Sunday, June 24, 2018

Goodbye, American Solidarity Party

It is with great regret that I deliver the news that the American Solidarity Party, a group that I hoped would emerge a a serious arm of resistance against the two-party duopoly and its stranglehold on American politics, has been taken over by a dedicated group of neo-integralist reactionaries that stands for a sectarian and discriminatory approach to the public square. I documented this in an earlier article, Dog-Whistle and Pony Show: Exposing Imago Dei Politics (formerly the Dorothy Day Caucus), but my warnings were not heeded by enough people to counter the recruiting this group has done among fringe groups of dominionists, theocrats, and monarchists.

It has been my honor to pour myself into the work I have undertaken in attempting to turn the ASP into a force of justice for all, and I have had an opportunity to work alongside many people who will, I hope, accompany me in the long term. I have come to the realization, however, that my vision for the American Solidarity Party was not to be. The underlying struggle in this party between those on the one hand who love justice and liberation for all people, and those on the other who are trying to regain a religious ascendancy for Christendom in the cultural sphere, is not a battle that is worth the time, effort, and sacrifice that it would take to win a decisive victory. Even then, the triumph would be pyrrhic - the ASP is an organization I do not see as being capable of escaping the baggage of its past mistakes.

I write in the waning hours of the 2018 ASP Convention, watching the IDP sweep the election of officers to the National Committee. As my term of office ends I will do everything possible to uphold my fiduciary duty to protect the larger membership of the organization from the unscrupulous cabal which is seizing the reins of the party. I will then depart, shaking off the dust of my feet.

My passion for justice and the liberation of the oppressed will move to other venues.  More to come...

Sunday, May 27, 2018

2018 Candidacy for the American Solidarity Party National Committee

I am Ephrem Hugh Bensusan, and I am running for reelection to the National Committee of the American Solidarity Party.

A little about myself: I am 49, married with grown children. I work for Apple, Inc. as a Technical Advisor in the Enterprise Creativity Software division. I have a long background in political activity, and my views are particularly formed by Liberation Theology, as well as the thought of the American Civil Rights leaders of the 20th Century. I am technically a Melkite Greek Catholic, but I attend the Roman Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington, Kentucky, under Bishop John Stowe, a Bishop notable for his Social Justice activism.

Currently, I am the Director of Social Media and Marketing for the National Committee. I oversee our Internet presence and Social Media accounts.  I am also the Chairman of the American Solidarity Party of Kentucky, and I have led our state party through a period of fairly rapid growth, established us as an officially affiliated chapter, and worked to establish relationships with other political and social justice groups locally, most notably the Lexington NAACP and BUILD - Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct-action, and we continue working to establish relations with the various refugee and immigrant advocacy groups in the commonwealth, as well as with pro-life groups that seek to implement whole-life solutions rather than simply focus on issues of legal status. The Kentucky ASP is also very serious about racial justice, and we have contributed to the movement to remove specific Confederate monuments both in Frankfort and Lexington. In Lexington, this movement, coordinated by Take Back Cheapside, an African American led organization, was successful in getting statues of John C. Breckinridge and John Hunt Morgan removed from the Old Fayette County Courthouse, and having the plaque marking the South’s largest slave marketplace restored, thus dispelling the celebration of those who fought for slavery, and returning to truth-telling about the atrocities of our past. We of the ASP-KY are both grateful and honored to have played even the smallest role in helping bring this to pass.

I am deeply committed to the 4 core principles of our party:

The sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.
The necessity of social justice.
Conservation of the environment.
The promotion of a more peaceful world.

Guided by these principles and values, we seek to promote the material and spiritual welfare of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, gender, or orientation, in a political framework that emphasizes unity over fragmentation, community over individualism, liberation over oppression, solidarity over division.

These have been my emphases both in Kentucky and on the National Committee. It is my hope that your vote will return me to this position, that I may continue the work we have undertaken.

