This Land Is Your Land…
by Hilary Bettis
Photo by David
In a denim shirt and blue jeans, Noam Chomsky, perched in an old plastic chair, waits for a gathering audience at a New York Housing Works event. I happened to, out of pure luck or fate, be one of the first people to arrive. I approached Mr. Chomsky with a burning question: “What is our next step for the Occupy Wall Street Movement?” In his gentle demeanor, Mr. Chomsky spoke of past movements that created sweeping change for humanity such as the Labor Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Arab Spring Movement. “Every social change in history… comes from concerted, organized public action and struggle over a period of time.”
|Noam Chomsky at Housing Works in New York City|
Back at Zuccotti Park, I hear, in the distance, a fiddle cry with a Woody Guthrie song as members of a local teacher’s union sit quietly grading homework assignments of children still too young to understand the struggle their adult counterparts face on their behalf. A middle-aged woman tells me she is there because others struggled to keep children out of factories. She tells me it is her turn to keep corporate greed out of schools.
A young black man in a leather jacket holds up a sign that reads, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” He tells me he is there because his father participated in the Great March on Washington. He tells me he needs to understand his roots so that he can protect his future.
An Egyptian woman in a hijab types furiously on her laptop sending out messages of hope and unity on her facebook and twitter account. She tells me she was a part of the Arab Spring Movement that gave her the opportunity to leave Egypt and pursue her dream of an education at New York University. She tells me she has never had much hope for the world until this past year.
Occupy Wall Street is an extension of human rights movements that have existed for generations. We are all here because our ancestors struggled, patiently and dignified, for a better way of life. But we must also recognize that change will not come overnight. The winter nights will be filled with moments of fear and hopelessness and pain and hunger and frustration. There will be media rhetoric that will attempt to discredit us. And narcissistic egos that will try to divide us. But if we continue to stand in solidarity we will overcome these moments together in ways that bind and strengthen the human spirit for generations to come.
As a great man once said, “[Human Rights] …was never given by a gift from above. It was always given by struggle”