For many years, people throughout our city have fought for a fair distribution of wealth, basic social services and the civil and human rights supposedly guaranteed to all of us. But why, after all this time, are we still fighting the same battles that began generations ago?
The fact is that we had not seen a cohesive front in our opposition to those who seek to deny us our unalienable rights. That was true until a group of committed individuals stood for us all at Zuccotti Park. In just over a month, they have taken groups fragmented and oft times competitive and unified them with the prospect of a movement for true change. Occupy Wall Street is more than just another protest, but the drumbeat of a grassroots revolution that, with the proper support, will ultimately strengthen the fabric of our nation.
Some have suggested that Occupy is just a phenomenon of the disgruntled middle class, but anyone who has suffered or witnessed the suffering all too common within the 99 percent knows the truth. We have children starving, senior citizens dying because of lackluster medical care and mothers and fathers working themselves to the bone just to keep their heads above water while at the same time corporations make record profits and receive larger than ever tax breaks.
This is an equation that has held our nation back for decades, and its one that must change for the survival of our communities. Occupy Wall Street is about justice for all, not just for one particular group, which is what makes it stand apart from those that came before.
Lest we forget, the inequities we face are manmade. George W. Bush got us into two wars, then cut taxes for the richest and created billions of dollars in loopholes for corporations. Coupled with the unemployment and poverty that many now experience on a daily basis, it is no wonder that our people are taking to the streets and saying no to the status quo and no more to the miseducation put forth by many in the media. In many ways, Occupy Wall Street is akin to the “Arab Spring,” with the citizenry rising up and refusing to trust a government with a track record of ignorance and abuse. The only difference is that our revolution has the institutional support of every single Harlem politician, from Rep. Charlie Rangel on down to the newly elected district leaders.
The refusal to follow our government blindly is the most patriotic facet of American democracy. People in communities like Harlem have been rejecting the “official line” for generations, and Occupy Wall Street is indeed a protest for civil rights. Like the Civil Rights Movement, nothing will get done without a strong coalition. We need Black and Brown people from every “Harlem” throughout the city to join this movement and protect the rightful occupation of Zuccotti Park. As Ben Franklin said during our greatest revolution, “We must, indeed, all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Assemblyman Keith Wright is the Chairman of the Manhattan Democratic Party and Chairman of the State Assembly Labor Committee, who represents Central and Western Harlem in the New York State Assembly.