By Alexis Taylor
Originally published December 15, 2011 in the Prince George’s County News
Americans nationwide have watched for weeks as police forces have taken action against Occupy Wall Street and its sister Occupy movements across the country. One by one encampments filled with peaceful protesters have been met with riot gear, tear gas, pepper spray and eviction notices. Now, nearly 100 days into the struggle, movements across the country are not only gaining attention but a major new supporter as well: the black church.
“I think it’s appropriate for the black church, the black community, and the civil rights family to join hand in hand with what ‘Occupy’ is doing,” said the Rev. Dr. Jamal Harrison-Bryant, leader of the newly formed Occupy the Dream, a collection of over 1000 concerned African-American clergy, business owners, entertainers, and professional athletes. Joining forces with Occupy Wall Street in protest of greedy practices on Wall Street and in big corporations, Dr. Bryant said the movement has “taken the methodology of the black church in the civil rights movement and brought it to the 21 Century.”
Pastor of the 10,000 member Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, and former national director of the NAACP’s Youth and College division, Dr. Bryant found a way to support the movement after Russell Simmons asked him to help infuse an African American voice. Teaming up with David Degraw and Shamar Thomas of Occupy Wall Street, Occupy the Dream was formally announced Dec. 14 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Along with Dr. Bryant, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., former executive director and CEO of the NAACP, will be in attendance for the announcement.
Bringing to the forefront the importance of a minority participation in the Occupy movement, Occupy the Dream will hold major demonstrations every month in 10 to 15 select cities across the nation. The first demonstration will take place on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 16, 2012, outside Federal Reserve Banks around the nation.
Teaming up with entertainers such as Bon Jovi, Jay-Z, Bruce Springsteen, and Kanye West, Dr. Bryant encourages citizens of every race, color and creed to join Occupy the Dream. Wall Street, big banks, and politicians who thought the movement would go away now have a new entity to fight, and “every thirty days we’re coming at the system again,” said Dr. Bryant.
“We will demonstrate to America that the economy has handicapped the people. Churches are mobilizing across the country even now to participate. We’re calling people to come to the cities in wheelchairs, crutches, and casts to pile up at the door so there is a visual image of what it means to be handicapped in this economy,” said Dr. Bryant. “With schools being closed and people being off work, this is not a day to watch TV or be in the mall, this is the next step in the Civil Rights Movement.
Having begun Sept. 17 in New York City’s financial district, the Occupy movement has had many aspects to its overall theme: end the greed of the big banks and Wall Street. Since its inception, Occupy movements have taken on issues such as the school to prison pipeline, cuts to important entitlements for senior citizens, and tax breaks for the evaporating middle class instead of the wealthy.
For more information on Occupy the Dream, please visit occupywallstreet.org