Written by Martin Luther King III
Last year, my family and I were honored to join millions around the world in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the landmark “March on Washington.” Beyond the powerful exhortation against racism of my father’s “I Have a Dream” speech, however, the organizers were demanding economic justice, along with civil rights, for African Americans and all who were being shut out of the ‘American Dream.’
Today, the disproportionate impact of the foreclosure crisis in communities of color – 17 foreclosures per 1,000 homes in minority zip codes as opposed to 10 per 1,000 in white communities – underscores the collateral damage of the greed-fueled push to force struggling families of all ethnicities to forfeit their own pieces of the ‘Dream.’
My father spent a lifetime working to combat the destructive trifecta of poverty, racism, and violence. In our view, the growing dissolution of homeownership, the primary opportunity for building net wealth for hard-working Americans, constitutes nothing less than “economic violence” being perpetrated against the most financially vulnerable constituency.
In the context of the foreclosure crisis as violence against homeowners, it occurred to me that the six steps for nonviolent social change that my father used in many of his most successful campaigns could be applied to launch an inclusive movement to address and resolve the issues surrounding forced foreclosures.
Nonviolence is a time-honored process with the following phases: (1) Information Gathering; (2) Education; (3) Personal Commitment; (4) Discussion/Negotiation; (5) Direct Action; and (6) Reconciliation. The objective is simply to defeat injustice, not an opponent, through reasoned and non-hostile compromise. And that is our mission.
In January 2013, we participated in a national community outreach effort sponsored by the Independent Foreclosure Review (IFR), an entity established by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve and the Office of Thrift Supervision to assist in providing remediation for affected homeowners. Although nearly eight million persons were reached directly and indirectly through churches across the country, we were shocked to learn that the IFR was abruptly terminated before it could even begin to help a single borrower.
Since the beginning of the housing crisis, some 4.9 million homeowners are in foreclosure and 1.9 million families continue to struggle to stay current on their mortgages, with a large percentage of them “under water.”