My priorities for the National Committee are these:

Grow the party at the state and local levels, encouraging networks with other groups of like mind.
Encourage state chapters to affiliate with the national party in order to create a national organization with strong chapters in all states.
Field candidates to run at all levels of government, with a focused emphasis on local and state elections.
Ensure that all of our policies and actions as a party arise from a preferential option for the poor and the marginalized, rather than serving to enrich the already wealthy and the dominant.
Emphasize our particular distinctives - the 4 core principles - in platform and policy development, and in spreading our ideas in the various media.

Lastly, promotion of principled resistance to both the current Administration and to the threats to the common good that come from both sides of the conventional political spectrum.

In 1904, in the original edition of his novel, The Jungle, Upton Sinclair described the American two-party system as “‘two wings of the same bird of prey!’ The people were allowed to choose between their candidates, and both of them were controlled, and all their nominations were dictated, by the same power. The people attended political meetings of either party, and the hall was paid for, and the speakers were hired, out of the same purse.”

 More than a century later, that reality has not changed. In fact, the inequality of wealth between the top 1% and the rest of humanity is greater now than ever before. For all their superficial “differences,” Democrats and Republicans alike are united in the neoliberalism that feeds the ruling elite.

We need people on the National Committee that take a stand of Principled Resistance against this existing order, and particularly against its assault on those who it has targeted for oppression: immigrants, people of color, women, LGBTQ people, and the unborn.

I can guarantee that I will remain in the vanguard of those who stand and fight, and not among those who compromise and acquiesce as the country slides further under the boots and high heels of its monied master class.

I thank you for your consideration. I would deeply appreciate your support and your vote at the upcoming convention.

May God bless our endeavours and our nation.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Dog-Whistle and Pony Show: Exposing Imago Dei Politics (formerly the Dorothy Day Caucus)

Imago Dei Politics (formerly the Dorothy Day Caucus) is a neo-integralist† association of American Solidarity Party members that are dissatisfied with what they perceive to be the party’s drift away from “social conservatism”, by which they mean outspoken opposition to Same Sex Marriage, the adoption of children by same sex couples, and no-fault divorce. They are a sectarian organization, enunciating what they call “a Christ-centered witness in the public square” as their political vision. They are also very localist, espousing a view of the principle of subsidiarity that would easily pass muster in the American South of the 1960s, and have a tendency to, at the very least, provide shelter to defenders of the Confederacy and other racists, misogynists, and homophobes.

The origins of IDP lie in the tumult surrounding the revision of the ASP platform during the second quarter of 2017. There had been widespread sentiment that the 2016 platform needed revision, with input from a party membership that was more than 10 times the size of the membership at the time of the 2016 convention. After considerable deliberation, the National Committee decided to revise the platform through an 11-member committee, 6 of which would be elected by the full party membership, and 5 of which were appointed by the NC. Thirty members applied to be on the Platform Committee, and hundreds of members voted to select the top 6. An extensive survey regarding agreement with and importance of each part of the platform was sent to members, and again, hundreds responded. Then the 11 members of the Platform Committee went to work revising, and submitted interim drafts for yet another round of surveying. The Platform Committee finally consolidated different versions down to the Committee’s preferred language on each topic, and over 500 members of the party voted to ratify each bullet point. Ratification required a 2/3rds vote, which was far exceeded in almost every case (decriminalization of marijuana was the only point that failed ratification, with about 60% support).

Supporters of the old platform plank “We support the legal recognition of marriage as a union of one man to one woman for life,” were unsatisfied with the outcome of this highly democratic process. The surveys had shown a wide variety of opinions about same-sex marriage among the membership. Because none of several possible formulations about this subject garnered supermajority support in the surveys, the Platform Committee did not propose language on this issue, meaning that the ASP no longer takes any position against Same Sex Marriage (or no-fault divorce, for that matter). A handful of members tried to organize a campaign to vote down the entire platform in protest of its silence on a contentious issue, but the final convention results revealed they had been entirely unsuccessful in persuading others to follow them (only 7 votes).

This very important change in position was received bitterly by those who would become the founders of the dissident group styled the “Dorothy Day Caucus.”

