Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Takeover: Top People of Color Occupations

Contrary to popular belief, occupations are not a new thing. In fact, Black and Brown communites have been in the foreground of taking shit over since the civil war. Here are the highlights.

Fort Monroe- Fort Monroe was a Union garrison located in Virgina. Led by General Butler, Fort Monroe was a site of a major occupation when three Africans Frank Baker, James Townsend and Sheppard Mallory ran from their plantation to Fort Monroe to escape slavery. General Butler declared the three contraband and shielded them from their master who came to “retrieve his property.” Word spread about the men’s brave escape and within a week over 100 families came to Fort Monroe. There they established “contraband camps.”

I Hotel- The International Hotel was one of the last remnants of San Francisco’s Filipino community. As a hub for working class immigrant families, it was targeted for demolition to expand San Francisco’s business district. Activists from “The Red Guards” ( a Asian group inspired by the Young Lords) and the Asian Community Center fought developers and helped rehab the aging hotel. In 1977 activists barricaded t themselves inside, but after two months of struggle, the city of San Francisco gained the upper hand and evicted the tenants from the I Hotel.

Lincoln Hospital-Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx was known as the “butcher shop.” Hundreds of people died there and staff was largely burnout from an uncaring administration. In 1970, members of the Young Lords, Black Panthers and Health Revolution Union Movement took over the public hospital. Based on a 10 point health program, the organizers set up a TB clinic and later established the first acupuncture  treatment center for heroin addiction (organized and led by Black Panther and Black Liberation Army member, Dr. Mutulu Shakur.)

City College- Known as “White Rhodesia” the City College of the City University of New York with close to 95% white despite being located in Harlem. Black and Puerto Rican students led a two week long occupation and   strike at the school.The result was the establishment of Black Studies and open admission, a program guaranteeing  a free college education to any high school graduate in New York City.

Alcatraz- Native American activists occupied the famed prison, once home to Al Capone and abandoned by the federal government. The occupiers demanded the land to establish Native American institutions. During the 19 month occupation, sympathizers sent food and supplies by boat while activists slept in cells. At one point, the leadership offered to sell back Alcatraz to the government for $24, a tongue in cheek reference to Manhattan Island.

Weinstein Hall, NYU- Little know (or recognized) in the Stonewall Rebellion that launched gay liberation, was the role of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Riveria. These two transgender activists were on the leading edge of the rebellion, battling the police, and coining the term “Whose Streets, Our Streets!”.
Johnson and Rivera later lead the takeover of Weinstein Hall at New York University after the campus cancelled gay dancing there. Rivera said ““All we fought for at Weinstein Hall was lost when we left upon the request of the pigs…. You people run if you want to, but we’re tired of running. We intend to fight for our rights until we get them.”

Statue of Liberty- Watch the crown! Puerto Rican activists took over lady liberty, unfurled the national flag and demanded freedom for political prisoners. The action, 1 year after United States bicentennial, renewed focus on the colonial status of Puerto Rico. One year later, Jimmy Carter released five of the main Puerto Rican political prisoners.
Birmingham Bus-Occupation usually means a crowd but on Dec.1 1955, one was all that was needed to set off the civil rights/ Black Power movement. Rosa Parks a tireless organizer refused to give up her seat on a rush hour bus. The action lead to the Birmingham bus boycott and the rest is people’s history…

No comments: