For the last several months, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement has been able to capture and energize the imaginations of countless people fed up with corporate greed and economic inequality.
People from diverse backgrounds and walks of life have converged on financial centers, town squares, city halls and various public spaces in order to protest corporate greed, a failed economy and gross income inequality. Many have been motivated to do so because they have lost their jobs, businesses and homes. Some have even lost their families due to the difficulties and stress associated with economic hardship. The ranks of the American middle class have been, and continue to be, decimated through unemployment, underemployment, foreclosures and outsourcing.
Meanwhile, the working poor, especially people of color continue their struggle not just for decent jobs, but recognition as human beings entitled to the full benefit of economic and social justice. They too have joined the ranks of the Occupy Movement and even developed their own vehicles for social justice such as Occupy the Hood.
Occupiers throughout the United States have demonstrated exemplary courage in facing political opposition, repressive police, inclement weather and evictions. Many have made tremendous sacrifices of time, energy, family life and resources to advance the struggle and movement for economic justice and ending corporate greed.
There is no questioning the need to fix the U.S. economy and its corresponding systems of government. The two major political parties are top heavy with millionaire elected officials: out of step and out of touch with the needs and social conditions of the majority of people they claim to represent.
Professional lobbyists carry more political clout than any group of voters because our system is driven by money. Congressmen and Senators routinely advocate legislation promoting and safeguarding the interest of wealthy campaign contributors, even to the detriment of the people who voted for them. There is no meaningful campaign finance reform and the United States Supreme Court ruled that corporations are now “people.”
The United States has a very rich and deep history when it comes to activist and activism, particularly, regarding slavery and the efforts to secure freedom, opportunity and social justice for people of African descent.
The first captured, incarcerated and transported groups of Africans found ways to organize themselves and rebel against slavery. They organized and executed numerous slave-rebellions on the high seas and on land. People such as Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey played key leadership roles in these types of efforts.
Harriet Tubman and others via the Underground Railroad organized the mechanisms for slaves to obtain their freedom, while people such as Frederick Douglass became advocates for the abolition of slavery and proposed visions for a radical restructuring of American society.
In northern cities like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Boston, free Blacks and former slaves organized various programs for education, food, security, shelter and religious instruction.
From the founding of the Urban League Movement to the founding of the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast Program, our experiences have been replete with organized efforts to provide concrete support for the needs of our people.
Blacks/New Afrikans have also been instrumental in shaping and molding a unique political perspective regarding when and how the United States should experience a social, economic and political transformation.
Radical reformers and revolutionaries such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Ella Baker, Stokley Carmichael, Martin Luther King Jr., Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis and others have offered profoundly transformative and revolutionary visions for a new American reality. They simultaneously inspired, mobilized and organized people in mass movements for social change and social justice.
Our situation today demands no less. It actually requires much more. We need to push for a serious fulfillment of the structural and institutional changes our ancestors and contemporaries knew would provide our people with a better opportunity at securing a real, substantive freedom.
Freedom from failing schools, double-digit unemployment and disempowered communities. Freedom from police abuse and misconduct and mass incarceration. Freedom from gang and drug-related violence and self/group hatred. Freedom from fear and cowardly leaders. Freedom from White-supremacy and structural inequality. Freedom for all political prisoners and our children yet to be born. Let those freedoms ring!
Justice In Our Lifetime,
(Khalid Raheem is president & CEO National Council for Urban Peace and Justice [www.ncupj.net]. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.urban-activist.com.)