Other issues had arisen in the time around the 2017 Convention. One member of the NC, James Lomuscio, ostensibly for personal reasons, had pulled back from involvement, but at the request of the then-Chair Matthew Bartko had not actually resigned. Dane Garrett, one of the malcontents, began spreading disinformation around the party regarding this situation, which ended up revealing, at least at the NC level, the whole set of circumstances surrounding this semi-resignation to be a patchwork of deceptions woven together to whip up animosity against Lillian Vogl by a small circle including Lomuscio, Dane Garrett, Tara Ann Thieke, and Brian Lester.

After the Convention, this circle regrouped, and in a social media blitz on August 6, 2017, the Dorothy Day Caucus announced itself with great fanfare on all available ASP venues. Led by Tara Ann Thieke and Dane Garrett (withdrawn/unsuccessful candidates for NC), Stephen Beall and Brian Lester (two members of the Platform Committee who fought tooth and nail to prevent the SSM language and distributist economic language from being removed), and Jeffrey Stuart (the chief offender in holding himself out as representing the views of the party, particularly in a racist, sexist and homophobic manner) the DDC presented its Affirmation Statement, and ultimately ended signing up 77 people willing to put their name to it.

The Dorothy Day Caucus is an independent association of members of the American Solidarity Party. We seek a radical transformation of American politics in the spirit of Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement.
1. We recognize the irreplaceable value of a Christian vision and are committed to providing a Christ-centered witness in the public square.
2. We support the traditional family of mother, father, and child as the foundation of society and the surest guarantee of health and security for children. ​
3. We call for the greatest possible autonomy for local governments and mediating institutions.
4. We advocate an economy in accord with the dignity of human work and human nature, ordered toward the widespread distribution of property, ownership, and opportunity. ​
5. We oppose military aggression, economic coercion, and treaties and institutions that promote corporate hegemony.
We affirm the core values of the ASP, and we work with the national and state committees to elect candidates, develop policies, and educate the public in accord with our principles. 

It is Items 1-3 that really merit our attention.

Item 1 is a dog-whistle to theocrats and other sectarians who wish to impose the tenets of their own religio-political beliefs as law upon the greater society, and serves notice that it is the values of Christianity (interpreted, of course, in a distinct manner) that forms the basis for DDC/IDP political interaction.

Item 2 is a dog-whistle to those who oppose SSM on religious grounds and wish the party to go back to taking a vigorously quixotic stand against it. It is also designed to exclude other familial arrangements, particularly those that involve adoption by LGBT persons and couples.

Item 3 is a subtle call for what the DDC/IDP terms “Subsidiarity,” but is really a kind of localism - the kind that had to be put down in the 1960s as men like George Wallace and Jim Clark took a stand for local “rights.”

Of course, the end design has, from inception, been to “take back the ASP” from those who have set a new course away from religious radicalism and towards being a force living up to our core principles of sanctity of life, necessity of social justice, conservation of the environment, and the hope of a more peaceful world. They aim to take over the ASP National Committee in our June 2018 Convention. The hashtag they customarily use, in fact, is #SeeYouInJune.

To that end, the DDC/IDP has used a two-pronged social media strategy. The first prong thereof has been to (1) misappropriate our name and trademarks to deceive people into thinking they actually represent the party, (2) produce material that upholds their distinctive positions and, again, deceive people into thinking that they represent the mainstream of the party, and (3) create false-front groups to spread their disinformation. 

The second prong of their social media strategy has been that of alt-right- style trolling. They use their false-front sites to troll, feeling confident that party members, even if they don’t participate, are watching for the drama. There they make wild accusations about the tyranny of the NC, and present themselves as victims of wrongdoing. They make loud claims of being victimized and persecuted, and disseminate these claims in videos, open letters, and social media posts in their false front groups. Then they also use small coordinated gangs to appear as a troll-mob on social media posts to provoke a negative response and then play victim when the response comes.

This strategy has been in effect since August, and took another step forward as two of their own, Tai-Chi Kuo (who has suggested that members of non-Christian religions go form their own parties) and Carlo Razzeto (an outspoken foe of SSM), have announced their candidacies for NC. Other members or allies of IDP who have announced their candidacies include, as of May 31, 2018, Christopher Hunt, Zebulon Baccelli, Eric Anton, Patrick Harris, Jose Carlos Moreno, Amar Patel, and Monica Tully.

