Interrupting Inequality — from Wall Street to Your Street

Wall Street Sign
Ten years ago, we threw a party on Wall Street.  It was one year after 9/11 and nine years before Occupy.

Here’s a little video from the original Wall Street Jubilee:

We were inspired by the ancient vision of Jubilee found in the Bible – where God invites the Hebrew people to dismantle economic inequality by forgiving debts, setting slaves free, and redistributing property.  It was God’s emancipation proclamation, the Almighty’s creative way of systemically interrupting the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Sure, biblical scholars are quick to point out that the Hebrew people never really practiced the Jubilee very well.  But one of my favorite scholars goes on to say, “That’s no excuse… Christians have never really practiced the Sermon on the Mount very well either.”  It was still God’s dream, God’s intention — and it is our job to keep God’s dream alive.

So we threw a Jubilee party on Wall Street, ready to confront the raging bull head-on, ready to flip the tables on the front steps of capitalism’s temple.

We invited the homeless folks in New York to come to the front entrance of the New York Stock Exchange where we planned to give away ten thousand dollars in cash.  They came…lots of them.  Just as the opening bell rang inside the Stock Exchange, Jubilee started rumbling \outside.  Small bills were dropped from the balcony of a nearby building, a swarm of bicyclists rode through and dumped thousands of quarters.  Undercover by-standers had come prepared and emptied bags, backpacks and purses full of change.  The party was so irresistible that some of the folks in the stock exchange came out to catch a glimpse of the action.  One of them even bought a bunch of bagels and started handing them out.

It wasn’t about coins – it was about change.

We threw the party there deliberately knowing we needed to bring the poor and rich face to face, to expose the economic patterns of Wall Street that are increasingly leaving masses of people in poverty so that a handful of folks can live as they wish–privatizing profit and socializing debt.

Brave New Films

Also by Shane: Jesus for President 2012

It was brilliant street theater, an economic flash mob, a little act of divine mischief.  But something in us felt like there was more, something deeper — even holy — that happened that day.  It didn’t change the world.  But it did raise the question about whether the world needed to be changed.

Ten years later, we think it’s time for another Jubilee.  This time around we are not just performing a stunt on Wall Street.  We want Jubilee to spread from Wall Street to Main Street.  We want to invite you to do an act of Jubilee on your streets.

So here is the invitation.  It’s a call for all superheroes and anti-heroes and ordinary radicals… we are inviting people all over the world to simultaneously, wildly and wonderfully, orchestrate random acts of Jubilee.

Maybe you will hide money in alleyways and park benches.  Maybe you will drop rupees from a hot air balloon over a slum in India.   Maybe you can take a homeless person to lunch, or learn to quilt with an old lady. Maybe your religious community can match every dollar they spend on buildings with a dollar given to the poor.  Maybe you can divest from stocks that exploit and invest in micro-finance grants that enrich.  Maybe you can get your office to sponsor a well for folks in Africa, or get your dorm buddies to give $3 to buy mosquito nets for folks who might otherwise die of malaria.  Maybe your college will create a scholarship for low-income youth. Maybe your neighborhood will pay off someone’s house before foreclosure.  Maybe your business will forgive someone’s debt. Maybe you can get your pastor to switch salaries with the janitor or your CEO to pay all folks the same wage for one year.  Maybe America will forgive all third-world debt owed to it.  Maybe.  It’s up to us.  It’s up to you.  God is already on the side of Jubilee.  God might just be waiting for us to enact it.  Be the change.

Shane Claiborne is a prominent author, speaker, activist, and founding member of the Simple Way.  He is one of the compilers of Common Prayer, a new resource to unite people in prayer and action. Shane is also helping develop a network called Friends Without Borders which creates opportunities for folks to come together and work together for justice from around the world. His most recent book is Red Letter Revolution, which he co-authored with Tony Campolo.

