Amidst all the rhetoric surrounding the Occupy movement, the spirit of perseverance shared by many people, uniting around a goal of making change happen, persists.
Although the movement is diverse in nature (as it relates to gender, background and socioeconomic status), young people have been a strong foundation for its initiation and fortitude, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Like many other social justice movements, the Occupy movement has been heavily scrutinized. Among others, the movement has been criticized for not having a set political agenda and being seen as just another pressure group that will fade into the black before any demands are known or met.
More importantly, a tremendous amount of attention has been placed on the actual “occupy” camps themselves and whether their presence is hindering the movement’s progress.
Jakada Imani, the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, CA has a unique perspective and parallel when it comes to the camps.
“The movement reminds us that all is not well in America,” Imani said.
The camps are merely using one of the tactics in the movement to bring attention for economic justice.
“Just as young activists in the civil rights movement used the tactic of ‘sit-ins’ to lift up the social, economic and racial injustices in the 1950s and 60s, the Occupy movement is doing the same… we need to do whatever we can to keep the focus on the goals of the movement, rather than debate on the tactic,” Imani added.
Historically, with any social justice movement, students have been the prerequisite, the “zeitgeist”, the spirit of mass movement, which has heavily influenced Occupy Wall Street, said Dr. Joseph Jones, Director of the Social Justice Initiative at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, AR.
“Students are at a space in their lives where they are continuously learning in the college environment, deconstruction of views and ideologies are being molded. And as such, young America can be seen as an incubator of thought, which propels them to act now,” Jones said.
And “acting now” is what leveraged the power to challenge policy, perception and views during the Civil Rights movement for African Americans and so many others that were disenfranchised by systemic barriers.
The Occupy and Civil Rights movement are diverse in many aspects, especially in regard to their respective policy agendas, message framing and leadership styles.
However, one commonality is how young Americans are using the power of democracy and uniting around a common goal.
They have voiced their views on sky-rocketing student loan debt, a political system perverted by money and the lost hope of not living the American dream similar to their parents in home-ownership. All of this, coupled with the reality of passing a burden of overwhelming debt and uncertainty for generations to come.
This is not the legacy wanted, or desired, to be written in history books, depicted in media, told by scholars, or debated in the political circuit without the Occupy Movement fight duly noted and accounted for. Similar to the nonviolent civil rights movement, young Americans and millions more have joined together knowing that standing would ensure a better future.
This is a future that would not be known if nothing was done.
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