In March 2018 the DDC changed its name to Imago Dei Politics, and restructured its leadership as follows:

Board of Trustees:
  • Tara Ann Thieke, President 
  • Dane Garrett 
  • Patrick Harris 
  • Charlie Jenkins 
  • Tai-Chi Kuo 
  • Jeremy Miller 
  • Lucy Moye 
  • Monica Tully 

Executive Committee:
  • Jeffrey Stuart - Chair 
  • Eric Anton, Vice-Chair 
  • Jeremy Miller, Secretary-Treasurer 
  • Zebulon Baccelli, Political Action 
  • Skylar Covich, Political Action 
  • Brendan Illis, Communications 
  • Dane Garrett, at-large 
  • Charlie Jenkins, at-large 

It is worthy of note that Skylar Covich, Vice-Chair of the ASP National Committee, also serves as a member of the IDP Executive Committee, cementing an alliance that has existed since the DDC launch, and which has constituted the root of the factionalism in the party, as he has actively worked against the rest of the NC to promote DDC/IDP aims.

I reiterate: the DDC/IDP strategy since its inception has been to take over the NC at the Convention this June. All of their efforts have been a movement toward this goal. Their current activity is the execution of a plan to sign on new voting members for the purpose of this hostile takeover, and it is using both its official venues and its false-flag troll groups effectively to make that happen.

If the DDC/IDP succeeds in this hostile takeover, the ASP will no longer stand for social justice, but rather for taking civil rights away from LGBT people, and for the toleration of misogyny, racism, and homophobia. It is of paramount importance that those of us who do value social justice do not let this happen if we want to keep the ASP from devolving into a hate group. The only way we can rest assured that this isn’t going to occur is by becoming voting members* of the ASP ourselves and outnumbering their votes.

† "Catholic Integralism is a tradition of thought that rejects the liberal separation of politics from concern with the end of human life, holding that political rule must order man to his final goal. Since, however, man has both a temporal and an eternal end, integralism holds that there are two powers that rule him: a temporal power and a spiritual power. And since man’s temporal end is subordinated to his eternal end the temporal power must be subordinated to the spiritual power." [Definition from Integralist website The Josias.]
The Coming Neo-Integralism - John Ehrett

* Full Membership is available for anyone who contributes at least $10 a year to the party. Full members have voting privileges in state and national conventions. 
* Supporting Membership is for those who are making regular contributions of at least $10 a month. A key perk of Supporting Membership is that all members of your household who are 18 and older and make the affirmation statement will also have voting privileges. 
* Patron status recognizes anyone who contributes at least $300 per year ($25 a month), and also affords household voting membership.

Appendix 1

A number of people have asked for additional documentation regarding the IDP toleration of and participation in misogyny, racism, and homophobia. Here is a representative sample of discussions from some of their public venues:

Appendix 2

An Exposition of the Conflict of Interest Resolution that Bars IDP Leaders from Serving on the NC or in State Chapter Leadership by Benjamin Hatmaker

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Confeder-H8 History Month: Did the South Secede from the Union over Slavery? Part II - South Carolina

It is often said that the South seceded for reasons other than slavery, economics in general, sectional discord, States' Rights, or taking a stand against "Federal tyranny" as the real cause. And yes, it's pretty easy to see that these excuses "reasons" simply extend from slavery, e.g., "economics" being the economics of a slave economy, "Federal tyranny" meaning that slavery wasn't able to expand into the newer territories, etc.

The contention, however, that the preservation of slavery was not the overriding preoccupation of the seceding states is wholly unsupportable from the secession documents themselves.

All that said, South Carolina, the first state to secede, took a little bit different angle than some other states, in that, as I mentioned at the end of the previous installment, it constitutes an anti-States'-Rights position. The document begins by laying out what South Carolina alleged to be a right to secede from the Federal Union and then moves on to the justification of their secession, to wit, that free States are violating South Carolina's right to hold slaves by refusing to enforce the Fugitive Slave clause in Article 4 of the Constitution, by freeing African Americans who are brought into their territory, by allowing African Americans to have citizenship, and other things that the white supremacist Palmetto State considered to be heinous offenses against their property rights:
We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection. 
For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the *forms* [emphasis in the original] of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction. 
This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety... 
Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanction of more erroneous religious belief.
Thus South Carolina, seceded from the Union on December 24, 1860, the stated cause being that the other States had failed in their obligation to help prop up the system of keeping people in chains, and in fact worked against the perpetuation of that criminal enterprise.

