The Zinn Education Project has been promoting the role of working people, women, people of color, and organized social movements in actively shaping history for years. I can only imagine how the 99 percent movement will be taught in years to come.
#OccupyWallStreet is clearly a people’s movement. There is a minimal presence of organized labor and it has purposely forgone the sometimes distracting charismatic personalities of many other movements in the making. Understated, organized, and committed are adjectives that best describe #OccupyWallStreet. Others are scalable, patient, and strategic. All of these qualities seem to elude the press.
As expected, conservative media are characterizing #OccupyWallStreet as an anomaly comprised of crazy anarchists. Other relatively progressive but mainstream media organizations are also undermining the power of these massive pods of patient protestors popping up all over the country. Dismissing the wisdom, history, and innovation of the group, these media outlets have framed #OccupyWallStreet as a group of misinformed individuals without an agenda or clear plan.
From the bus boycotts to the Black Panthers, #OccupyWallStreet represents the results of historical marginalization and lack of true representation in the US Congress, on Wall Street, and in local elected offices. #OccupyWallStreet represents the best of American ideals and ingenuity. They are inclusive, intergenerational, focused, and democratic.
As the new Chief Executive Officer of Tides, I am thrilled that #OccupyWallStreet has emerged and continues to grow. Since our inception, Tides has supported such movements. Our commitment to racial, social, and economic justice within healthy communities remains strong after 35 years.
#OccupyWallStreet has the power to amplify and unite the voices of marginalized communities in the struggle for freedom, justice, and equality. Due to the economic recession/depression, massive unemployment rates, and the foreclosure crisis the list of marginalized communities has grown tremendously. With the demise of ACORN, grassroots organizing has been limited. #OccupyWallStreet’s diversity of race, class, and culture truly represents 99%.
As some may know, Tides is part owner in a building just around the corner from Wall Street—55 Exchange Place. There was purposeful intent in having a building located in the historical financial district. Our goal was to juxtapose social change and historical greed to reclaim this space of power and capital aggregation in support of progressive ideas and organizations—from the arts to economic justice, from immigration to reproductive justice.
#OccupyWallStreet is a sophisticated movement. The media has attempted to undermine its legitimacy by minimizing its goals and effectiveness, and they have missed the power of this movement in addressing various issues and becoming a force in various cities, sectors, and elections.
While currently focused on economic reforms, #OccupyWallStreet has the power to mobilize this group of voices and electoral power for 2012 and take on many more issues and become even more important and powerful. 2012 could signify a real turn in traditional civic engagement and change the faces—literally—of US Senate, Congressional, gubernatorial and mayoral races all over the country and even throughout the world.
In support and solidarity, Tides is proud of #OccupyWallStreet and looks forward to the future of the movement and its vision of prosperity for all.
Melissa L. Bradley is Chief Executive Officer of Tides.