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The Oldest Trick in the Book: Redistribution of Wealth in America

Russell Simmons – Founder of

Posted: February 24, 2011 05:57 PM

I have been thinking a lot about the last recorded words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., before a lone gunman took his life as he rested on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. It was 43 years ago this month that Dr. King traveled to Memphis to join the city’s public sanitation workers who had finally had enough of the abuses by their government, and so walked off the job, staging a 64-day strike. The “poor people’s campaign” was in full swing, led by a public employees union, and it would be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last stand against injustice. It was the night before his assassination that he spoke these eloquent words:

We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now… And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.

As I’ve traveled the country the past two months on a tour to promote my new book, Super Rich, I have spoken with thousands of proud, hard-working Americans and their families who still struggle to realize King’s dream of dignity, decency, economic justice and equality. I have spoken to the factory worker who counts the loose change in their cookie jar to pay for the gas in their car to get back and forth to work. I have spoken to the teacher who is scared to death of losing the job they have held for forty years because the city must make cuts. I have spoken to the men who have recently come home from prison to neighborhoods that are 80% unemployed. And in every hotel room I’ve settled in, I’ve watched on television, with horror, the struggle of the people of the state of Wisconsin who are replaying out the 1968 Memphis rallies of the public sanitation workers’ “I Am A Man” campaign. And when I flip the channel, I see the horrific images of the Libyan people who, like King, have rose up against their oppressive government to demand freedom.

Like Mayor Henry Loeb of Memphis, and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Governor Scott Walker has declared war on his own people. I am emphatically not saying the means are the same. Gov. Walker won an election, Gaddafi is a dictator. However, I’m saying the aims are the same – permanent power of your political party and the destruction of the proud, hard working class of the nation. And here we are 43 years later, standing with the working families of this great nation up against politicians whose pockets are lined by greedy, rich men. But the men that we respect are men like King and Sargent Shriver, two men who would never declare war on their own people, but war on the systemic problems that destroyed their people.

Gov. Walker, and those who are even thinking of standing “behind” him, in the spirit of Dr. King and those who stood by his side, we will no longer endure a war against middle and working class families in this country, for we have had enough. We see who your billionaire oil buddies are, and we will stand up to your bullying with the strength of those 1,300 sanitation workers of Memphis, Tennessee and the 100,000 public employees protesting in Madison as our power. Gov. Walker, to threaten your own people that if you don’t get your way there will “dire consequences” is as pathetic and thuggish as listening to an 68-year-old dictator say he will “fight till the last drop of blood.”

The middle class of this country is struggling to have any class at all, for they are on the brink of poverty with every paycheck that doesn’t show up on time. And the people living in poverty have been forgotten about, as politicians on both sides of the aisle give speech after speech and forget to even mention their existence. While Wall Street booms and I get tax breaks, the working people who reside on Main Street are holding on by a thread. These incredible, resilient, proud Americans have no one fighting for them, so they have decided to pick up the protest signs and fight for themselves. But, make no mistake, you continue to wage war on them, you might catch an uprising you only thought happened in Middle Eastern or African countries. It’s that serious. A couple of tweets from our compassionate friends like Eminem, Ashton Kutcher, Diddy, or even Kim Kardashian, all of whom have more Twitter influence than the President, could start the movement that this country needs.

America will reach the Promised Land when we stop paying into the war machine and lobbying firms and start educating our children and protecting our public workers. The battleground has been set and as history as our indicator, we know that the people will prevail.

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