The Rev. Al Sharpton calls Mark Allen "One of Chicago's  legendary political activists"


MARK S. ALLEN, Daily News Blog/Commentary

At this point the Dr. King memorial is being positioned as the biggest symbol with no substance to the real legacy of Dr. King. Forty eight (48) years after this speech and the movement that followed was supposed to end with with poor communities even more poorer and more desperate than they were then. That movement then was not supposed to end up 48 years later with historic 20-40% unemployment in majority Black communities.


Forty eight (48) years later our major civil rights and social service organizations no longer have full time political education staff and year round civic education programming to keep their poor constituencies connected to the electoral processes.


And with the historic desperate economic conditions facing poor communities, I just knew that this Dr. King Memorial dedication weekend with the word watching would be the ideal weekend for our collective leaders to use this major media event to re-launch the very programs that Dr. King supported while he was alive that could actually turn around the poor economic conditions and historic lack of jobs in Black and poor communities. HAVENT HEARD A WORD!! So exactly what are we celebrating and dedicating ourselves to if the celebration of the symbolic monument is not connected to the actual substance of the last campaigns that Dr. King was working on while he was alive.?


The speech was not even called the "I Have A Dream" speech, but the world have been made to know of the speech as the symbolism of a "dream" versus the "substance" of Dr. King's speech that Black and poor communities had been given a bad check - "a check that has come back marked insufficient funds." And to remedy that Dr. King was establishing a "Poor People's Campaign" designed with a national economic empowerment program called Operation Breadbasket designed to lift poor people up from their desperate economic conditions.


Dr. King designed strategic direct action campaigns within poor communities and at corporate targets who would not make real community reinvestment and benefit agreements in the poor communities that they located.

Its absolutely makes me sad and mad that Dr. King's memorial activities being reported by national media full of the "I Have A Dream" symbolism, but absolutely no reporting on the very programs that if followed could bring real remedy to the very poor communities represented the organizations and officials gathered in DC to celebrate the monument symbol.


President Obama who symbolically says he is proud to be a beneficiary of the King legacy while at the same time being challenged by Black elected officials and other poor people's advocates for his administrations lack of a poor people's agenda. Who would argue with President Obama if he used this opportunity to challenge all of those who are paying symbolic tribute to commit themselves to the substance renewing Dr. King's Poor People's Campaign?

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  • South

    Brother Mark, given what you have shared thus far about each of us assuming more responsibility to encourage and oversee our own uplift(which I can identify with as no one else seems to care), I can't help but wonder why Bill Cosby and Possaint were so harshly criticized by Michael Eric Dyson, for example, and others within our community for simply sharing in the public square there genuine concerns about "this" and "that"?

    They too were simply advocating for more responsible spending and savings behaviour among other things. What do you think: why was there such backlash about what is otherwise so obvious. And thanks for your patience.

  • Chicago-Midwest

    Dr. King did not promote "this" or "that" but this "AND" that!! The biggest part of the poor people's campaign is for poor people themselves to use the economic power they have to lift up the very communities they are in simply by how they spend their consumer dollars.

  • South

    Brother Mark, so in essence what I think I "hear" you saying is that our community could, for the most part, independently and in the spirit of Booker T. Washington, uplift the inner city brethen if all of us worked together by reinvesting into our own communities via peaceful protest - organizing (in the spirit of King and DuBois) to encourage Corporate America to provide community reinvestment back into poorer areas while at the same time our upper, middle, and poorer classes began to more diligently use financial resources and funds collectively.


    I believe it can be done too just as the Asian community appears to have adopted Dr. King's philosophy and strategy to uplift their own community.


  • Chicago-Midwest

    In EVERY Poor community poor people can still find a way to keep drug industry rich, as well local bars, liquor stores or wherever else they decide to spend their money. NOW Poor people, no matter how much they spend can STILL follow Dr. King's economic plan which called for poor people to invest and spend their money within their own communities and financial institutions for the development of local businesses and jobs, and poor people can STILL do that today and that consumer spending will turn poor communities around.

  • South

    Brother Mark, if this is the case, how can we realistically change the troubles within our inner cities? Respectfully, it's almost as though attempting to "organize" has become just as ineffective as "over-analyzing" for all practical purposes given that our upper middle class and upper class folk have seemingly chosen to ignore the spirit of Dr. King who chose to live modestly though he himself came from a bourgeois background.


    It's almost as though I hear you saying or implying, my brother, that our bourgeois - our Talented Tenth, have betrayed the spirit of Dr. King's work in the same way as Corporate America continues to ignore its financial obligations to the poor. How could this have come to pass and gone uncriticized for so long while our poorer brethen remain in so much need?


