Ben Chavis shares his Occupy Dream

Dr. Ben Chavis sharing his perspectives then and now at the OWS update praised Occupy for “raising before the world the question of income inequality, the 99% and the 1%.”
Photo by Tequila Minsky

For those who think that Occupy Wall Street has petered-out, they are quite mistaken. Occupiers, supporters and sympathizers packed Housing Works Bookstore in Manhattan last week for the discussion “Where We’ve Gone and What to Expect from Occupy in 2012.”

Artist and journalist panelists with Andy Stepanian moderating and community activists discussed ‘where Occupy has taken us, where it can bring us.’ They spoke in solidarity, nearly all, the prefaced disclaimer: I speak for myself, not for the Occupy movement.

Seasoned activist, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, co-founder of Occupy the Dream was a featured guest speaker.

The civil rights leader, a former director of NAACP, met Martin Luther King as a young boy. “I’ve been an activist since I was 12, now I’m 64, “ he said. “Occupy is an affirmation of the work I’ve been doing.” Chavez was also the director of the Million Man March and founded Hip-Hop Nation with Russell Simmons.

He pointed out that there is something wrong with the economic order and praised Occupy for “raising before the world the question of income inequality, the 99% and the 1%.” “I was ready to declare solidarity,” said Chavis when he heard these values.

Chavis dismissed the notion of a ‘leaderless’ movement, “I think the Occupy movement has many leaders. If Martin Luther King was alive, he’d be front and center in the Occupy movement.” Chavez mentioned that (previously) people were not comfortable (in their lives) but not vocal about it. He said that movements for change are those that are affirmational, those that rise from the aspirations of the people. And, contrary to some opinions, the Occupy movement was getting stronger and that diversity was adding to it.

African-American faith members joined OWS on MLK Day demonstrating at Federal Reserve Banks.

“We’re looking to the American spring, summer and fall, to see not just what we’re against, but what we’re for.”

On April 4-12, Occupy the Dream, picking up the mantle of MLK’s dream, will mobilize in Washington D.C. (In 1968, King organized the Poor People’s Campaign. The mobilization on Washington, “Resurrection City,” continued its plans in spite of King’s death. Starting one month after, almost 3,000 camped out on the Mall for nearly six weeks, culminating in a Solidarity Day march with 50,000.)

Chavis said this is “the next round of the struggle.” To the packed room of many up to 40 years his junior, he concluded, “I’m very pleased, even in my elder state, to spend time with you.”

Also on the panel was Malik Rhasaan initiator of Occupy the Hood, which is active on the ground in communities, providing food, access to resources and fighting land and building grabs. Occupy the Hood has grown to be a national community organizing movement.

The evening ended with lively discussion and the distribution of copies of The Declaration of the Occupation of New York City, a kind of Occupy manifesto, now in its second and expanded content edition. About 100,000 copies were printed.

The audience snaked up the steps to the second level of the packed Housing Works bookstore to hear the OWS update.
Photos by Tequila Minsky
Photo by Tequila Minsky

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