Occupy Wall Street Joins Occupy The Dream: Is It Cooptation, or Growing the Movement?


by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

The Occupy Wall Street movement has, to date, “been effective in warding off cooptation by Democratic Party fronts such as Rebuild The Dream and MoveOn.org.” But OWS’s recent alliance with Black clergy-based (and Russell Simmons-backed) Occupy The Dream raises serious questions in this election year. “It appears that Occupy Wall Street’s new Black affiliate is also in ‘lock-step’ with the corporate Democrat in the White House.”


Occupy Wall Street joins Occupy The Dream: Is It Cooptation, or Growing the Movement?

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Is Obama to be absolved by clergymen wearing ‘Occupy’ buttons?

The Democratic Party may have entered the Occupy Wall Street movement through the “Black door,” in the form of Occupy The Dream, the Black ministers’ group led by former NAACP chief and Million Man March national director Dr. Benjamin Chavis and Baltimore mega-church pastor Rev. Jamal Bryant. Both are fervent supporters of President Obama.

Occupy The Dream’s National Steering Committee is made up entirely of clergy, as are its Members at Large, but its secular inspiration comes from media mogul (and credit card purveyor) Russell Simmons, who was a frequent visitor to Manhattan’s occupied Zuccotti Park. Simmons is co-chairman, with Dr. Chavis, of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network, whose website is now mainly dedicated to the Occupy The Dream project. It is through Simmons that the ministers hope to attract entertainers and athletes to Occupy The Dream events.

Occupy Wall Street organizer David DeGraw tied the knot with the Dream team at a Washington Press Club conference on December 14, invoking Dr. Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s campaign and the need to “penetrate deeper into the African American community.” Dr. Chavis said, “If Dr. King were alive today, he would be part of Occupy Wall Street,” and Rev. Bryant, pastor of Baltimore’s 10,000-member Empowerment Temple AME Church, pledged that Occupy The Dream will work “in lock-step” with OWS. The OWS/OTD alliance would begin, they announced, with a multi-city action at Federal Reserve Bank offices on MLK Day, January 16.

The very next Sunday, Rev. Bryant was at his pulpit exhorting his congregation to get out the vote for the president.

Its secular inspiration comes from media mogul (and credit card purveyor) Russell Simmons.”

Dr. Chavis is also an active Obama booster. In his November 30 syndicated column for Black newspapers, titled “Brilliant First Lady Michelle Obama,” Chavis wrote:

As we are about to enter into the heated national political debates and campaigns of the 2012 national election year, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be under intense pressures to maneuver through what may be one of the most difficult periods of time to maintain resilience and hope.

I am encouraged and optimistic, however, that President Obama will be reelected if millions of us do what we are supposed to do and that is go out and vote in record numbers 12 months from now.”

Chavis followed with an even more direct appeal:

All of us should be responding by lending a helping hand, giving of our time, energy and money, and to make our own contributions to push forward for more progress to ensure the reelection of President Barack Obama. Let’s determine the future by how we act today.”

It appears that Occupy Wall Street’s new Black affiliate is also in “lock-step” with the corporate Democrat in the White House, whose administration has funneled trillions of dollars to Wall Street and greatly expanded U.S. theaters of war.

The very next Sunday, Rev. Bryant was at his pulpit exhorting his congregation to get out the vote for the president.”

There is, however, a certain historical logic at work, here. Dr. Martin King’s Poor People’s Campaign, disrupted by his assassination, is seen by many as a prime inspiration for OWS. But of course, King’s persona and the whole saga of the Sixties has been methodically co-opted over the intervening decades, most directly by Black ministers claiming to be acting in furtherance of his “Dream” while selling their congregants’ votes to one or the other of the two Rich Men’s Parties. President Obama and his operatives have attempted to draw a straight line between Dr. King’s “Dream” and Obama’s own political ascent ever since his “coming home” speech at a Selma, Alabama, church in March of 2007, where the candidate assumed the mantle of Joshua and asserted that Blacks had already come “90 percent of the way” towards equality (with the transparent implication that his entrance to the White House would complete the process.)

