Faith is the belief that certain outcomes will happen, and hope is the belief that they can happen. The work of faith is to actively surrender to forces unseen, to acknowledge that what is desired will come about, but by means you might never know — and this is difficult. Faith will sometimes waver. Hope is the belief that our tomorrows can be better than our todays. When we talk about being hopeful for a future in which black bodies are not considered weapons, it is so easy to deride hope as a platitude, or even as an enemy of progress.
Martin Luther King Jr. The workers were embroiled in a heated labor dispute with the city government over low wages, dangerous working conditions, and its unyielding opposition to recognizing their union.
Forty-nine years later, much has changed, yet much more has stayed the same. Despite landmark advancements in civil rights, black Americans still face staggering levels of systemic social and economic inequities and rampant state-sanctioned violence and discrimination.
Black men are three times more likely to be killed by police than white men, and are incarcerated at a rate five times higher than white men. Meanwhile, black men make 22 percent less in wages compared with white men who live in the same areas, with the same levels of education and work experience.
Black women make On average, white households hold 16 times the wealth of black households. And 49 years later, black activists are still leading large-scale movements to address these injustices.
On the anniversary of King's assassination, Fight for 15 workers and Black Lives Matter activists-many already involved in both movements-are joining together for a series of protests across the country to elevate their intersecting demands for racial justice and economic justice.
The actions today not only seek to emphasize and build upon African Americans' inextricable and intertwined struggle for both civil rights and economic justice of the s, but create a broader front of intersectional progressive power to face off against the Trump administration's attempt to roll back both.
Activists in 24 cities will be mounting demonstrations and teach-ins under the banner of "Fight Racism, Raise Pay.
Activists will also call out the Trump administration for advancing an anti-worker agenda, supporting voter suppression, and threatening immigrant communities. The actions center on Memphis, Tennessee, where thousands of workers, activists, and civil rights leaders will march to and hold a memorial outside the Lorraine Motel.
In the mid-South city, Fight for 15 activists have encountered aggressive resistance as fast-food workers organized for higher wages and union rights. As The Guardian reported , organizers alleged in an a lawsuit filed in March that, with the "authorization from the president of McDonald's," the Memphis police department was authorized to arrest McDonald's employees and engaged in a "widespread and illegal campaign of surveillance and intimidation.
Based on these and other allegations, the lawsuit argues that the police department was acting in concert with McDonald's. We are stronger when we stand together, and so our movements are going to keep fighting back against the twin evils of racial and economic inequality that continue to hold back black and brown people.
The NAACP promptly responded with a lawsuit claiming that the GOP super-majorities in the statehouse and the Republican governor rammed through the legislation in 16 days in order to block Birmingham's ordinance-which would have largely benefited black low-wage workers-from going into effect, a move that the lawsuit claims was tainted with "racial animus" and undermines the power of the city's black electorate.
A judge has since thrown out the case. Republican state legislators in recent years have responded to the Fight for 15 by racing to prohibit cities and counties from increasing their own minimum wages higher than state law-a policy that is now the law of the land in 34 states.
These laws have an unmistakable impact on the lives of the black workers who are trying to get by on the minimum wage in cities like Detroit, Saint Louis, and Atlanta, located in states where Republicans dominate the state government and have passed laws forbidding local minimum wages.
Phillip Randolph. Randolph and march organizer Bayard Rustin were longtime avowed democratic socialists; King was, too, but seldom broadcast this for fear it would create one more hurdle that the civil rights movement would have to surmount.
While they failed to achieve those demands, civil rights leaders did succeed in creating a fair employment guarantee through Title XII of the Civil Rights Act, which established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
William Barber II, a leading progressive Christian pastor who will march to Lorraine Motel, says that the prevailing narrative that King was slow to embrace an intersectional analysis of racial and economic justice is wrong. Barber points out that as early as , in King's " Paul's Letter to American Christians " address, he challenged the unchecked greed of American capitalism and never stopped employing critiques of the systemic violence perpetrated by capitalism, and the government's failure to address those problems.
Barber sees this current coalition of black and other communities of color and labor activists as the vehicle for continuing Dr.
King's work. He believes the confluence of the Fight for 15 and Black Lives Matter can play a central role in today's social justice movement, similar to that played by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee SNCC in thes.
The Fight for 15 held its first-ever convention in Richmond, Virginia, this past summer, culminating in a march and rally in front of a towering statue of Confederate General Robert E.
The strategy is "a natural extension made by the leaders of the movement.
It isn't a sort of institutional decision," Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, the primary funder of the Fight for 15, told me in an interview in August.
The Movement for Black Lives, meanwhile, has crafted an all-encompassing policy platform that includes calls for sweeping federal and state jobs programs, the uninhibited right to unionization, and protections for workers in the margins of the economy.
In Chicago on Tuesday, activists are holding a series of teach-ins about the intersection of labor and King's legacy, which they hope will help build support for a general strike on May Day. Richard Wallace, deputy director of the Chicago-based Workers Center for Racial Justice, which helped write the Movement for Black Lives' economic justice platform, says that a more concerted focus on racial justice and economic justice issues may help people expand what they understand labor organizing to mean.
He says most people wouldn't see his group's work getting ban-the-box legislation which prohibits employers from requiring disclosure of criminal records on job applications passed in Illinois as a traditional labor issue. Our job is to remove the barriers to employment.
Of course, neither has fully accomplished its ultimate mission.
A higher minimum wage for millions of workers remains unattainable due to the GOP's opposition and its assault on local control, while SEIU's goal of unionizing fast-food and other low-wage sectors remains shrouded in uncertainty.
Similarly, Black Lives Matter still struggles to win wide-scale criminal justice reforms or radical changes to policing. Nonetheless, the convergence of these two movements could very well generate a level of strength and effectiveness they could not achieve separately, that can serve as a fulcrum for future civil rights and economic advances-and a bulwark against Trumpism.