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About the Author

Shane Claiborne

Shane ClaiborneShane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way, a radical faith community in Philadelphia. His most recent book, Executing Grace was released in June.View all posts by Shane Claiborne →

  • Within the Black Community BIG socio-economic decline — coming from the BIG government that engendered it — is the price of RACIAL PRIDE.

    Stated another way, Blacks are willing to ignore the FACTS of the Blast Back to the Past Barack Hussein Obama has sent them on, resulting in “. . . one of the steepest descents of the economic fortunes of black Americans since the second world war both in real terms and relative to whites,” if only to be able to point with pride to a half-Black American President who does NOT have a drop of African-American blood in him but instead the blood of lily-whites on his mother’s side (50%) and the blood of slave-owning Arabs (~25%) on his father’s side — hence the name Barack HUSSEIN OBAMA — and ~25% Black KENYAN blood. His forebears on both his mother’s and father’s sides were either slave owners or aided and abetted slavery.

    This may be the difference between “RACIAL” and “RACISM” in an all-too-powerfully Politically Correct world. When the descendants of African-American slaves vote for someone they perceive to be like them based primarily upon melanin and ignore the educational and socio-economic price they’ve paid these past four years for maintaining this pride and the price they’re highly likely to continue to pay by voting for Barack Hussein again in numbers surpassing 90%, they are unwittingly engaging in one of the purest expressions of free-market capitalism — which many Blacks rail against and denigrate — by willingly and ably engaging in a quid pro quo where they and they alone determine for themselves the “utility” they enjoy from the transaction. This is the essence of pure capitalism: people pay a price for a good or service based solely on what they themselves are willing and able to pay with no one else telling them what they “SHOULD” pay or what the “utility” should be worth.

    We can quantify the socio-economic cost and note that Blacks have socio-economically suffered horrifically under Barack Hussein Obama; but we can NOT quantify the racial pride they feel and the utility it provides them. And so the equation is:

    Utility – socio-economic cost = Barack Hussein Obama.

    We have an “Identity” (double entendre intended) that is unique to the Black Community. Just not to most of the rest of America.

    I remember years ago when Blacks spoke of the “Black Experience.” They insisted that people with just a few up to many more drops of melanin above Caucasian could engage in the “Black Experience.” I do NOT pretend I have as I’ve got far too little melanin. But if I recall correctly it had to do more with experiencing life as descendants of mostly African slaves and the unique culture and heritage that engendered than simply having a minimum percent of melanin. The “Black Experience” included some or all of the following form this NON-EXHAUSTIVE list:

    a) Black culture

    b) Manifest racism

    c) Varying degees of poverty and stunted socio-economic upward mobility

    d) Music

    e) Church

    f) Food

    g) Language or dialect

    h) Discrimination when it came to education, sports, jobs, social status, and even church attendance and membership

    i) Black Power that has given way to Black Empowerment

    j) Getting in touch with African ROOTS but normally without relocating to Africa

    I’m sure there’s more.

    Except on the margins the above Black Experience was NOT Barack Hussein Obama’s, raised as he was in Indonesia until 10, and then in upper-middle class Hawaii, attending Punahou School, a private, college-prep school in Hawaii, followed by Occidental College in California, Columbia University in Manhattan, and finally Harvard in Boston. Great for him but NOT what one typically describes as the Black Experience.

    Other than a bit more melanin than most Caucasians manifest what does Barack Hussein Obama have in common with most African-Americans that they should sacrifice so much downward socio-economic mobility just to keep him in leadership?

    Does the explanation lie within a COMPOSITE — thank you, Barack Hussein Obama for legitimizing composites of people, events and ideas — of Malcolm X’s new found wisdom manifested in his latter days speeches before he was assassinated by Democratic-leaning BLACK MUSLIMS after calling Blacks “political chumps” and “traitors to their race” for continually voting for Democrats (see video below) PLUS the prescient and brilliant observation of French Historian Alexis de Tocqueville as follows:

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse [sic] from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”

    In short, do most African-Americans continue to support Barack Hussein Obama primarily because he continues to steal from and borrow against the public Treasury in order to give Blacks in disproportionate numbers increasing amounts of LARGESS: Welfare, Food Stamps, Disability, Medicaid, CHIPS, Section-8 housing, Disability, Unemployment Checks, Obama Bucks and Obama Fones, etc.?

