Occupy the dream

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(NNPA)—The issue of income inequality in the United States demands our attention and social action. In particular in the African-American community, the economic inequities are so real and institutionalized; we are more and more aware of how the devastating impact of income inequality continues cause a downward spiral of the quality of life African-Americans and others who are entrapped in the deep mire of poverty, pain and hopelessness. The dream of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is just as relevant today as we move into 2012 as it was back in 1963 at the March on Washington.

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Dr. King’s dream was the American dream of freedom, justice and equality for all. Yet we all should be reminded that by the beginning of 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was very concerned and focused on the questions of poverty and systemic economic injustice. The Civil Rights Movement, with the historic coalition between the Black church, organized labor, liberal whites, Latinos, students and peace activists, and many others from a diversity of organizations, had reached a transformative stage in its evolution. The time had come to expose and challenge the diabolic connection between racial injustice and economic inequity.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference under Dr. King’s leadership boldly called for a “Poor People’s Campaign” to plan a massive “occupation” of Washington, D.C. in 1968 to challenge the prevailing and pervasive stranglehold of economic injustice not only for Black people, for all of “God’s children.” Rev. Andrew Young at that time was one of Dr. King’s most trusted assistants. With respect to the call for the Poor People’s Campaign, Young stated, “We intended to arouse the conscience of the nation around the issues of poverty as we had challenged the nation to reject segregation. We hoped the process of training and mobilization would empower poor people in a new social movement that transcended race.”

Today, in just a few months time since their initial demonstrations, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been successful in staging major non-violent civil disobedient protests from New York City to Los Angeles and throughout the United States around the issues of income inequality and economic injustice. But beyond the growing number and size of the Occupy Wall Street protests, their greatest accomplishment thus far has been the raising of awareness on a national level about the contradictions of present-day income inequities and injustice.

That is why I am so grateful for the vision and responsible outreach of Russell Simmons, Rev. Dr. Jamal Bryant, Zach McDaniels, Bishop John R. Bryant, Rev. Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore Sr., and many other Black clergy leaders from across America who have affirmed, “Occupy the Dream” as ecumenical coalition of church leaders who are joining with the brothers and sisters of the Occupy Wall Street movement to push for economic justice for all in the legacy of the dream of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We are part of the 99 percent who are challenging the 1 percent who increasingly control the wealth and future prosperity of the nation.

The Black church in America continues to be the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement and all successful movements for change in this nation in last 100 years have involved the presence and the visionary activism of the Black church. Now with the increasing poverty, disproportionately high home foreclosure rates and loss of property, unemployment, the lack of the best quality education for our children, absence of good health care delivery, discriminatory and unjust intergenerational incarceration, fiscal crisis for Historically Black Colleges and Universities; deterioration of our communities and business, and a growing sense of despair among millions of our youth, it is imperative that African-Americans should not wait passively for someone else to speak out and take action for the economic recovery of Black America.

Occupy the Dream is the revitalization and revival of the spirit, consciousness and activism of the Black church community working in strategic coalitions with others to demand and acquire economic justice and equality. Thank God for the Occupy Wall Street movement and for reminding us of our challenges, responsibilities and opportunities today to make a big sustainable differences in the quality of life in our communities and for all people who cry out for a better way of life. On Jan. 16, 2012, we will be calling on the Black church and other people who believe in freedom, justice and equality to come out and demonstrate with us in front of Federal Reserve Banks across the nation in both a symbolic and substantive visible protest against the growing massive income inequality in America.

Occupy the Dream is about building the “Beloved Community” that Dr. King envisioned. Dr King said it best, “Change do not roll on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we much straighten our backs and work for our freedom.” Yes, we must straighten our minds, backs, money, spirits and souls. We have to work for economic justice…We have to work for the empowerment of all people. Occupy the Dream! Stop income inequality. The American Spring is coming in 2012. The freedom train is rolling…Get on board today. Occupy the Dream.

(Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is senior advisor for the Black Alliance for Educational Options and President of Education Online Services Corporation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.)

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