READ: Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Confeder-H8 History Month: Did the South Secede from the Union over Slavery?

Mississippi Declaration of Secession

One might think this question is a no-brainer, right? After all, all of the secession documents assign the preservation of slavery as the reason for withdrawal from the Union. But no. In a recent study by Teaching Tolerance, only 8% of High School students polled could correctly identify the preservation of slavery as the cause for secession.

On one of my Facebook posts, a defender of the Confederacy said this:
“The Confederacy was about more than just racism. It was about a people gathering together to stand against a tyrannical government that was bullying them. I will admit that slavery was part of what the Confederacy wanted to keep, but it was not the only reason that the Confederacy fought for independence. Too many people on the left view the Confederacy as only a group of backwoods redneck racist hicks that wanted nothing more than to keep their slaves. The vast majority of the Southern population did not own slaves; only the wealthy few did... I've said all along that slavery was a factor, but it wasn't the only factor.” 
To that he appended a link to prove his point. And what does this link say? Take a look:
What led to the outbreak of the bloodiest conflict in the history of North America? 
A common explanation is that the Civil War was fought over the moral issue of slavery. 
In fact, it was the economics of slavery and political control of that system that was central to the conflict. 
A key issue was states' rights. 
The Southern states wanted to assert their authority over the federal government so they could abolish federal laws they didn't support, especially laws interfering with the South's right to keep slaves and take them wherever they wished. 
Another factor was territorial expansion. 
The South wished to take slavery into the western territories, while the North was committed to keeping them open to white labor alone. 
Meanwhile, the newly formed Republican party, whose members were strongly opposed to the westward expansion of slavery into new states, was gaining prominence. 
The election of a Republican, Abraham Lincoln, as President in 1860 sealed the deal. His victory, without a single Southern electoral vote, was a clear signal to the Southern states that they had lost all influence. 
Feeling excluded from the political system, they turned to the only alternative they believed was left to them: secession, a political decision that led directly to war. 

Translation: The Civil War was not fought over “the moral issue of slavery.” The Civil War was, rather, fought over the economics of slavery, over forcing free states to acquiesce to slavery, over the expansion of slavery, and over the growing possibility that slavery might be outlawed. The common thread is slavery, in case it escaped anybody’s notice.

It is common to hear that the Civil War occurred over States’ Rights rather than slavery. The foolishness of that statement should be clearly evident. What particular right were these states fighting for? Anybody? Further, a reading of the source documents clearly shows that the Southern states opposed States’ Rights when it came to other states embracing freedom.

READ: Five myths about why the South seceded by James Loewen

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Confeder-H8 History Month: Introduction

Earlier this month there was a rather lengthy dumpster fire on my Facebook timeline stemming from my link to and article about the celebration of Confederate History Month in a particular location, and my introduction thereto, which said:

 “Just to illustrate how far we haven't come... The fact that any level of government is willing to countenance this kind of ahistorical nonsense is not only disgusting, but criminal. Let me be crystal clear - any and all tolerance of or advocacy for "Confederate Heritage" is morally indistinguishable from Holocaust denial or outright neo-Naziism. Period.” 

The reaction, something to which I suppose I ought to be accustomed by now, was Confederacy sympathizers rushing forward to show off their rebel flag tattoos and double down on the utter nonsense they were taught, that the Southern cause was a noble fight against tyranny, based in States’ Rights and a “complex of economic issues” rather than the perpetuation of slavery.

Yes, it is true that I am not making any allowances for the fact that many Americans are simply taught a narrative that consists of lies. Here’s why: making those allowances only sets up the perpetuation of the situation. It is necessary to doing justice that the truth be laid out boldly and openly, without compromise or waffling, that nobody be allowed to take refuge in the mythology of White Supremacy that so permeates our culture. This rebuttal needs to be presented not as polite debate, but as a bucket of ice-water thrown hard to wash away the cruft of lies that has been allowed to obscure the unpleasantness of the truth.

