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September 17, 2012

WE ARE OCCUPY WALL STREET (REPOST)

On this one year anniversary of the birth of Occupy Wall Street, check out this blog post written by Mark Winston Griffith,  October 2011. 

There are a lot of reasons for Central Brooklynites to not get involved in the Occupy Wall Street protest that has been building over the past few weeks:  There’s a frustrating lack of specific goals; it’s a alienating when most of the occupiers are a little whiter and more hippie-like than the average Central Brooklynite; economic inequality is hardly a new concept for most of us; and tell me again why I should volunteer to sleep on a park bench?

But that’s precisely why we should support them.  Because OWS protestors are willing to put their bodies on the line, mix it up with the police, and potentially leave room for their demands to be shaped by the very communities that have been hit hardest by the recession and are most justified in being fed up with Wall Street shenanigans.  As New York City’s ground zero for the kind of predatory practices that exemplified corporate criminality, we in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and the surrounding area need to recognize that, whether they know it or not, the Occupy Wall Street protestors are there for us.
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OWS is integrally tied to Central Brooklyn’s economic justice legacy. In just the last twenty years alone, for instance, a generation of advocates have been writing about and fighting against Wall Street’s abuse of Central Brooklynites and other communities.  Many of us started as anti-discrimination crusaders who fought bank redlining.   Then, when financial institutions caught on to how much money could be made on the backs of low-income and working class people, we launched a struggle against subprime mortgage lending, tax refund loans, rent-to-own scams and other nefarious practices concentrated in neighborhoods of color.
More specifically, as early as 2006, when I worked for the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project and then the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, I was just one of many in the economic justice field who warned about the impending mortgage crisis and the financial meltdown.  We met with countless bankers, federal and New York State bank regulators, members of Congress, and local elected officials.  We documented and complained about dangerous bank consolidations, the erosion of fair banking standards and enforcement, exotic loan products, deceptive marketing, vicious debt collection practices, and unconscionable Wall Street bonuses.  Arguably, no New York community was targeted by this activity more than Central Brooklyn.
And as the economy tanked, we had to sit and watch these band of marauders get rewarded for their actions with our bailout tax dollars, while homeowners in foreclosure and in need of relief were treated to lectures on financial responsibility and the need to protect “job creators.”
If we in Central Brooklyn can’t line up with the Occupy Wall Street protestors to put a collective, correctional foot up the ass of America’s unequal, unscrupulous, and often times unholy financial services industry and that of its political enablers, then we will have failed generations of civil rights protestors and champions who came before us.
We can start getting involved today.  At 4:30 p.m. there’s a march starting at The African Burial Grounds on Duane and Center St. and marching to Zuccotti Park/Liberty Square. Union leaders and progressive forces from across the city will be part of it.  So should Central Brooklyn.

About this author

Mark Winston Griffith

Mark Winston Griffith

Prior to coming on staff at the Brooklyn Movement Center, Mark was on the Faculty of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and was most recently the field organizer for the MOVE NY campaign. A Central Brooklyn native, Mark Winston Griffith is the former Executive Director and Senior Fellow for Economic Justice at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, and the former co-director of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project. In the early nineties he co-founded the Central Brooklyn Partnership and Central Brooklyn Federal Credit Union. He currently serves on the boards of the Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union, Center for an Urban Future, the Center for Working Families, Little Sun People and Free Speech TV. Mark loves spending time with his family, running the streets of New York like a steeplechase, and describing how he acquired the 18 inch scar that runs the length of his spine.

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