’ve been looking into some of these folks and their surprising backgrounds and may bring you a post about some of them in the future. But rest assured they are all white people who developed these techniques years ago. Mic check specifically is analyzed here:
      * We did not ask for the slogan to be changed, we merely brought up that only a whole bunch of white people who do not take indigenous people seriously would come up with “Occupy” to begin with. They are the ones who created this mess and they should be the ones to answer for it and come up with a solution. Since we have yet to hear from one OWS organizer or facilitator, we’re pretty sure they’re just ignoring us and basking in their post-arrest glory.
      * Wouldn’t you agree that the state executing Troy Davis is more important than the state arresting 700 people and letting them go a few hours later without bail?

      We hope we’ve answered some of your concerns and thank you once more for contributing to the conversation.

      • Anon

        Apparently you don’t believe in the concept of individuals and think all white people are the same.

      • >Guy Fawkes was clearly a reactionary, and the discourse about him in V for Vendetta (which inspired the masks, of course) was hilariously inaccurate. I’d imagine that those who wear the masks and know about Fawkes also don’t care for him as a historical figure either. But how on earth does that make the masks “ridiculously offensive?” Merely disliking “his powder white face and bad mustache” is not a legitimate reason to be offended.

        >I think it’s one thing when people wear war paint intended to mock or misappropriate indigenous culture, and another when people merely put paint on their faces. There is nothing at all wrong with the latter, whereas the former is very racist and common among hipster types. We should make sure we’re distinguishing between the two and not jumping to conclusions.

        >The people’s mic model is definitely not ideal, and I can see Victor’s point that repeating the speaker’s lines is problematic. Like him, I too am critical of the supposedly “leaderless” model in which certain voices are heard and validated at the expense of others. But given that they cannot use amplification, what are the alternatives for disseminating information if the movement wants to avoid provoking the police? (Note: I’m not convinced that following cop orders is the proper course of action, but my overall participation has been limited) Still, your response didn’t address your initial point that these are culturally White forms of communication, something which seems unsubstantiated since I’d imagine most White folks are wholly unfamiliar with them. And even if they were, how hard are these forms to pick up… really? I figured it out in like 5 minutes: wiggle fingers if you like something, echo the words from the speaker, get your name on a list if you want to speak. Done. Why would the lack of this advance knowledge lead to long-term disadvantages for POC participants?

        >The concept of occupying space is not unique to the United States, and indeed didn’t even originate here. Even as it has much older historical origins, the impetus for this action was the occupation of Tahrir Square in Egypt and the squares movement in Spain, Greece, etc. So to say that they “came up with” this tactic and blatantly ignored the indigenous question in the process is simply factually incorrect. I fully agree that any analysis of occupying Wall Street should acknowledge the area’s historical origin as a slave market and its implications, but I don’t think that every mobilization should have to remind its participants “Oh, by the way, this is Indian land we’re standing on.” Why hold this action accountable to that standard and not others? Students have been occupying university campuses in the U.S. for decades; should they have to ask permission from indigenous people every time they barricade themselves in a building, since it was built on Indian land?

        >Of course I agree that the execution of Troy Davis was a bigger deal than the mass arrest, but don’t you think it’s also true that far more people around the world were tuned into the events unfolding downtown than were watching the funeral of Troy Davis? Objectively, that statement is relatively correct, regardless of what we believe deserves more priority in the media.

        My problem with your approach here is not that you are making critiques, some of which I find valid and some of which I don’t. I have not held back my criticism either and I don’t think anybody should. My problem is that you are demanding that the OWS movement do things your way and focus on the things you find most important, without feeling the need to discuss these things at length in those spaces. Talk to people. Find those that share your critiques. Organize them into discussion circles. By focusing so much of your energy on the leadership you forget the influence you can have in the base which, at the end of the day, is far more important.

        Anyway I’m going to step away from this now, since I’m a straight, male, abled, light-skinned Mexican and I don’t want to dominate the discourse. I may pop in from time to time. Good luck.


      • nullie

        >Guy Fawkes was an English Catholic conservative with whom we feel no affinity

        Yet imagine if OWS had appropriated, as an icon, someone or something with which you DID feel affinity…perhaps someone or something not powdery–white? The outrage would be deafening.

  9. All I can now.. is that occupy Eugene takes you critiques to heart and has continues to make efforts to reflect and act on the issues you stated here. Please please be open minded and honest about the work we need to do to make this a movement for all. The movement is not about one cause or one voice it is about the power that many different voice can have when they stand up together with respect and mindfulness.

  10. anonymous

    Right – we can’t solve any particular social issue, or even a handful of social issues, without solving ALL of them at once. Including, on this continent, the oldest and deepest one. In a country that’s been radicalized so far to the extreme right that the idea of letting a poor, sick person die earns fervent applause at a GOP debate.

    This sort of tactical stupidity is why the left gets nowhere in the U.S. The right wing, to give the devil his due, stays on message. Whereas any progressive protest gets swamped with Critical Studies types with no clue about framing or messaging.

    Any number of PoC who’ve replied to you seem to get that OWS is about reining in the power of the Wall Street plutocrats. Then again, they seem to be doing their activism in the real world and following the leaders even if their white, not in a hothouse environment like Berkeley or Santa Cruz with no reality checks on rhetoric.

    • anonymous

      I’m the anon who left the above comment. Thanks so much for inserting the phrase “and following the leaders even if their [sic] white” into my comment as if I wrote it. It speaks volumes about the honesty of the person running this site. Not to mention your inability to spell, but I suppose that spelling is one of those Eurohegemonic capitalist oppressions that should be smashed as well.

