who will be the martin luther king, jr. of the occupy movement?

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Monday, October 31st, 2011

occupy wall street

who will be the martin luther king, jr. of the occupy movement?

occupy wall street

i think i first heard about occupy wall street, like others, on the news. my reaction was equal parts interest and dismissiveness. on one hand, the very brief reporting offered some of the reasons for the protests and they were things that mildly resonated with me. on the other hand, though, i assumed, like other protests, that this one would fizzle out after about 24 hours at best. these hippies surely couldn’t turn this protest into a movement.


45 days.

that’s how long this thing has been going on (at the time of publication). 45 days. i could grow a beard halfway down my stomach in 45 days. and for that long, these guys have been sleeping in tents, marching the streets and rallying global support for what they passionately believe in.

and now, for me, what began as a dismissive attitude has now become earnest interest and support.

many, though, still consider this a passing blip on the radar that is little more than a bunch of hippies camped out in the middle of city parks. but i think it’s clear that there’s a sense of solidarity and focus that isn’t going to fade soon.

some of the aforementioned doubters have pointed toward some of the interviews of people who have fumbled through their explanations of why they’ve joined the protest.

some say it’s to protest corporate greed. some say it’s because their student loans are crippling. some say it’s about the amoral foreclosure system. some say it’s so that monkeys can fly and unicorns will jump over rainbows. (ok, i made that one up.)

the answers are all over the place, causing some to hold fast to their antagonism toward the movement.

quite frankly, the inarticulate nature of many of the responses hasn’t been surprising. much like with any group or movement, the average joe has a difficult time articulating the cause, especially when the bright lights flip on and the camera begins to roll.

so what does the occupy movement need?

it needs a martin luther king, jr.

EDITORIAL NOTE :: i’ve been relatively cautious to not draw direct comparisons to the occupy movement and the civil rights movement of dr. king’s time. while the tactics of the occupy protests have certainly been inspired by the civil rights protests, there are crucial differences that warrant distinctions between the two. all the while, though, i think this movement—much like the poor people’s campaign in 1968—is one that would be near and dear to the heart of dr. king and other notable civil rights leaders.

it needs someone who can masterfully communicate the values and reasons for the protests. it needs someone who can step in front of the camera and garner empathy and transmit information. it needs someone who can rise up from the ranks and take the movement to a more prominent place of clarity and credibility.

so who will that person be? i don’t believe it will be/can be a name we all know. it couldn’t be a michael moore (who i generally like). it couldn’t be a cornel west (who i very much like). it couldn’t be someone who has any sort of baggage or that would have a relateability barrier to the general public.

i think it will have to be a new voice of authenticity and authority and empathy. it will have to be someone with the right balance of political influence and common man sensibilities. more than anything, it will have to be someone who can simply communicate the values and goals of the movement in a clear and concise manner.

that is what it will take to give mainstream credence to this movement.

that’s precisely what martin luther king, jr. did for his movement. and that’s precisely what this movement needs.

so, we’ll see who might rise up and give voice to this ever-growing and ever-relevant movement. it’ll be an interesting plotline as it plays out.