Remember King And His Call for Economic Justice


Exactly Forty-four years ago today Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot to death on a motel balcony in Memphis, TN. He was only 39 years old-- meaning he would have 83 years old this year. What would he have to say about the killing of Trayvon Martin or Oscar Grant? What would he think of Barack Obama or George Bush? While marching amongst tens of thousands of people during the March on the Ports in Oakland, I couldn’t help but think,  What would King think about Occupy?

In From the Sit-ins to the Occupy Camps, our Executive Director Jakada Imani explained the parallels between occupy and civil rights movements of the past. This point hit home for me when I re-listened to King’s Mountain Top Speech (delivered the day before he was assassinated).

Now, many folks may remember the last part of the speech where King emphatically points out he had “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” But what gave me chills while listening to the speech recently was his cries for economic justice  and fairness. I couldn’t help but  think how ironic, how foretelling, how prophetic it was for him to call out the need for economic justice and real equity even back then.

On this, his anniversary of his death, I not only honor all that King did but all that he was going to do.

Here is a snippet of King’s Mountaintop Speech on the importance of acting with our wallets as part of creating economic justice:

“Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal...We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, "God sent us by here, to say to you that you're not treating his children right... Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you...Now these are some practical things that we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base.”

Dr King would go on to explain how black people in the US needed to realize their economic power by boycotting businesses and investing locally.

Listen to the whole speech or read it here