“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
When Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” on April 16th, 1963 the country stood in the thick of a great movement that would lead to desegregation and a revolution of values that strove to uplift unconditional love for all mankind. From striking fast food workers, to food pantries and homeless shelters calling for an end to hunger and homelessness, to students and parents rising up for quality public education, a new united movement is upon us.
In the lifetime of Dr. King, the arc of economic equality bent toward justice. On his birthday in January 1929, the top 1% earned roughly 19% of income. By the day of his death in 1967, the 1% earned just 7% of the income. In terms of economic equality by population share, the United States had become fairer. The great shame of the time was not that so relatively few people enjoyed a piece of the pie, but that race, creed, age and gender sharply defined who had the opportunity to participate.
Today, the top 1% enjoys over 24% of the country’s income. The bottom 90% of households get by on $31,244 while the top 1% earns $1,137,684. The top .01% earns an unfathomable average of $27,342,212 per year. The richest 10% control 2/3 or American’s net worth. And income inequality is greater in New York State and in the New York City region than in any other state or metropolitan area in the country.
Though explicit segregation statutes have been abolished, we are witness to the reality that those who suffer the impact of income inequality the most are communities of color. The blatant racism of Jim Crow has been replaced by a corporate plutocracy that erodes education and job opportunity as it emphasizes profiteering and the prison and military industrial complexes.
It is time for the faithful to act. Reawoken to action, faith communities, in broad coalition, can affect the kind of change not seen since the Civil Rights Movement. Justice too long delayed is justice denied. Dr. King reminds us, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” So what of the faithful? When we ignore the call for justice we have already begun to serve another master.
The Faith for a Fair New York network is a coalition of clergy, faith leaders and congregants who seek a more just society. We ask you to join us as a movement toward the kind of justice envisioned by Dr. King. We seek to define a shared agenda that is led at its core by the spirit, and to dedicate new life and resources to a movement toward income equality and the eradication of that which injustice begets: hunger, homelessness, violence, incarceration, addiction, and disease.
Faith for a Fair New York is just getting started and the opportunities for involvement and leadership are limitless. Please contact Rev. Joy Perkett to learn more.