Perhaps the most historically and politically corrupt poster of the 2008 campaign superimposed Obama’s head on Malcolm X’s body in the only known picture of Dr. King and Malcolm, shaking hands. So, there is nothing novel about labeling a 2012 Black church-based, pro-Obama electoral campaign as “Occupying the Dream.” Black ministers in campaign mode routinely depict Obama’s political troubles as indistinguishable from threats to “The Dream,” whose embodiment is ensconced in the White House. That’s simply common currency among Black preachers pushing for Obama.

President Obama and his operatives have attempted to draw a straight line between Dr. King’s ‘Dream’ and Obama’s own political ascent.”

Russell Simmons brings bling to the mix. As the Occupy The Dream website states: “Teaming up with entertainers such as Bon Jovi, Jay-Z, Bruce Springsteen, and Kanye West, Dr. Bryant encourages citizens of every race, color and creed to join Occupy the Dream.” Simmons is a genius at transforming social capital into the spendable kind – which is why he has been courting OWS so diligently. He is now fully “inside” the movement, flanked and buttressed by loyal Obama Black clergy.

It is highly unlikely – damn near inconceivable – that Occupy The Dream will do anything that might embarrass this president. Its ministers can be expected to electioneer for Obama at every opportunity. Their January 16 actions are directed at the Federal Reserve, which is technically independent from the executive branch of government – although, in practice, the Fed has been Obama’s principal mechanism for bailing out the banks. Will the ministers pretend, next Monday, that the president is somehow removed from the Fed’s massive transfers of the people’s credit and cash to Wall Street over the past three years? Is Obama to be absolved by clergymen wearing “Occupy” buttons?

Far from tamping their Obama fervor, the OWS brand equips the “Dream” ministers (and Simmons’ entertainment assets) to accomplish a special mission: to insulate the president from the Occupy movement and the national conversation on economic equality – or, better yet, to make him appear to be part of the solution. If they so choose.

Simmons is a genius at transforming social capital into the spendable kind – which is why he has been courting OWS so diligently.”

OWS has, to date, been effective in warding off cooptation by Democratic Party fronts such as Rebuild The Dream and MoveOn.org. But, it seems their antennas were not so finely attuned to the political structures of Black America: who the players are, and how the game is run. The Obama campaign may have found its niche on “the Black-hand side” of OWS.

At this late stage, there is no antidote to the potential cooptation, except to rev up the movement’s confrontation with the oligarchic powers-that-be – including Wall Street’s guy in the White House. Let’s see what happens if OWS demonstrators join with Occupy The Dream at Federal Reserve sites on January 16 carrying placards unequivocally implicating Obama in the Fed’s bailouts of the banksters, as Occupy demonstrators have done so often in the past. Will the Dream’s leadership be in “lock-step” with that? Maybe so – I’ve heard that miracles sometimes do happen.

In his December 30 newspaper column, Dr. Chavis offered these thoughts:

2012 will be a test for the United States. There will be a political test in terms of how millions of people will vote for the future. There will also be an economic test between the 99% and the 1% on the issues of income inequality and economic justice.”

We do, indeed, face a test in 2012: Will the Democratic Party be enabled to swallow up the Left – as it does every four years – including the fragile and tentative structures of the Occupy Wall Street movement? And, will the Democrats enter through the Black door?

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].


Beverly, you are one of a kind. LOL

"They're such dang fools about Obomber, I wouldn't be surprised if they are working for free ."

That is so well said with therapeutic humor.  I am here laughing my ass off even though I have been so beat up by the chicago cold today.  Honestly, I don't know if it is dishonesty or naivety or straight-up stupidity.  Some of these black leaders and commentators baffle me.  I once listened to one on one of the Chicago urban radio station.  This gentleman was all excited because the unemployment rate was reported to have fallen by .02 points.  His cause of joy was that the news could help 'our president's' reelection campaign.  Such asinine commentary!  I don't waste time on the delusions of black people anymore.

