2,000 to Gather on January 19 in Chicago’s Largest Multi-Racial Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

Elected Officials Pledge to Work for Income Equality & Fight Corporate Power

CHICAGO—(ENEWSPF)—January 16, 2014. Two thousand people will gather Sunday, January 19, 2014, at 2:30 pm to reclaim Dr. King’s radical vision for economic equality and to launch an attack on corporate power that organizers say drives America’s extreme income inequality.  The gathering, called “Hope in an Age of Crisis: Reclaiming Dr. King’s Radical Vision for Economic Equality,” will take place at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church at 8235 S South Shore Drive, Chicago. 

“Dr. King had a radical vision that racial equality cannot be achieved without economic equality and that an economy that leaves tens of millions of people of all races struggling to make ends meet must be restructured,” said Rev. Dwight Gardner, the event’s keynote speaker and pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Gary, IN.

Income inequality is greater now than at anytime since the Great Depression.  Event organizers charge that income inequality is driven by the power of large corporations to shape public policy at all levels of government. Economic policy decisions favored by corporations – like allowing long-term unemployment benefits to expire, cutting social safety net programs like food stamps, and refusing to require corporations to pay their fair share of taxes – hurt all Americans and disproportionately hurt African Americans and other people of color.

Before he was assassinated, Dr. King began organizing whites and blacks to demand structural changes to the American economy that would ensure that all people could live with dignity.  In April of 1967, Dr. King said, “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society… A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies… True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” 1

Event organizers also charge that income inequality isn’t the only crisis created by corporate power: Social, environmental and political crises urgently demand our collective response.

Political corruption, fueled by a campaign finance system overrun with corporate cash, has made our political leadership unresponsive to the needs of citizens. Increasingly, corporate welfare is replacing the common good.

Climate change threatens to bring widespread human suffering and the mass extinction of species, yet our planet continues to be abused for corporate profit.

Prisons are overflowing with people of color and undocumented immigrants suffering outrageous incarceration rates, many languishing in for-profit prisons.

Elected officials from around the region – including city aldermen, county commissioners and state legislators – will attend and pledge to work for income equality and to reduce corporate power in politics. Specifically, elected officials will pledge to:

Pass corporate tax transparency legislation at the city and state levels. 2/3 of corporations in Illinois pay NO income tax to the state. State level legislation will require publicly traded corporations doing business in Illinois to disclose how much they pay in taxes and why. A city level ordinance will require the same disclosure for publicly traded corporations seeking city contracts or subsidies.

Implement tough hydraulic fracturing (fracking) regulations to protect Illinoisans’ drinking water and natural resources.

Pass a state bill ending mass incarceration of non-violent offenders. Incarceration for drug offenses and other non-violent crimes disproportionately affects African Americans and Latinos. Mass incarceration is the New Jim Crow – locking people of color out of the job market, barring them from many public assistance programs and relegating them to a life of extreme poverty.

Announce support for a “bad employers tax” that would levy fees against large employers whose low wages force employees to rely on public assistance to make ends meet.

Dr. King’s message, his methodology of direct action organizing and the civil rights movement’s success in dismantling Jim Crow offer hope that Americans can win structural reforms that promote income equality for all people and ensure that people of color enjoy true equality.

This public meeting is organized by IIRON – a regional grassroots organizing network committed to working for racial and economic equality – and The People’s Lobby – a membership organization that combines the traditional tools of community organizing with direct lobbying and electoral politics in order to shape legislation, elect progressive candidates, and remove elected officials who serve the interests of the 1%.

1 Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence, a speech given at Manhattan’s Riverside Church, April 1967

Source: OCPress