By Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
We take due notice of the six-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The National Urban League just presented Occupy the Vote at Howard University in Washington, DC on the occasion of the release of the League’s 2012 Annual State of Black America Report. The Occupy movement has grown and expanded in every state in the U.S. and in thousands of grass roots communities across the nation. From Occupy the Hood to Occupy the Courts to Occupy the Dream, the diversity of the Occupy movement is also growing exponentially.
“Getting money out of politics” has surfaced as a unifying rally call to action for millions of people want to free our democracy from the inequitable influence of the 1 percent of the population that want to maintain the status quo of income inequality, economic injustice, poverty and social misery for millions of Americans. But as sure as the emerging season of spring will usher in a climate change in temperature and humidity, there is also the question today whether or not there will emerge a massive “American Spring” of social, political and economic change in the heart, mind, soul, spirit and actions of those who are no longer willing to be patient for a long overdue progressive transformation of our society that transcends the counterproductive divisions and cynicisms that seem to overly permeate the mindset of the nation.
Historical change does not happen without historical consequences. In 2008, the majority of Americans who voted did in fact cast their ballots for an unprecedented change in American politics amidst an engulfing economic recession and two polarizing wars abroad. The aspirations of millions, in particular younger voters, for a new America overcame the fears and false stereotypes of the past. President Barack Obama was elected to lead our nation forward. Just four years ago the positive winds of change were blowing strong with a new national sense of unity and resolve to be a nation of values, integrity, justice and equality for all at home and abroad.
Yet, we all know that real systemic change sometimes takes longer than four years or six months. The point here is that people do have a right and a responsibility to push forward for more change even amidst the negative headwinds of reaction and fear that seek to push women, minorities, workers and the poor to the inconsiderate margins of the current political debate with utter arrogance and disrespect for the oneness of humanity. You can always measure the progress of any nation or society by how the “least of these” are being treated or regarded. The poor are being blamed for being poor. The unemployed are being blamed for being unemployed. There is an unfair tolerance of injustice that is on the rise and those who speak out or who engage in nonviolent protest or civil disobedience are being scorned, mocked and damned.
The conscience of a nation is the consciousness of its people. That is why one of the ultimate goals of the movement is to Occupy the Consciousness of the people and to raise the awareness, knowledge, understanding, commitment and actions of the masses of people to stand for freedom, equal justice and empowerment for all people in America and throughout the world in a loving spirit and reality of giving and sharing equally and justly to all. This is exactly what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr articulated in his dream of economic and social justice for all; and this is what we continue to embrace in Occupy the Dream.
Yes, the American Spring has already arrived with a spirited revival of nonviolent protests and arrests at the movement’s birthplace inside of Zuccuti Park in lower Manhattan on March 17, 2012 that was the six-month milestone of the evolution of the movement. Soon there will be larger and larger demonstrations in more and more cities across the nation. Democracy is at its best when it is participatory. The Occupy movement is a participatory phenomenon and we encourage all participants to stay true to its nonviolent objectives of peaceful civil disobedience and protest.
There are some who have expressed concern about the Occupy movement being co-opted by partisan devotees. I do not believe that it is possible for that to happen because the Occupy movement is not the possession of one person or one group. The movement’s strength is its diversity and capacity to be resilient in the face of repression. Ultimately the organized and mobilized power of the people who have raised consciousness and perseverance will always prevail. People who are partisan also have a right to express their political views as well as those who are nonpartisan. But for the vast majority of Black American voters, we must go out and vote in record numbers on November 6, 2012. There is just too much at stake and we cannot afford to be missing in action in this critical national election.
As the Occupy movement blossoms this spring with renewed energy and spirit, remember to keep your mind aware and resourced with accurate information. Remember no one can arrest your conscience and let no one break your spirit or passion for that which is equitable and just. There will be difficult days ahead, but the opportunities to advance this important cause are far greater than the difficulties that we may face. Occupy the Dream…Occupy Consciousness.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is President of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and Education Online Services Corporation as well as being the National Director of Occupy the Dream and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org