Occupy the Dream and dumping wheelchairs and walkers on Fed.Rese

rve(s).  If the Occupy the Dream does carry out the plan (as cited recently on BAR radio* summary) to throw wheelchairs, walkers, etc. in front of Federal Reserves branches on Jan. 16, it would be  big evidence of being  out-of-touch with disabled people and I suspect, an example of disabilophobia.  Using the aids for mobility, movement that I as a wheelchair user need to get out of my apartment (due to ME/CFS), that thousands and thousands use rather than having to be permanently in one spot as a negative visual symbol for the feds, is out of touch.  It indicates a lack of contact with people who are disabled or to be kind, a lack of understanding.  Do religious leaders see people with disabilities as negatives?  One can draw conclusions based on the amount of architectural access to synagogues and churches in NYC, for example.

Occupy Wall Street's Zuccotti Park was very good at inclusiveness of people with disabilities, from all that I heard.  I heard an interview with Nadina LaSpina, activist and wheelchair user from www.adapt.org who was arrested at the last direct action at Zuccotti Park before the invasion/eviction by NYPD, heard on "The Largest Minority", WBAI's archived show about people with disabilities. (Yes, I support www.takebackwbai.org - which I want to add, has *some analysis of he who I call Mr. Null and Void, the radio provider of the radio site hosting BAR, in relation to WBAI.)


I'm not surprised that the Economist believes that bankers and financiers should get a free pass for their role in creating the global economic crisis. It also appears that the writer is also saying that if any institution or organization has a large percentage of Jewish people in it, that it should be immune from criticism or accountability from "outsiders" no matter what it has done or how it is run, so that its critics can avoid being "anti semetic."  What a bunch of nonsense. If this is an example of how capitalism "regulates" itself, we will be slammed into a similar economic crisis within ten years.

To Occupy or To Be Occupied

The Occupy Movement presents a dilemma and a challenge to black Folks.  It is a social movement that did not start in the black community like the civil rights movement did.  It is composed of mostly young white people who have realized that their future has been hijacked.  The problem as I see it is that black folks have not identified an entry point into this movement.  The entry point is there but we have not had a conversation among ourselves and came to a common agreement on a range of items that are common to both us and the OWS folks.  Then approach the OWS folks as a unified group and presented what we believe are the things that we both have in common and work out ways to give each other mutual support on those things that we have in common and explore other areas where we can support each other.  This would give us the opportunity to establish contacts and connect with the movement and grow the kind of social cohesion that is needed to operate as a large group addressing the needs of many.  It isn’t that there are not plenty of common items that we and the OWS folks can agree on.  All the things that the OWS folks are shouting about affect us ALL!!!  Health care jobs housing etc. these are not just Black /White issues but are HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES that means all of us.

The last and only mass civil activism in Black Folks memory is the Civil rights movement.  Black folks are not real eager to start or open a conversation with OWS Folks and establish a dialogue and work out an alliance that will benefit both groups for many reasons that don’t make much sense.  The biggest of which is that black folks do not have any intergenerational or intragenerational conversations going on that could culminate in a range of mutually agreed and supported items that we can present to ourselves and will support each other on much less present to and offer support to anybody else.  Black folks need to remember that White folks supported and died in the civil rights movement, Andrew Goodman, Michael Scherner and Viola Liuzzo to name a few.  This time around we will have to support White folks in a movement that they started.  They supported us then the question is will we support them now???


With that as the prevailing backdrop enter the players mentioned by Mr. Ford offering support and using The Dream association as cover.  One has to wonder about this possible connection between OWS and some folks that openly support Obama.  They are supposedly representing black folks (I don’t think so).  I tend to think like Mr. Ford they represent a Demo-Wit/Obummer Trojan Horse. 

The Trojan Horse act goes like this The Dream thing has the cloak of the Civil Rights symbolism (Symbolism is important element that Black folks are totally enamored with) to appeal to the older Black Folks.  It has the Bling Bling of Russell Simmons (more symbolism to attract the young crowd) and the Black Clergy (did I say we like symbolism) to give it a spiritual sheen.  This is the trifecta of symbolism that Black Folks will bite on hook line and sinker standing on dry ground.

