“Black and Brown People Have Power in Numbers”

“What I don’t think black and brown people recognize is that you do have power, but only power in numbers,” said Britney Lewis, a member of Occupy the Hood who took part in Thursday night’s Million Hoodie Rally for Trayvon Martin. “The only reason we heard those tapes (of Martin calling his girlfriend and of his killer George Zimmerman calling 911) is because people called and mobilized. That’s the only reason they’re taking it seriously.”

“I’m a mother, so for me it hit my heart,” Lewis added. “What does it mean for me to see my son or daughter leave the house and not knowing if someone is going to see them as a suspicious person.”

The spirited and peaceful rally, which drew more than 5,000 Minnesotans to Northrup Mall on the University of Minnesota campus, was initiated by Jennifer Belsito, who created the event on Facebook a week ago, but had no idea it would stir anyone but her closest friends.

“I thought it was crazy that a young kid could be murdered and there wasn’t an arrest made,” said Belsito, who added that deficits of justice and wrongful convictions have affected people she loves and cares about. “This is the type of thing that has happened over and over again. This isn’t an isolated incident.”

“As a black woman in this country, my whole life is about the struggle of black men,” said Kenya McKnight, an organizer with Occupy Homes. “When Trayvon fell, I fell; when he hurts, I hurt; when he cries, I mourn. I have nephews, I have brothers. I grew up understanding their reality.”

McKnight explained that Occupy the Hood grew out of the Occupy Wall Street movement to represent the voices of black and brown people in this country.

“Our philosophy is that when the white community catches a cold, the black and brown community already has the flu,” said McKnight.

“We care about foreclosures. We care about economic justice. We take pride in food, clothing and shelter. Our goal is to reinvigorate our community around the basic essentials of living: doing for self, growing your own foods, taking care of your own children.”

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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