01-16-12 MLK Day Links Roundup

It’s time for a true celebration of Martin Luther King Day. This week, Americans everywhere will remember the selfless and historic contributions made by one of the most important figures of the 21st century. Rebuild the Dream members are hosting MLK Day Movement Meet-ups to celebrate Dr. King and link the Civil Rights Movement with today’s struggle for an economy that works for all. We will come together to reflect on the struggles of our past, and unite to secure our future.

This is a chance to touch base with people who are passionate about fighting for Dr. King’s dream. Neighbors and friends will gather in schools, libraries, community centers, and living rooms to watch a short video and open up a discussion on how we can strengthen our movement in 2012.

MLK day is a chance to look back and look ahead — let’s reflect on one of the most important movements of our past as a springboard for the ongoing fight for justice. There is a lot left to fight for, and every day people are continuing Dr. King’s struggle. With a powerful movement sweeping the country, we must gather together and ask: What would Dr. King and other civil rights leaders do today? How can we continue their legacy in 2012 and beyond?

Any honest assessment of New Jersey would show that we have much to do. The recession has exacerbated economic disparities between ethnic groups and genders. As of December, one in six black men were unemployed and looking for work. Among white men, one in 13 were in the same position. And according to the latest data, 27.4 percent of African-Americans live in poverty.

Unfortunately, our state’s current policies are failing the African-American community. Tax cuts and incentives for big business have failed to bring the jobs we need. Meanwhile, devastating budget cuts have burdened struggling families. Over the past two years, New Jersey has taken money out of the pockets of the working poor by cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit, slashed property tax rebates for homeowners and tenants, raised bus and train fares and made the dream of a college education more expensive and less attainable. Cuts to municipal aid have led to crime spikes in urban centers such as Newark, Camden and Trenton, and it took the state Supreme Court to guarantee the constitutional rights of students in New Jersey’s cities to a thorough and efficient education.

Meanwhile, cuts to the public sector have had a disproportionate impact on the African-American community. The labor movement has been the pathway to the middle class for people of color and minorities throughout the 20th century, and minorities continue to be the fastest growing part of today’s labor force. With the decline in industrial employment, more than one-fifth of African-Americans now work in a public sector that is facing widespread layoffs and the loss of basic collective bargaining rights for pensions and health benefits.

King’s insights could very well be “mic checked” at any Occupy rally across our nation. They are even more important in this 2012 election, where the Republican candidates, in their desperation to be on top, have not hesitated to play the Willie Horton race card—whether it is Newt Gingrich’s ridiculous racist statement that President Obama is the Food Stamp President, or Rick Santorum’s declaration that he doesn’t “want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”

The fact of the matter is, not so much has changed since 1967. African Americans under the first African American President have watched the bottom fall out of the black middle class. What will the 2012 election change about this situation?

Perhaps it is time for the churches to begin to “Mic Check” MLK’s words on poverty, in addressing all of our branches of government in order to bring about Kings’s Beloved Community.

[Monday,] OWS plans a march from New York’s African Burial Ground to the city’s Federal Reserve Bank, which is located mere blocks from Wall Street. The event, called “Occupy the Federal Reserve,” will be one of thirteen linked protests taking place in every city that has a Federal Reserve Bank, as well as Los Angeles (which doesn’t have a Federal Reserve Bank, but is pretty important anyway).

Asked why OWS has taken aim at the Fed, Holder argues that the institution has become a key driver of economic injustice in America: “The Federal Reserve undermines our democracy. It’s filled with bankers who are pushing for a deflated currency that will help inflate their pockets.”

But ultimately, she notes, Sunday and Monday’s protests will focus on honoring Dr. King’s legacy of social engagement — and making sure that it continues: “We’re hoping to help inspire a new generation of activists and visionaries.”

  • 46.2 million: The number of Americans in poverty in 2010.
  • 76.7 million: Number of people in families who were living below $44,000 for a family of four (two times the federal poverty line).
  • 27.4: Percentage of African Americans in poverty.
  • 26.6: Percentage of Hispanics in poverty.
  • 9.9: Percentage of non-Hispanic whites in poverty.
  • 45.3: Percentage of young adults facing poverty, when they are considered independently of their parents.
  • 5.9 million: Number of young adults living with their parents. Those who aren’t saw a 9 percent decrease in their income.
  • 39.1: Percentage of African American children less than 18 years old in poverty.
  • 12.4: Percentage of white children less than 18 years old in poverty.

To start fixing this problem, it’s important that we grow the country’s number of low-skill jobs, so that those in poverty can begin to find a way out. We also need to maintain a solid safety net for those who can’t work, such as the elderly and the disabled.

  • Jetesar

    “We need to call attention to the fact that unemployment rates among people with disabilities are more than double the rates among nondisabled. We’ve always had the highest unemployment rates even in times of economic boom. Our people are kept out of the workforce and often forced into poverty by discrimination in the work place, by environmental and cultural barriers, by lack of adequate education and the low expectations of society, and by fear of losing benefits.”-Nadina LaSpina, from Krips Occupy Wall Street

  • Jetesar

    “We also need to maintain a solid safety net for those who can’t work, such as the elderly and the disabled.”I am disabled & it is exactly this kind of bigotry that keeps people with disabilities out of the workforce, & our unemployment rates twice as high as that of the nondisabled. We can & want to  work. Disabled does not mean incapable.