The question I have for the NAACP is “What have you done for us lately”???  Have you raised any concerns about the latest Obummer Cave in aka the NDAA???  Have you been at the forefront of fighting against the foreclosure Tsunami that is rolling through this country that was brought on by predatory lending practices of the financial terrorist on Wall Street???  Oh by the way as it relates to the NDAA the politicians that voted for this nasty BS should consider what Naomi Wolf says about their relationship with NDAA quote “Congress Has Signed Its Own Arrest Warrants in the NDAA Citizen Arrest Act” unquote read the whole article here http://poorrichards-blog.blogspot.com/2012/01/how-congress-has-signed-its-own-arrest.html

I would like to ask Russell Simmons what is his position on SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) and the potential ramifications it has on internet usage and net neutrality???  What about the RIAA lawsuits against file sharing???  The afore mentioned things are directly related to the recording industry and to the social networking that has allowed OWS to flourish and be effective social force to be reckoned with in the first place.  For further information on this matter watch Max Keiser and get informed http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GX-gYrTxz9U

For the Black clergy I would ask what kind of Christian would support a president and or government that authorize assassinations of foreign nationals and its own citizens (Remember the commandment Thou Shall Not KILL)!!!  What kind of Christian would support a president or government that bailed out the too big to fail financial terrorist on Wall Street and threw everyone else under the bus (Remember the commandment Thou Shall Not STEAL)!!!  The Black church is going have to choose between popularity or principal.  The popularity of being a mega church and getting some media attention does not trump the principals of the gospels.  Remember Man cannot serve two masters

If the OWS folks have any sense they will run from these folks faster than cigarette smoke disappears in a hurricane.  As Mr. Ford has stated more than likely they are agents of co-optation or chaos and confusion.  They are not representing black folks (Last time I checked no one told or invited me to any meeting on selecting these folks to represent us).  Whenever black folks collect themselves together and come together among themselves to have a serious conversation with themselves and reach some agreement on a range of items to present to OWS ourselves then we can get crackin.  Until then I would not be hooking up with the folks who say they represent us and support Obummer and want to work with the OWS movement all at the same time.  That is an oxymoronic statement if I EVER heard one!!!


S Murph

My take...

If Black people aren't moved by "the movement," and democratic operatives like Kevin Zeese are our leaders, then its obviously FAKE! As Black people are the people most affected by Wall Street greed, and we're the people actually getting blamed for the financial crisis!

Yes "our allies" have been pushing the idea -in some of their media- that Black people are at fault!

And why are stupid Democrats wasting their protest vote on Ron Paul?

Ron Paul Places 2nd In New Hampshire DEMOCRATIC Primary


What makes you think that

What makes you think that Blacks aren't as least as supportive of the Occupy Movement as Whites? How is Kevin Zeese a Democratic operative?  No one in the Occupy or any other Left wing movement is saying that blacks are responsible for the Wall Street collapse. Only people in the right and center have made that claim and used it to call for the repeal of the Community Reinvestment Act. The Occupy Movement is an authentic movement by workers both black and white to fight growing inequality and corporate domination. Their is not evidence of it being fake!

I'm Optimistic

I’m optimistic about the ability of the Occupy Movement to avoid becoming a part of Obama’s reelection campaign.  The overwhelming majority of Occupy supporters have made clear on several occasions that they oppose both Wall Street controlled parties and are either indifferent or hostile toward Obama.  Most Occupy supporters won’t forget the fact that Democratic as well as Republican governors and Mayors were responsible for attacking Occupy protests sites across the country and that at best Obama remained silent on the harsh crackdown.


Occupy members have protested at least one Obama campaign office.



Here is a good article that shows why the Democratic Party is unlikely to successfully harness the Occupy Movement as a branch of the Democratic Party or the Obama reelection campaign.