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Occupy the Dream Statement by Rev. Lawrence Livingston

Hello, Interfaith Reflections readers.  I introduce to you today the Reverend Lawrence Livingston, pastor of the Mother African Union Church.  That’s the church that Peter Spencer started, the first independent black church in America.  At yesterday’s “Occupy the Dream” event held at Spencer Plaza Reverend Livingston read the following statement:

reading our demandsLawrence Michael Livingston, Sr. Pastor
Mother African Union Church

All throughout the nation today we honor a man who has been called by some the greatest American ever to have lived.  In his 1963 speech at the March on Washington, undoubtedly one of the most popular speeches of all time,  he said as a man of faith, his hope was also deeply rooted in the American Dream that every human being is created equal and endowed by the creator with the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Profoundly, we are here at Peter Spencer plaza on this day, where the Black Church movement in America got its start, and was planted as a seed of Holy liberation, and would give birth to the prophetic voice of MLK who challenged the nation to live out the creed and conviction of its own Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  Spencer biographer, Dr. Lewis Baldwin, once said that Peter Spencer started the Black Church movement, as a man way ahead of his time, and like King, he championed the principles of hope, community, salvation, liberation and self-determination, as early as 1813.  So it is profound that we are here at the site of the start of perhaps the nation’s longest running movement towards liberation—the Black Church.

Today, we stand, along with African American Clergy and churches all across the nation to Occupy the Dream.  Of course the phrase “Occupy the Dream” is a play on words that joins together the Occupy Movement in the nation and the Dream articulated by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in his speech at the March on Washington.

Today we call upon all people of conscience and particularly the Black Church to stand with this Occupy movement that represents the ninety-nine percent of Americans who continue and are increasingly being locked out of the so called American dream articulated by MLK.  We have missed the point if we think King’s message to the world was about racial equality only.  It was that, but more so, he declared a “Beloved Community,” whereby all people—blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians and native Americans, whether working class, wealthy, or particularly the poor, are equipped with the instruments of social uplift that will lead to those God-given inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  As we move into the second decade of the 21st Century, while the doors of opportunity have been opened, more and more we find barriers that block the path to the door.  Wall Street has been given a bail-out, but the American people are not being bailed-out, but are faced with barriers.  Banks get relief, but regular everyday people don’t get relief.  The one percent continues to receive returns, but only on the back of a massive recession, increased unemployment and underemployment, and the dismantling of what MLK would call programs of social uplift.  We make note that in the final years of the life of MLK he very assertively made the connection between racism, militarism, and poverty.  We find irony in a nation that celebrates the principles of MLK but at the same time continues to war against other countries, has no answer for abject poverty,  or gun violence.

We note the MLK  died while planning and preparing for the Poor Peoples Campaign of 1968, which was probably the first “Occupy Movement.”   The dream that he spoke about in 1963, even in his lifetime, had become the nightmare he spoke of at the beginning of the I Have A Dream speech.

Well, what are the objectives of the Occupy the Dream movement?  We don’t just voice these objectives today, but we are starting the dialogue and discussion, and we will continue the discussion until we start to see the barriers come down.

Today, we call for:

1. An immediate moratorium on foreclosures throughout the nation, until the problems of predatory lending by banks, unjust variable rates, and deceptive loan practices can be studied.

2. A strengthening of the Pell Grant program so more of our young people, in poverty and working class, are able to cover the cost of going to college.

3. Wall Street to develop a $100 billion fund to help develop our urban communities, to bring jobs, affordable housing and opportunity to our urban communities.

These are the  objectives of the National Occupy the Dream movement.

In conjunction with three objectives of the Occupy the Dream National agenda we call on our local institutions to do the following (these are not instead of the national agenda objectives, but the way we can expand support for these objectives locally)

1. Immediate Moratorium on foreclosures, with emphasis, and we call on upon the Banks in DE, particularly Bank of America, one of the giants in the home mortgage business, which has significant offices in DE, to join the moratorium on foreclosures called for by the National Occupy the Dream movement.

2. Expansion/Promotion of the SEED  (Student Excellence Equals Degree) Program, the Inspire Scholarship at Delaware State University, and a strengthening of the Pell Grants for Delaware students.

3. We Call on DE corporations, both visible and invisible, to develop a community reinvestment fund for the communities in the State, to give back to DE, in response (that is as a return) to the benefits they receive as a result of incorporating in Delaware.  Companies that incorporate in Delaware but have their operations elsewhere have the benefit of producing a wealth of assets that are protected by the laws that allow them to incorporate here.  It’s time they give a return to the people of Delaware for our investment as a state.

Further, we call upon Governor Markell, his administration and the Delaware State legislature to work towards these objectives throughout our state.

We call upon the community, particularly those in the African American Community to be accountable and stop mirroring the powers that be in practices that a predatory, individualistic, or compartmentalized.   That is not the way of King’s Beloved Community.

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