American citizens have been protesters for change for decades. From the rallies against the inclusion of Americans in the Vietnam War to the marches throughout Georgia and the entire U.S. to prevent the execution of Troy Davis, protesting is as common among citizens as their love for apple pie and baseball. Struggling against the establishment is normal for those who are seeking a vast difference in what is deemed incorrect in their communities. On October 15, thousands of Americans of all ages and ethnicities lined the Washington, D.C. streets with signs declaring their disapproval of the rising unemployment rates in this nation. Led by the Reverend Al Sharpton and other leaders in the current Civil Rights Movement, this protest was in tribute to one that happened more than three decades ago in hopes of affecting a larger issue that had plagued Americans for more than four hundred years.
As America unveiled a memorial for one man whose words sparked a revolution, these protesters channeled his non-violent spirit and brought to life his vision. On August 28, 1963, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was focused on securing equality for all. According to the Info Please website, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was the culmination of several marches throughout the United States combatting against the racial injustices occurring during that time.
At the forefront of that revolution was the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a powerful man who used his words to influence others to act and expect positive changes. Dr. King was the face of a larger movement to bring all citizens together in all capacities with equal rights and access to the same freedoms.
In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, spoken during that March on Washington, Dr. King’s words were loud, clear, and explosive. “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream.” Defined by the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as, “an American social idea that stresses egalitarianism and especially material prosperity,” the American Dream is a concept that has brought immigrants to the United States for decades. It is an idea that all Americans can be as successful as they desire to be with vision, fortitude, and tons of hard work.
So as Dr. King’s dream was grown out of the soil that is the American Dream, so is Gerlyne Maitre’s. Maitre is a Hunter College graduate with a degree in sociology who can’t seem to find full-time employment, so she accepts several part-time jobs with the hope that these part-times will equal one full-time paycheck. As she and 50 others occupied Zuccotti Park last week, her sign read, “Where is my American Dream?”
Maitre’s sentiment reflects the attitude of thousands of Americans who refer to themselves as the “99 percenters.” According to the Occupy Wall Street website, the 99 percenters are “fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that caused the greatest recession in generations.”
Frustrated with the top one percent of the wealthiest Americans controlling the financial sector, the 99 percenters raised their voices as Dr. King did in the ‘60s with a non-violent occupation of Liberty Square in Manhattan’s financial district and subsequently, 100 cities across the U.S. including Chicago and 1,500 cities around the world.
Though no public figure has been elected as the leader of Occupy Wall Street because it’s a grass roots movement, activist Cornel West has been arrested twice in recent weeks for his role in OWS protests. Since his first arrest for trespassing on the Supreme Court steps last week, the Princeton University professor has been on the media circuit. In his first television appearance after being released on MSNBC’s The Ed Show, it was clear that Dr. West believed that Dr. King would have supported the OWS movement and that the 99 percenters occupation of different cities is the full circle of Dr. King’s mission.
Dr. West was arrested on the same date when President Obama was dedicating the memorial in Washington, D.C. to Dr. King, which brings his legacy and the current struggle for equality around the bend of life together.
The Occupy Wall Street Movement and current March on Washington continue to push for that American Dream that we have all been promised. In their demonstrations, the spirit of Dr. King lives. It is his dream coming into fruition. Blacks and whites of all heritages are coming together in cities that were once segregated to call attention to new injustices that are affecting them and thousands of others.
43 years after the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we are still striving for the equality that he marched on Washington and was arrested in Birmingham for. But, at some point in the United States’ history, we will all be equal. Good God almighty, we are free at last.
HBCU Buzz Staff Writer