A couple of days ago, I credited a certain “free exchange of ideas” as having led not only to a failure to address the Holocaust, but also a failure to convey anything but Confederate propaganda through our educational system. I cannot recant that opinion. With the history of Slavery, the Confederacy, Reconstruction, and the years of Lynch-mob Jim Crow oppression that followed in particular, I think it is demonstrable that, contra the cliche that “the winners write the history” the post-Reconstruction “Gentlemen’s Agreement” to focus on reconciliation of North and South and its concomitant resurgence of White Supremacy allowed and encouraged the losers of the war to win the peace and, most important, to control the narrative that would be taught to succeeding generations. It is that narrative that this series is designed to counter.

By way of introduction to this series - Textbook Racism: How scholars sustained white supremacy, by Donald Yacovone, in The Chronicle of Higher Education. “It would appear that despite the monumental outburst of scholarship produced since the mid-1960s, the way we teach history remains as lifeless as John Brown’s body. But as Hasan Kwame Jeffries, an associate professor of history at the Ohio State University, observed in the introduction to ‘Teaching Hard History’: ‘Slavery isn’t in the past. It’s in the headlines.’ History is far from a dead thing. ‘We carry it within us,’ James Baldwin memorably remarked. We ‘are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frame of reference, our identities, and our aspirations.’”

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Sermon Dr. King Didn't Get to Preach

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let us consider the words of his last sermon, written 50 years ago today, a sermon he was never able to deliver.

Why America May Go to Hell

My dear friends, my dear friend James Lawson, and all of these dedicated and distinguished ministers of the Gospel assembled here tonight, to all of the sanitation workers and their families, and to all of my brothers and sisters, I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be in Memphis tonight, to see you here in such large and enthusiastic numbers.

As I came in tonight, I turned around and said to Ralph Abernathy, “They really have a great movement here in Memphis.” You’ve been demonstrating something here that needs to be demonstrated all over the country. You are demonstrating that we can stick together. You are demonstrating that we are all tied in a single garment of destiny, and that if one black person suffers, if one black person is down, we are all down.

If you will judge anything here in this struggle, you’re commanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the worth and significance of those who are not in professional jobs, or those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight, that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity, and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth. One day our society must come to see this. One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive. For the person who picks up our garbage, in the final analysis, is as significant as the physician. All labor has worth.

You are doing another thing. You are reminding, not only Memphis, but you are reminding the nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages. I need not remind you that this is the plight of our people all over America. The vast majority of Negroes in our country are still perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. My friends, we are living as a people in a literal depression. Now you know when there is vast unemployment and underemployment in the black community, they call it a social problem. When there is vast unemployment and underemployment in the white community they call it a depression. But we find ourselves living in a literal depression all over this country as a people.

Now the problem isn’t only unemployment. Do you know that most of the poor people in our country are working everyday? They are making wages so low that they can not begin to function in the mainstream of the economic life of our nation. These are facts which must be seen. And it is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis and a full-time job getting part-time income.

You are here tonight to demand that Memphis do something about the conditions that our brothers face, as they work day in and day out for the well-being of the total community. You are here to demand that Memphis will see the poor.

You know, Jesus reminded us in a magnificent parable one day that a man went to Hell because he didn’t see the poor. And his name was Dives. There was a man by the name of Lazarus who came daily to his gate in need of the basic necessities of life. Dives didn’t do anything about it. He ended up going to Hell.

But there is nothing in that parable that says that Dives went to Hell because he was rich. Jesus never made a universal indictment against all wealth. It is true that one day a rich young ruler came before him talking about eternal life. And he advised him to sell all. But in that instance Jesus was prescribing individual surgery, and not setting forth a universal diagnosis.

If you will go on and read that parable in all of its dimensions, and all of its symbolism, you will remember that a conversation took place between Heaven and Hell. And on the other end of that long distance call between heaven and Hell was Abraham in Heaven talking to Dives in Hell. It wasn’t a millionaire in Hell talking with a multimillionaire in heaven. Dives didn’t go to Hell because he was rich. His wealth was an opportunity to bridge the gulf that separated him from his brother Lazarus. 

