January 5, 2012; Source: Reader Supported News | We have written in the past that the Occupy Wall Street movement seemed to have a largely white cast, in part because of the perspective of some white progressives that race is a divisive issue and the feeling among leaders among people of color that the focus on the 99 percent submerges and undervalues the problems faced not by the middle class, but by the poor and by minorities. Efforts to diversify (for lack of a better word) the Occupy movement have been seen in the Occupy the Hood organizing effort, but it is unclear to casual outside observers how much is behind such efforts and how much traction they have achieved.
Recently, Dr. Ben Chavis, the former executive director of the NAACP and national director of the Million Man March, and now president and CEO of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (founded by “cultural icon and social entrepreneur Russell Simmons”), announced a new “Occupy” effort. “Occupy the Dream” is aiming to work with Occupy Wall Street groups to coordinate protests at Federal Reserve banks in ten cities, along with an Occupy the Dream march in Washington, DC on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 16. Occupy the Dream plans to hold a number of actions during the spring until a “mass gathering” in Washington scheduled for April 4 through April 7.
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The Occupy the Dream website includes links for each Occupy the Federal Reserve action, including, for most, a local church contact—reflecting the origination of this Occupy program in plans hatched by Dr. Chavis, a United Church of Christ field officer until he joined the Nation of Islam, and Rev. Dr. Jamal Bryant of Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple Church (the National Steering Committee is made up entirely of ministers).
Like many of the Occupy efforts, it is hard to tell exactly how much is behind Occupy the Dream, but in this case, the fact that Russell Simmons showed up (at least by video) at the initial Occupy the Dream press conference suggests some possible staying power. Simmons isn’t one to fritter away his organizing capital. In addition, like much of this “movement,” Occupy the Dream is taking advantage of social media in the form of StudioOccupy, self-described as a “movie studio in the cloud,” inviting Dream supporters to “Grab your phone or webcam, make a video of your dream, and upload it by January 16th– Dr. King’s birthday.”—Rick Cohen