It’s easy to dismiss protests like this week’s #floodwallstreet as another gathering of unemployed hipsters with nothing else to do. It is true that the crowd protesting on lower Broadway Monday was mostly white folks from middle class backgrounds with politics that would make even your average Democrat weary. But to dismiss #floodwallstreet would also mean ignoring people like me.
I am a 27-year-old African-American woman and Christian minister. The Occupy Movement began three years ago–around the time that I entered my first year of seminary at Vanderbilt Divinity School. I watched along with millions of others as thousands flowed into Zuccotti Park, inspiring similar movements in cities across the country. Like so many in the African-American community, I was suspicious. For a movement focused on economic justice, there didn’t appear to be many people who looked like the folks I knew living on the front lines of economic inequality.
I didn’t see the single mothers at my church who work two jobs to provide for their children. Nor did I see the faces of the elderly men I worked with each day as an outreach worker for an anti-hunger organization. These men routinely chose between buying medication and feeding themselves.
When Occupy began, I was an interested outsider, standing on the margins of a movement that appeared to me to lack the clarity of vision that I needed in order to know how to enter in and participate.
But one day after the People’s Climate March, thousands of people returned to Wall Street to protest the role of corporate greed in our society. The Occupy infrastructure that many assumed dead rose again with a new message:
Confront the root cause of the climate crisis – an economic system based on exploiting frontline communities, workers and natural resources.
Instead of rolling my eyes, I woke up this morning, put on a blue shirt, and joined those gathered at Battery Park. Why? Because I believe economic and climate justice to be the defining issues of our era.
This is why I founded the Faith Matters Network, a multi-faith alliance dedicated to building the power of people of faith to transform our social and economic systems as a means to addressing these issues. The past three decades saw the rise of two devastating and inter-related trends: ecological destruction as a result of climate change and rapidly growing income inequality. These issues impact every person in the global community and intersect with countless other issues, from reproductive justice to forced migration; mass incarceration to health disparities.
Corporate greed is a central force perpetuating the dual oppressions of climate and economic injustice. But I also believe that for sustainable change to occur the business sector must be part of the solution. I still believe in the promise of American democracy, even against the long history of that promise being violated and denied to people like me.
But above all, I believe in a God of justice, mercy, and love who calls humankind to be her hands upon the Earth. Whether we chose to abuse or embrace one another and Creation with those hands is up to us.