The Religious leaders of the Civil Rights Movement recently formed "The Council of Elders" and announced their solidarity with Occupy Wall Street on November 20th during a symbolic act entitled, ‘The Sharing of the Torch’.

Later, the Elders hosted a public conversation at Judson Memorial Church (55 Washington Sq. South), about the future of the movement.  There was a magical feeling in the air as an introductory video that was prepared especially for the evening was played. The Elders said, “We belong to each other.  We want to join what you are doing and work together. This is just the beginning of our relationship.  Maybe the best way to start is for you to tell us how you think we might be able to help you.”  The requests ranged from “we need space” to “we need help with outreach” to “how do we keep momentum going?”

Throughout the conversation, I decided to jot down some of the most memorable comments and advice given out that special evening. Here are some of the pearls of wisdom bestowed upon the crowd by these amazing folks:

  • The good things you do will not be applauded…don’t let it get you down.
  • Believe that this movement is meant to be and the time is right.
  • We are beginning to feel the front end of what democracy might look like.
  • Engage in deep study. You MUST study.  Find out who these United States truly are domestically and internationally.
  • Identify the people involved in some of the destructive things in our nation.
  • Learn how to become disciplined soldiers in terms of non-violence.  This is serious business and is no picnic.
  • Spirituality is what will keep this movement going.
  • It can’t be; “that’s not about me”….anymore.
  • You have got to work it out together.
  • I have great confidence in you all and I don’t even know you personally.
  • You have a massive struggle ahead of you.  Rely on your spirituality.
  • Don’t let religion get in the way of your spirituality.
  • Never let your schooling interfere with your education.
  • The movement will feed you as it did me.
  • Powerful forces are mobilized against you.  18 Mayors had a conversation about you.  This is a reflection of your power. Realize your power.
  • We really are one and we need to fight for that.
  • We have come too far and worked too hard to stop now.
  • I don’t know ya’ll well enough to know what mistakes your making, but I know your making them. The question is, are you learning from them, collectively and individually?

After the talk people poured out of the church into the park to participate in a candlelit vigil and march to the space occupiers are claiming as their soon to be new home, Duarte Park, on 6th and Canal. 

This land is owned by Trinity Church, the 3rd largest landowner in NYC. The space is abandoned and underutilized, but has great visibility. The Occupiers and the Elders both feel that visibility is very important for the movement.

The council of Elders led the walk and upon arrival, made a statement: “On behalf of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, we ask you to allow this space to be occupied. Occupied to Liberate. Occupied to Awaken. Occupied to Empower. Allow this space to carry out the churches business in liberating people.  These people need a space.  Give them this space.  They need this space.”

The acting steering committee members include: James Lawson, Vincent Harding, Dolores Huerta, Nelson Johnson Joyce Johnson, Mel White, John Fife, Phil Lawson, Arthur Waskow, Grace Lee Boggs, Joan Chittister, George Tinker, Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, Bernice Johnson Reagan and Marian Wright-Edelman

Video: Introduction to the Council of Elders




Grace Lee Boggs (Council of Elders)-You Have a Chance to Change the