Ever since Occupy Philadelphia supporters left Dilworth Plaza, some here have been left unclear on the status, agenda and purpose of the grass-roots organization.
In an effort to shed light and present facts, organizers of the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance/Paul Robeson House hosted an Occupy Philadelphia community information session earlier this month.
Emmanuel Bussie was the speaker for the evening. He joined a small group of concerned residents and citizens at 4951 Walnut St. to set the record straight and bring clarity to Occupy Philadelphia.
Since the early 1990s, Bussie has been advocating for social change and fair treatment through his involvement in the National Coalition of African American Organizations, Buying Black campaigns and the Million Man March.
“I was there for the first meeting on September 29 and I’ve been involved in the Occupy movement by giving my time and money since,” he said.
Corporate greed, mortgage foreclosures and fair funding for education are a few of the motivating factors for Bussie and others involved in Occupy Philadelphia.
“African-Americans are the minority in this movement,” Bussie said. “Yet, everything it stands for is what we have been struggling with for many years. Occupy Philadelphia was never about the cement,” he added. “It was always about the movement. We are still organizing and this will take time.”
Philadelphia’s Occupy movement consists of a general assembly, which is comprised of approximately 40 work groups focused on organizing and setting the overall vision.
Facilitation, Web, Process and Labor are several of the larger work groups. Each work group meets several times a month with daily general assembly meetings.
“This group is the most dedicated, committed group of people I have ever worked with,” Bussie said.
“We need to step up to the plate and not accept mediocrity,” said retired school teacher Ogbonna Hagins. “Working with the Occupy movement has created an environment for me to be a leader as well as motivated me to continue to work for a positive change.
“I am able meet people with diverse backgrounds and experiences,” he said. “I was moved the most by the large volume of homeless people living in the city. While at Dilworth Plaza I met a pregnant couple. I worried about where they would go and how they would survive when the city evicted everyone. This is what motivates me to continue to occupy.”
Calla Cousar, president of East Parkside Residents Association is no stranger to Occupy Philadelphia.
“I donated food and clothes early on and I even walked with Occupy Philadelphia to protest school closures,” she said.
In spite of all this, Cousar still wanted to understand more.
“I learned that community issues, zoning problems and neighborhood clean-up are concerns that this movement will support,” she said. “It made me feel better to know that Occupy Philadelphia has work groups focused on these same issues. It’s so important to keep this going because they are bringing issues to the forefront and our voices are being heard.”
For Bussie and Hagins, the journey has been a true test of patience and an exercise in tolerance.
“The challenge is to make the most of it and not let Occupy Philadelphia die,” Bussie said.