Howard adds voice to occupy movement

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by Barrington M. Salmon

(NNPA)—Howard University alumnus Maria Ellis is one face of the Occupy D.C. movement. She has a graduate degree in International Relations and wanted to go to law school but couldn’t afford it.

And as a homeowner, she, like other Americans, feels squeezed by the recession. She is among a vocal group who hold politicians, corporate interests and others responsible for the declining state of the nation’s economy.

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MARCHING FOR JOBS AND JUSTICE—Howard University alumni and students march near the Treasury Department in Washington, Oct. 28, for Jobs and Justice in solidarity with the Occupy movements. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Ellis’ concerns are what prompted her to join scores of Howard University alumnae, students and faculty on the university’s campus Oct. 28 and to march to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to rally for a change.

The protestors joined the growing numbers of people who are using Occupy D.C. and Occupy Wall Street to express their extreme dissatisfaction with the status quo.

“I’m a homeowner or I’d be in dire straits. I feel very uncertain of what these [conditions] will bring,” said Ellis, 34, who says she is underemployed. “People are upset. I’m not surprised they’re out here. I see a great need for justice to even things out.”

The marchers trekked along a circuitous route that took them down Georgia Avenue in Northwest, along Rhode Island Avenue, and 11th Street into the heart of downtown. They ended up in front of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Led by march organizer Talib Karim, a lawyer and community organizer, the group of about 25 chanted, handed out fliers and encouraged passersby to join them on their March for Jobs and Justice.

They stopped briefly at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza, the sites of two public spaces taken over by Occupy D.C. and by the time marchers stood on the steps of the Chamber of Commerce, the crowd had swelled to about 60 people.

Along the route, protestors talked to those who paused to watch, engaged others who offered vocal support or other comments, and seemed to draw strength from the energy of passersby.

“Send them to jail, send them to jail, they’re bank robbers,” one Hispanic man shouted in support.

Howard Professor Bridget Todd, 26, said the issues publicized by the Occupy movement are as important to African-Americans as they are for anyone else. “I’m out here as a young person. I support all of this,” said Todd, who has been teaching for two years at Howard. “We are the 99 percent. Economic injustice is racial injustice. This is our issue.”

Occupy Wall Street and its D.C. offshoot is an amalgam of students, retirees, war veterans, the unemployed, the homeless and even children who say they will no longer tolerate inequality and a political and economic system that marginalizes the poor and middle class. In Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, people have set up tent cities with the intention of occupying public spaces until big business, pharmaceutical companies, bankers and politicians dismantle the cozy relationship that often produces unfair advantages for the rich and privileged.

What began as a group of 2,000 protestors camped out in New York’s Financial District in Lower Manhattan giving voice to anger at the antics of the nation’s political and economic elite, is now a wildfire that has hop scotched from the United States to Australia, the Philippines, London, Ireland and Rome.

Occupy Wall Street continues to gain momentum and credibility in the U.S. and around the world even in the face of questions about what the group really wants, how it hopes to achieve that and the derisive, smug and condescending remarks and comments from politicians and media alike. Occupy Wall Street’s increasing popularity can be traced to the fact that its message resonates so deeply with the disaffected.

Local lawyer Franklyn Burke said when he heard that the march from Howard was taking place, he decided to take his place alongside his fellow demonstrators.

“I’m sure everyone knows someone who’s been affected. It is the beginning of a movement. I hope it continues,” said Burke, who is a HU alumnus and who has lived in the Washington, D.C., area for 46 years. “Citizens united have opened the door. They control our politics quietly. In the last campaign, they even had money from overseas [influencing American politics].”

“This will be a long, hard task. It will be tough to defeat this entrenched set.”

(Special to the NNPA from the Washington Informer)

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