Dives went to Hell because he passed by Lazarus every day, but he never really saw him. Dives went to Hell because he allowed Lazarus to become invisible. Dives went to Hell because he allowed the means by which he lived to outdistance the ends for which he lived. Dives went to Hell because he maximized the minimum, and minimized the maximum. Dives finally went to Hell because he wanted to be a conscientious objector in the war against poverty.

And I come by here to say that America too is going to Hell, if we don’t use her wealth. If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty, to make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life, she too will go to Hell. I will hear America through her historians years and years to come saying, “We built gigantic buildings to kiss the sky. We build gargantuan bridges to span the seas. Through our spaceships we were able to carve highways through the stratosphere. Through our airplanes we were able to dwarf distance and place time in chains. Through our submarines we were able to penetrate oceanic depths.”

But it seems that I can hear the God of the universe saying, “even though you’ve done all of that, I was hungry and you fed me not. I was naked and ye clothed me not. The children of my sons and daughters were in need of economic security, and you didn’t provide for them. So you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness.” This may well be the indictment on America that says in Memphis to the mayor, to the power structure, “If you do it unto the least of these my brethren, you do it unto me.”…

Now you’re doing something else here. You are highlighting the economic issues. You are going beyond purely civil rights to questions of human rights. That is distinct…

Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality. For we know now, that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger? What does it profit a man to be able to eat at the swankest integrated restaurant when he doesn’t even earn enough money to take his wife out to dine? What does it profit one to have access to the hotels of our cities, and the hotels of our highways, when we don’t earn enough money to take our family on a vacation? What does it profit one to be able to attend an integrated school, when he doesn’t earn enough money to buy his children school clothes?

So we assemble here tonight. You have assembled for more than thirty days now to say, “We are tired. We are tired of being at the bottom. We are tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression. We are tired of our children having to attend overcrowded, inferior, quality-less schools. We are tired of having to live in dilapidated, substandard housing conditions where we don’t have wall to wall carpet, but so often we end up with wall to wall rats and roaches.

“We are tired of smothering in an air-tight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society. We are tired of walking up the streets in search for jobs that do not exist. We are tired of working our hands off and laboring every day and not even making a wage adequate with daily basic necessities of life. We are tired of our men being emasculated, so that our wives and our daughters have to go out and work in the white ladies’ kitchens, cleaning up, unable to be with our children, to give them the time and the attention that they need. We are tired.”

So in Memphis we have begun. We are saying, “Now is the time.” Get the word across to everybody in power in this town that now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to make an adequate income a reality for all of God’s children, now is the time to make the real promises of democracy. Now is the time to make an adequate income a reality for all of God’s children, now is the time for city hall to take a position for that which is just and honest. Now is the time for justice to roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream. Now is the time.

Now let me say a word for those of you who are on strike. You’ve been out now for a number of days. But don’t despair. Nothing worthwhile is gained without sacrifice. The thing for you to do is stay together. Say to everybody in this community that you’re going to stick it out to the end until every demand is met. And that you’re going to say, “We ain’t going to let nobody turn us around.” Let it be known everywhere that along with wages and all of the other securities that you are struggling for, you’re also struggling for the right to organize and be recognized…

We can all get more together than we can apart. This is the way to gain power. Power is the ability to achieve purpose. Power is the ability to effect change. We need power…

Now the other thing is that nothing is gained without pressure. Don’t let anybody tell you to go back on your job and paternalistically say, now, “You’re my man, and I’m going to do the right thing for you if you’ll just come back on the job.” Don’t go back on the job until the demands are met. Never forget that freedom is not something that must be demanded by the oppressor. It is something that must be demanded by the oppressed. Freedom is not some lavish dish that the power structure and the white forces imparted with making positions will voluntarily hand down on a silver platter while the Negro merely furnishes the appetite.

