On the eve of his assassination, Martin Luther King launched a campaign against economic injustice, calling for an encampment on the lawns of Washington D.C. — much like the Occupy encampments across the country today.
(Long Island, NY) On January 16th, Occupy Wall Street continues Martin Luther King’s quest for economic justice through nonviolent action. At 10:00 a.m., together with unionists and members of the black faith community led by Benjamin Chavis, Occupy Wall Street embarks on a journey of liberation starting at the African Burial Ground, winding over the streets of the financial district to the Federal Reserve, and heading up to Madison Square Garden in time to catch the Knicks game crowds.
African Burial Ground:
We trace the roots of extreme inequity to Wall Street itself. We begin at the African Burial Ground to make the statement: Wall Street is the exact site of the slave auction block, upon which our prosperity as a nation was built. The very wall that Wall Street is named for was built by enslaved Africans. Just one month before MLK’s birthday this year, Wall Street marked the 300th anniversary of the law establishing New York’s first slave market. Thousands of Africans were sold at this market as Wall Street pocketed the profits. While slavery has been abolished, racism and systematic profiteering of the working class has not.
The Occupy Movement is exposing the corporate takeover of our public spaces and, more recently, private homes – especially in the communities of color which have been hardest hit by predatory lending practices. Banks like Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs have preyed on vulnerable communities of color. Almost twice as many African-American homeowners have lost their properties to foreclosures as Whites. In turn, the black community is three times more likely to have negative or zero “net worth” than Whites.
Madison Square Garden:
We end our day in honor MLK by supporting U.S. workers exploited by Wall Street to turn a quick profit. “Wall Street profiteers who once made a killing off the products of slave labor here in the United States” says Rebecca Manski of Occupy Wall Street, “today make their profits from outsourced sweatshop labor, prison labor and slave-wage conditions in the U.S. All of this at the expense of U.S. workers and their right to make a fair, living wage.”
“At Madison Square Garden,” explains Michelle Crentsil, of the Communications Workers of America and Occupy Wall Street, “we will meet African American and Latino Cablevision workers as they confront Cablevision CEO and Knicks owner James Dolan – a member of the 1% who makes more than all of the workers in Cablevision combined and is blocking their right to organize.”
King’s Vision and the Occupy Movement:
“As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars,” said King. Days before his murder, he declared that the next phase of the civil rights movement would be a Poor People’s Campaign—an outcry for justice for the millions of Americans in “economic bondage.” He called for a Resurrection City in D.C.—much like the Occupy encampments across the country—where hundreds of thousands of poor people would come to the National Mall, live together and engage in nonviolent action directed at a Congress which did not concern itself with the needs of the 99%. As Congress continues to serve the interests of wealthy donors on Wall Street, the American Dream grows further out of reach, attainable by only a few, well-connected, elite members of society. Occupy Wall Street is here to pick up where King left off. We are here to Reclaim the Dream.