I couldn't help but notice that the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle today juxtaposed this lead news photo and article about yesterday's Port of Oakland shutdown with the following headline: "Blacks don't feel drawn to white-led movement."
San Francisco's paper of record was referring to Occupy Oakland, which led several marches to shut down operations at the port Dec. 12 and claimed victory after accomplishing just what protest organizers had set out to do.
The article's premise -- that Occupy is a white-led movement -- does not appear to ring true in the case of Occupy Oakland. I'm basing this statement on my 24-hour stay at the encampment that once stood at Frank Ogawa / Oscar Grant Plaza. After interviewing people living in tents there -- who represented a wide variety of racial and economic backgrounds and voiced concerns about Oakland Public Schools, gang injunctions, Native American struggles, and police brutality, among other issues -- I left with the impression that racial diversity was part of what made this particular movement unique and perhaps more politically potent than past coalitions driven by the left.
The Chronicle interviewed several African American individuals for the article who expressed that they felt a disconnect with the Occupy movement. Between in-depth interviews with Oakland residents who said they disagreed with Occupy's tactics or thought occupiers should instead be protesting violence in African American neighborhoods, the article did mention one individual who doesn't fit their narrative.
"Boots Riley, one of the more prominent Occupy Oakland organizers, is African American," reporter Joe Garofoli informs us. Someone's been paying attention.
So ... did the reporter contact Riley to ask what he thought about the idea that blacks aren't feeling drawn to Occupy?
Um, no. The Chronicle did not bother calling him, Riley informed us via text.
Riley, the organizer and hip hop artist whose voice could be heard on the megaphone at the port protest yesterday and when music by The Coup was blasting out of mobile sound systems, does have an opinion about the Chronicle's coverage.
"Joe Garofoli's article is hack journalism," he proclaimed on Twitter. He followed it up by pointing out that Garofoli failed to interview Occupy-affiliated black Oakland residents who helped move Oakland resident Gayla Newsome back into her foreclosed home. Nor did the Chronicle talk to African American protesters who opposed school closures on Nov. 19. Black youth also took over an abandoned property to create a community center in a West Oakland neighborhood, Riley pointed out, but their perspective wasn't reflected in the article, either.
It's true that some black people may be critical of Occupy. No one's perfect, and it's good for any movement to engage in self-reflection, examine whether or not certain groups are feeling alienated, and consider what can be done to be more inclusive. But with coverage like that, I wouldn't be suprised if readers felt a disconnect with the Chronicle's portrayal of Occupy.
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