    It's imperative that the spirit of Dr. King's real work be revived and openly discussed in the public square. What other obstacles do you see as barriers and what can we, as a community, really do to change this way of thinking? The more I think about your observation about upper class responsibilities, the more I'm convinced too that our poor communities could be revolutionized without any interference from YT.




  • Chicago-Midwest
    Ken, in some ways our upper class and upper middle class people USED to be the support system and then benefactors of those early civil rights gains economically and politically. When they got to a point that they had "arrived" then they got further away from those old grassroots movements that got them to where they are and sort of look down and expect another poor generation to able to lift themselves up all by themselves without the same help that they got. So, I am indeed trying to get them to use this moment to guide people's minds back to the core of Dr. King's economic campaign for they could totally lift up our poor communities.
  • South

    Mark, from your last post, are the upper and middle classes of our community then more responsible for not pursuing the spirit of Dr. King's organizing campaigns along the lines of say Rainbow PUSH or Sharpton's campaigns?


    I wish there was a way to persuade the upper and middle classes of our community as well as the Beloved Community to reach out much more to our inner city brethen to make a difference as whites, at least these days, seem to be just as indifferent. How can we really change this and avoid finding ourselves just over-analyzing again?


    And do you think that Dr. King would still be arguing for reparations and affirmative action today, if he were alive, as he fervently did back in the day? I ask because Clarence Jones seems to hint maybe not in his new book entitled, "What Would Martin Say?"; what do you think?


    Thanks for your post responses--there not taken for granted my brother.

  • Chicago-Midwest

    Ken, far too many of our people make their determination of what programs they will support NOT based on the PLAN itself, but the dynamics of the people as leaders. I have watched and seen Rev. Jackson and Sharpton conduct very specific economic empowerment campaigns that people just did not support as they should but spent too much time clouded in their personal views of Jackson and Sharpton as leaders. If Dr. King called for Black people to start putting their money into their own banks in their own communities to fund our own community development, then WHY are we not doing it?

  • South

    Hi Mark,


    Thanks for responding to my post. You know, I find myself tending to agree with you about our community's habit of "over-analyzing" social and ecomonic problems with no follow-up action with the exception of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton whose organizations still analyze, organize, and protest in the public square--but seemingly with no real, practical results for the community nationwide. I've enjoyed listening to the annual "State of Black America" lecture series hosted by Tavis on CSPAN throughout the years; and yet, the many guests seemed to only analyze and suggest broad based solutions without specifics.


    After reading your post to Sister Gloria, can you share more detail on the kinds of specific organizing campaigns that are necessay to break the bonds of poverty: the kinds of specific programs that Dr. King had in mind but never had a chance to implement as well as the strategies to really implement them to avoid yet another "analyzing" syndrome. Are you saying that we should engage in many more public protests with a revolutionary spirit and fervor like that found during Dr. King's day and as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson continue to do--but on a national scale? How can we economically boycott the multinationals in a day to day practical sense and really be effective.





  • Chicago-Midwest

    Gloria. For more than 30 years I have worked with Dr. King's wife, his children, and so many of Dr. Kings former staff members and after over 30 years in this work, I feel I indeed have the authority to assess WHERE this movement has absolutely failed to sustain the economic programs that Dr. King left here for us. Dr. King HIMSELF warned us against the acceptance of "symbols" that are not matched with "substance." Dr. King made it clear that Black and poor communities needed to start using their consumer power to keep their money within their own communities for the sustaining and increasing of local businesses and jobs. Then he told us to economically boycott any corporation that came to our urban communities and did not have economic community benefits agreements and so 48 years later after he laid out this economic plan, I am just asking all of the people who organized like hell to see a national "symbol" NOT also publicly make the same commitment to seeing Dr. King's economic program through for IF IF IF we just followed the programs he left, our urban communities would not be in the desperate economic conditions that they are today. AND I find it disingenious as well that that the majority of the national corporations who would raise the majority of the $120 million dollars for the erection of this symbol NEVER raised the same to ensure that Dr. King's actual programs were a reality. NO WHERE in this dedication process have you heard anything about these national corporations making the same economic commitment to the programs of Dr. King. Finally, NOW IS THE TIME as an activist to public raise the issue while all of our national leaders, media and all are reducing Dr. King to a "symbol" versus his "substance." NOW IS THE TIME for in just a few weeks when all this HOOPLA is over, we will all be right back to business as usual, stuck in a "paralysis of analysis" versus ORGANIZING the very economic empowerment campaign that Dr. King died organizing.!!

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