      • You can read around our pages and realize that bad spelling is not our trademark. If you made a Freudian slip or forgot to edit something out, then take responsibility for it; we did not add or change anything on your post(s), but thanks you for coming here and exhibiting your paranoia. Time for you to go now. Bye-bye!

      • anonymous

        I took a screenshot of my comment while it was in moderation, liar.

        Anyone who takes you seriously is a fool.

      • Thank you for going to such great lengths, with the use of Photoshop, to start a bizarre conspiracy. If we disagree with something you say, we will either reply directly or simply delete your post. Since this has now crossed the barrier from a little troubling to downright fantasy, we ask that you stop posting here. This is your second and last warning; if you post here again, we will delete this entire thread. Thanks, and have fun trolling elsewhere!

    • RDW

      > Whereas any progressive protest gets swamped with Critical Studies types with no clue about framing or messaging.

      ROFL. You pegged this perfectly.

      To be totally honest, I studied semiotics at Yale and now work at a hedge fund and vote like a Koch, so I’ve seen both sides of this. The exact reason I feel totally unthreatened by OWS is the reason you’ve just stated: modern progressive intellectuals are so averse to hierarchies and absolutes and so loathe to “marginalize” anybody that they will never manage to advance a coherent, compelling agenda. Remember the Tea Party? Most of those people were morons, yet they now control a nontrivial chunk of Congress.

      If it really looks like things are getting bad and the govt might accede to some of the protesters’ demands, my back-up sabotage plan is to send someone down into the crowd to shout out random Socy 101 buzzwords like “appropriation,” “derailing” and “check your privilege.” Then he can start quoting Derrida at random. Any threat of effective collective action will be subdued within minutes.

  11. Anon

    Why do you portray the white people as all-powerful, controlling teachers in your first topic choice, but resort to calling them unknowledgeable/ inexperienced “kids” in the second topic?

  12. While these critiques are great, I think we should be a little more critical of the way we group POC and create a white against POC frame in our critiques. For example, not all the cities have suffered the same problems with white supremacy/privilege. The in Rio Grande Valley the Occupy McAllen event is being planned by mostly POC and some white folks, all working class. We’re doing things based on what we know works for us, which is heavily based on the consensus model, and as we move forward, we will incorporate what works for the other POC and working class communities that are not like us (working immigrant families, families without internet connections, etc.). Also, there are varying levels of privilege in our POC communities that we need to address as we move forward. Coming from that perspective, we can see how we can work with the varying levels of privilege taking place in the other Occupy spaces that are white-dominated.

    I agree with someone above that the consensus model is foreign to anyone that has not participated in it. The reality is that democracy is foreign to most of us. And we need to learn how to participate in democracy at the same time that we find a process of democracy that works for as many people as possible. I live in an area that is 90% POC and the vast majority of our organizing uses the consensus model (though sometimes a loose consensus). It is something to learn how to use and to adapt how you see fit. Some people (of color) like twinkle fingers, some like snaps, some like thumbs up or just nods of approval. But many parts of the consensus model we use con mucho gusto and teach to the new folks in attendance. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s the best, it just means it’s working well for us.

    Mainly the OWS white folks should be asking themselves how they can best collaborate with the POC around them, how they can best listen, learn, discuss respectfully, disagree, challenge, and ultimately building toward a better world. And we should be asking ourselves how best we can teach those who are uncritical of our varying levels of privilege how to see it, address it, and incorporate it into our organizing. White allies can help organize their white compas, those of us with popular education skills can help others start incorporating pop-ed, those who have witnessed strong forms of collective decision making facilitation can help others learn the process.

    This blog should also include in it’s call a call out for instances, cities, assemblies, etc. where these issues have been addressed and where examples can be given for folks organizing these events can learn ideas, skills and models that are inclusive and help build a genuine movement, rather than a series of protests. It would be great to have all kinds of ideas for how to move forward toward making these events more genuinely inclusive, to build the strength of the protests, further radicalize participants of all races and privilege levels, and to prepare another generation of relatively privileged folks how to be better allies.

  13. Don

    Bottom line is that there is plenty of rhetoric coming out of various occupy “chapters” that negates the lived experiences of poor and working class people, women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, etc. by putting “unity” ahead of history. I’ve seen many responses on message boards and Facebook pages chastising folks for being divisive by raising issues of racism, sexism, etc. “Don’t divide the movement;” “you’re sidetracking the issue;” “we’re not interested in single issue politics;” etc. However, Unity is an empty phrase when it is raised against lived experience and when it is shouted over those who are trying to embrace solidarity across difference rather than negating difference altogether. I find it alarming that random folks who posted here accuse the site’s creators for causing divide. It paints the respondents as ultimately selfish, incapable of extending solidarity to those they cannot understand. Ultimately, such folks are telling certain, specific people that you are not part of the 99% unless you do what I say, feel what I feel, have lived what I’ve lived. If this is the case, what kind of movement is in the making?

    • It is important to recognize that that is not unique to this movement or to white people heavy movements. It was a huge issue in the civil rights and chican@ movements and continues to be an issue all over the place. That rhetoric that you are referring to is a product of lack of consciousness plus relative privilege. We need to raise consciousness en todos lados, in all areas of our society. And call out folks acting on privilege blindly in productive and kind ways. It is easiest to take criticism to heart when it comes from a compa to whom you’re dedicated and who’s dedicated to you. How do we show that dedication? This indigenous compa is a good example:

  14. You say that this movement isn’t equal, I haven’t seen any “white” musical/ hip hop artists make a song just about just this movement 🙂 thanks to the POC community

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