“This is our opportunity to make his dream a reality.”
Those words were spoken by Dennis Lucas, a member of Occupy Tacoma and one of the organizers of Occupy the Hood, at a candlelight vigil held in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Occupation Park.
The vigil began at about 7:15 PM on October 15th, slightly later than the scheduled 7:00 start. Occupiers lit candles and stood in a circle on the sidewalk by Pacific Avenue for a moment of silence followed by time of open sharing and discussion.
“When I was growing up,” explained Lucas, “I was more of a Malcom X fan. I didn’t get the whole non-violent aspect of [Dr. King’s] movement. But as you grow up over a period of time and you start to learn and understand life, you realize that the only way to get anything accomplished would be through a non-violent protest.”
“I respect him for his bravery to be a forward thinker and understand that before most people did,” Lucas added. “We all know from being in this Occupy movement that dealing with aggression and not responding with aggression is a hard thing to do.”
“That’s what I believe this Occupy movement is actually picking up off of, from the civil rights movement. Because it’s all inclusive, the way Dr. King was. He started out championing for the rights of African Americans, and then progressed into championing for the rights of human beings. And that’s what we’re all about.”
“Martin Luther King talked about the idea of a beloved community, and I didn’t quite get that for a while,” said Jo Walters.
Walters went on to describe how she used to think that King was being very specific, referring to loving your neighbors and countrymen or love between the different races. “But it’s so much broader. What he’s talking about is a sense of humanity, seeing our entire community as beloved by all of us and feeling a sense of collective responsibility for each other.”
“I think that’s what the Occupy movement is doing: it’s helping to move his dream of a beloved community forward.”
Occupiers continued to share their thoughts, both about Dr. King and their visions of an ideal future. Most, if not all, of these idealized worlds reflected King’s own ideas in one way or another.
Toward the end of the event, Mike Ladd pointed to another Occupier’s sign, which included a photograph of King being arrested by two police officers in Birmingham, Alabama.
“In school,” said Ladd, “we hear about this nice black guy who fought for civil rights and got assassinated and how sad it was.”
“We hear about the I Have A Dream speech – it’s a beautiful speech – but we don’t read Letter From Birmingham Jail, we don’t read Beyond Vietnam and we don’t hear about the Poor People’s Campaign,” Ladd continued. “I’m more partial to the image of Martin Luther King sitting in jail than I am to him giving a speech, because I think it gets to the essence of what he’s talking about.”
Ladd elaborated, describing how King had come to the conclusion that “the issues of race and civil rights [were] intimately intertwined with that of social class.”
“In many ways, we’re picking up where he left off.”
“We are the change we’d like to see in the world,” said Francesca Carreras-Velez. “This is it: this is happening, and it’s unstoppable.”
“And the only way we will be stopped is if we stop ourselves.”