a video about people at the protests one week ago, courtesy of Thanu Yakupitiyage
“We must not miss the chance to put the needs of people of color—upon whose backs this country was built—at the forefront of this struggle.”
How Hena Got There
Two Thursdays ago, after Troy Davis had been executed, Hena Ashraf protested his killing at a rally in New York City. The group that she was with didn’t have a particular plan, she says, but “we ended up on Wall Street.”
It was her first time at Occupy Wall Street, a movement that’s rapidly gaining steam and numbers. And a week ago, by her fourth time there, Ashraf had become a game-changer: one of a group of desis who stood up and insisted that the movement’s primary declaration edit language that referred to racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination as though they were things of the past.
“We definitely stood out,” Ashraf told me. At that point, she explained, the protests were still overwhelmingly white. (We spoke on the phone Sunday night; she was two blocks from Wall Street, heading back to the protests.) But, she added, over the course of her visits to the site, she’s seen them become more diverse.
Ashraf, an independent filmmaker based in Brooklyn, has been involved in activism before, but says Occupy Wall Street is “not like anything I’ve ever seen before.”
“The atmosphere is very electric. Anything can happen. There’s so much potential for it,” she says. One of its key strengths, she adds, is that there’s no central leadership, no one trying to dictate what should be said. That meant that when Ashraf, Sonny Singh, Thanu Yakupitiyage and Manissa McCleave Maharawal met up at the protests a week ago, they could jump right in and make a change.
“What happened on Thursday was crazy and intense and amazing,” Ashraf says. “I’m going to keep coming back. We have to keep coming back now, after what happened on Thursday, because what we did had such a huge effect.”
Solidarity and critique aren’t opposites, she notes. “I think solidarity and critique can go together,” she says. “Constructive criticism can also be a good thing.”
Part 1 here: Desis Take Action At Occupy Wall Street
- Reflections on Occupy Wall Street from Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, a hip-hop community center in the South Bronx (h/t Thanu)
- Wall Street Protests Spread, Channeling Anger at Corporate, Political Forces | PBS NewsHour (Arun Venugopal on Occupy Wall Street)
- We Are All Human Microphones Now, from The Nation, h/t Naeem Mohaiemen
- Occupy Wall Street POC affinity group, h/t Naeem Mohaiemen
- De-Colonize Wall Street, by Vijay Prashad, in Counterpunch
- Here’s to Occupying Wall Street! (If Only That Were Actually Happening) from Colorlines