If we are going to get equality, if we are going to get adequate wages, we are going to have to struggle for it. Now, you know what, you may have to escalate the struggle a bit. If they keep refusing, and they will not recognize the union, and will not decree further check-off for the collection of dues, I’m telling you what you ought to do, and you’re together here enough to do it. In a few days you ought to get together and just have a general work stoppage in the city of Memphis.

If you let that day come, not a Negro in this city will go to any job downtown. And no Negro in domestic service will go to anybody’s house, anybody’s kitchen. And black students will not go to anybody’s school, and black teachers, and they will hear you then. The city of Memphis will not be able to function that day. All I’m saying is you’ve got to put the pressure on.

This is why we have decided that we’re going to Washington. We are going to the seat of government, starting out in April. We are going around the question of jobs or income. We aren’t going to Washington to beg, we are going to Washington to demand what is ours. I read in newspapers and other places questions: “Why are you going to Washington?” My only answer is that anybody who lives in America with open eyes and open mind knows that there is something wrong in this nation. I’m going to Washington to pick up my check.

You know, many years ago, America signed a huge promissory note which said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It didn’t say “some men,” it said “all men.” It didn’t say “all white men,” it said “all men,” which includes black men.

It said another thing which ultimately distinguishes our form of government from other totalitarian regimes. It said that every person has certain basic rights that are neither derived from nor conferred by the state. In order to discover where they came from, it is necessary to move back behind the dim mist of eternity. They are God-given.

America hasn’t lived up to this. She gave the black man a bad check that’s been bouncing all around. We are going to demand our check, to say to this nation, “We know that that check shouldn’t have bounced because you have the resources in the federal treasury.” We are going to also say, “You are even unjustly spending five hundred thousand dollars to kill a single Vietcong soldier, while you spend only fifty-three dollars a year per person for everybody categorized as poverty-stricken.” Instead of spending thirty-five billion dollars every year to fight an unjust, ill-considered war in Vietnam and twenty billion dollars to put a man on the moon, we need to put God’s children on their own two feet.

I ask you to make this the beginning of the Washington movement, to go in by the thousands. And help us stand up nonviolently yet militantly. We are going to plague Congress. Documents have been written. They say what ought to be done. But nothing has been done. Nothing is ever done until you put the pressure on.

We have great challenges ahead, and great possibilities. And let us not lose hope. When you lose hope you die. We’ve got to keep going. I know how difficult it is. We’ve got to have that kind of ‘in spite of’ quality, to say that we are going on anyhow. We will keep the kind of hope alive that will make us know that if we will unite, if we will organize, we will be able to dramatize these issues to the point that something will be done.

“I know that some of you are probably tired, tired of the injustices. We get tired of having to fight for our rights on a day to day basis. It reminds us of some words that Jeremiah uttered, “is there no balm in Gilead, is there no physician there?” Jeremiah looked and saw the injustices of life, and he raised that question. Centuries later our slave foreparents came along. They had a hard time. They didn’t have anything to look forward to. Day after day it was long rows of cotton, sizzling heat, and the rawhide whip of the overseer. Women knew that so often they were forced to yield to the biological urgings of the mean boss. As soon as their children were born, they were snatched from their hands like a hungry dog snatches a bone from a human hand. So many things happened to them that could have caused them to lose hope.

I thank God tonight that our foreparents didn’t lose hope. They did an amazing thing. They looked back across the centuries. They took Jeremiah’s question mark, and straightened it into an exclamation point. They could say, “There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.”

Then they came to another stanza that means so much to me, “Sometimes I feel discouraged.” I’m not going to be untrue to you tonight, sometimes I feel discouraged, having to live under the threat of death every day. Sometimes I feel discouraged having to take so much abuse and criticism, sometimes from my own people. Sometimes I feel discouraged, having to go to bed so often frustrated with the chilly winds of adversity about to stagger me. Sometimes I feel discouraged, and feel my work’s in vain.

But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again. In Gilead, we make the wounded whole. If we will believe that, we will build a new Memphis, and bring about the day when every valley shall be exalted, every mountain and hill will be made low. The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. We will be able to build right here a city which has foundations.

If we will believe this, we will do this; we will win this struggle and many other struggles.I close by saying, ‘Walk together, children.”

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