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Occupy Together: Occupy Be the Change Caucus Launches
Note: This guest blog post by David Hartsough and Wade Lee Hudson references Martin Luther King, Jr.'s nonviolence pledge as an inspiration for the Occupy Be the Change pledge. Quakers and others are invited to sign the pledge and participate in creating actions which arise from the sense that nonviolence is a pathway to obstructing systems of domination and creating a just world. - Lucy
by David Hartsough and Wade Lee Hudson
Rooted in deep nonviolence, twenty-six energetic Occupy Movement participants (including Friends from the San Francisco Bay Area meetings) convened at the Friends Meeting House in San Francisco on November 28 to launch the Occupy Be the Change Caucus. This project is based on the Occupy Be the Change Pledge, which reads:
As a participant in the Occupy movement, I hereby commit my whole self to nonviolence. Therefore to the best of my ability:
I am firmly committed to nonviolence as a way of life, not merely as a tactic.
I meet violence with compassion for others and myself.
I walk, talk and act in love and nonviolence.
I refrain from verbal and physical violence.
I do not accept “a diversity of tactics” when those tactics are violent or damage property.
I am open, respectful, and kind with everyone I encounter.
I invite the 1% to join us and will not insult them.
I seek justice and reconciliation,so that we are all winners.
I avoid both selfishness and power trips.
I strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health as we work to build a just and democratic society.
We encourage other Friends around the country to form similar“Be The Change”Caucuses (support groups) within the Occupy movement in your communities.
Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 nonviolence pledge and prompted by many statements concerning the need to “be the change” expressed at Occupy San Francisco General Assemblies, the Pledge was composed by twelve Bay Area Occupy participants and is being circulated for endorsement by Occupy participants everywhere.
Prior to the meeting, Jerry Bolick shared his initial response to the pledge when he wrote:
The deeply divisive nature of most political "discourse" and activity in our country has kept me at arms length most of my adult life, wading in only here and there…. How we engage as human beings seems to me to be of the most paramount importance, and I've been wanting for some time to expand, widen the scope of my efforts in that regard, beyond my comfort zones, looking for a signal of some kind, from someone.... So when I was…given the most recent [Caucus] flier, it was like, "I've been waiting for this."
Most likely, Jerry is far from alone.
Dr. King was profoundly influenced by the work of the great theologian, Howard Thurman, especially his book, Jesus and the Disinherited. In that book, Thurman wrote, “The religion of Jesus says to the disinherited: ‘Love your enemy…. It may be hazardous, but you must do it.'”
He declared that both privileged and underprivileged persons must liberate themselves from their assigned role in society, because “love is possible only between two freed spirits.” They must undo their conditioning, remove barriers, and create “real, natural, free” social situations that enable them to be “status free” and experience their common humanity.
Thurman said, “Take the initiative in seeking ways by which you can have the experience of a common sharing of mutual worth and value…. We are here dealing with a discipline, a method, …an over-all technique.” He called for those in need to cry out, “The [human being] in me appeals to the [human being] in you.”
Whenever a need is “laid bare,” Thurman wrote, “those who stand in the presence of it can be confronted with the experience of universality that makes all class and race distinctions [irrelevant].” He insisted that this “personality confirmation” is essential for “lasting health” in a democracy.
With this approach, King and his companions would first present a proposed step toward justice to the powers-that-be, sincerely try to reach an agreement with them concerning that proposal, and resort to public demonstrations only when those efforts failed. And when they did resort to “tactical nonviolence” in order to mobilize coercive political power, they still did so with a profound commitment to “philosophical nonviolence,” which includes the pursuit of reconciliation.
In 1964, angry and frustrated, many activists concluded that King was too liberal. In fact, he was truly radical because he wanted us to transform the roots of violence and oppression that are within each of us.
At the Nov. 28 meeting, the participants affirmed, “Our primary mission is to help transform ourselves and our society into truly nonviolent and compassionate individuals within a community dedicated to the common good of all humanity. We actively support and participate in the Occupy Movement.”
Success in this effort will require fostering humility, active listening, and trust in the collective wisdom that can emerge if deliberations are well structured. Hopefully the Occupy Be the Change Caucus will contribute to that effort.
You are invited to join us by signing the Pledge by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Pledge" in the Subject line and "I sign" in the body. If you do, we’ll be in touch about how we might work together to advance this cause.
David Hartsough is a member of the San Francisco Friends Meeting, co-founder of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, Director of Peaceworkers and worked for 18 years with AFSC.
An activist and a community organizer in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1962 and a member of the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, Wade Hudson now works part-time as a cab driver.