This year, as we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., I invite you to hear a few of his words anew:
“The time has come for a return to mass nonviolent protest. Accordingly, we are planning a series of such demonstrations this spring and summer, to begin in Washington, D.C. They will have Negro and white participation, and they will seek to benefit the poor of both races.
“We call on the government to adopt an economic bill of rights to avoid the continued polarization of the American community and ultimately the destruction of basic democratic values, we must have national action – compassionate, massive, and sustained, backed by the resources of the most powerful and the richest nation on earth.
“We will use a massive nonviolent movement to address the economic issues – the right to live, to have a job and income. Once the demonstrations start in Washington, we feel, there will be spontaneous supporting activity taking place across the country.
“We are calling our demonstration a campaign for jobs and income because we feel that the economic question is the most crucial that black people, and poor people generally, are confronting.
“We need an economic bill of rights: 1) guarantee a job to all people who want to work and are able to work; 2) guarantee an income for all who are not able to work.
“We need to put pressure on Congress to get things done. We will do this with First Amendment activity. If Congress is unresponsive, we’ll have to escalate in order to keep the issue alive and before it. This action may take on disruptive dimensions, but not violence in the sense of destroying life or property: it will be militant nonviolence.
“We need this movement. We need it to bring about a new kind of togetherness between blacks and whites. We need it to bring allies together and to bring the coalition of conscience together.
“We have through massive nonviolent action, an opportunity to avoid a national disaster and create a new spirit of class and racial harmony. We can write another luminous moral chapter in American history. All of us are on trial in this troubled hour, but time still permits us to meet the future with a clear conscience.”
These words are quoted or paraphrased from King’s article Showdown for Nonviolence that was published posthumously in Look (April 16, 1968); 12 days after King was martyred. It is unsettling to realize that we have squandered over 40 years wandering in the wilderness. May we heed Martin’s call and turn to God’s pillars to lead us to the promise land.
I believe it is time to:
Fulfill King’s vision of a Poor People’s Campaign.
Plan to Occupy Washington, DC this spring.
Revisit FDR’s Economic Bill of Rights that includes, “the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.” Let’s be clear, this is more than a minimum wage, a living wage, even a family supportive wage!
Watch for Occupy the Dream’s next action.