    Is Barack Hussein Obama increasingly behaving like a Dictator which ONLY a Democracy — but NOT our Constitutional Rule of Law REPUBLIC — allows?

    • Ed

      Peter or Serf or Whoever you really are and where you’re funding comes from?

      Lest you forget the reasons to name a Few, the country in majority voted for the Black Man w/a name like Barack Hussein Obama even after 911 to enter and occupy the White House was because as you say. “The Blast back from the past of the steepest economic decent’s of economic fortunes of blacks since the second world war in real terms and relative to whites” ? Was “Really” Not Attributed to Barack Obama or the Democrats??

      Here’s a few facts for you and your disturbingly poor selective, manipulative memory…
      1. The great bubble and hype of housing always goes up and stated income to qualify for a home had already taken place under the watchful eye of the “Creators” and was all by design just as pre FDR for the Great Redistribution out of just as many White middle class and working poor families as Blacks, Period.

      In short the Bull had already not only escaped the arena but was trampling Americans 401k’s and Americans families Dreams returning them to a renters/Debtors Nation Black and White alike.

      2. You mention President Obama receiving votes from Blacks for Free stuff as a reason to vote for him? In Reality and FACT,,, w/again you have difficulty? Senator Barack Obama handed out Nothing but Hope and Change prior to his first election.

      3. Handouts and Giveaways where in “RESPONSE” to the Great Recession created by 30 + years and counting of Supply Side Economic, Trickle Down Policy leading to the Greatest Wealth Redistribition and Inequality of our History for all American families.

      4. Remember, Jobs Lost in the Millions, Homes Lost to foreclosure, Savings Lost in the Trillions, Confidence Lost, Credit Lost and Retracted from Families desperate and relying on Credit, Americas Credit Rating Downgraded? People were extremely fearful of the “Creators” and THEIR Financial Armageddon and were grasping for anyone offering Security, Regulation, Oversight, Responsibility and Indictment.

      Remember in the months weeks of President Barack Obama’s Presidency when he petitioned the House of Reps to extend the much needed unemployment benefits for Millions of out of work families after the Great Exploitation of Housing, Banking, Our Consumers and their Confidence, Credit, all even felt To This Day?

      Why do I ask If you Remember? Because I do Remember and will Never Forget how the House of Republican Majority Representatives and John Boehner leveraged another “Bush Tax Cut” for the Well To Do and Already failed Experiment in order to pass the unemployment extension, this in response to the Crashing our entire economy as well as much of the free world. Their Greed was never more apparent. No We have really done it AGAIN this time but let US Grab a Little More? PATHETIC

      Peter, You pretend to care about Blacks and Humanity the Poor and Discouraged but you are a manipulative, selective, deceptive, conniving little monster spreading Misinformation just like the Koch’s, Fox and “Friends” of Misinformation, Peter Efferfy of Interactive Brokers, Loyd Blankfien of Goldman Sachs who agreed to pay $500 million for their Major Role in the Worlds Subprime fiasco amounting to a mere weeks worth of Greedy Profit.

      Are you Proud of these FACTS that you and your cohorts have selectively chosen to dismiss and LIE about?

      You and You’re kind of copy and paste Nazis are PATHETIC and Nothing Like Jesus and his teachings.

  • Ed

    Thank You so much Mr. Claiborne for your obvious Humanitarian work as well as Congratulations on all your amazing Accomplishments. You Brother and your family of Visionaries truly exemplify the desires of Christ and Y’all host one amazing party.

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