21-year-old Cameron Whitten, a formerly-homeless African American youth and social justice activist who has been involved with Occupy Portland since its inception early last October, has been on hunger strike since June 2nd, 2012 as part of a 24-hour vigil outside Portland City Hall that has existed since the eviction of the original occupation. His three demands are ending homelessness by calling on the Portland City Council to implement a housing levy measure, dropping needless fines against service providers, and demanding that the Sheriff issue a 1-year moratorium on home foreclosures in Multnomah County.
According to his Facebook page, he advocates “improving government to give the People more oversight, authority, and accountability over elected officials, […] implementing reforms that enable fair taxation, living wages, and campaign finance reform to provide equal opportunity for all,” and “empowering marginalized communities to become champions, dismantle stereotypes, and reverse systemic oppression.” He has been arrested four times seeking “redress of his grievances towards a government which has allowed economic, political, and social inequality to go on for far too long.”
The following is a speech given by Cameron announcing a Day of Economic Justice on the 70th day of his hunger strike, August 10th. Find out more about Cameron, the specifics of his campaign, and how you can help at his blog: http://www.cameronwhitten.com/ You can also follow him on Twitter: @CameronWhitten
I would like to thank the speakers, and the rest of you all for attending. There is a coldness in the heat of our society. As the highest tier of Americans continue to profit, the gap of inequality widens, and invaluable lives are deprived of the basic essentials for survival.
Some may think that a hunger strike is a dangerous, ineffective tactic to address this crisis. Some may think that its not enough, where even in the worlds most prosperous nation, every 53 minutes an American child dies due to poverty. How many more are we willing to let die, before we act?
The theory of “housing first” states that providing a stable place to sleep significantly enables a person to find employment, recover from substance abuse, refrain from violence and crime, and seek mental health counseling at a lower cost to government. In a Progressive and Thriving City such as ours, if we were able to adapt such a powerful resolution, we would be more successful and resourceful in combating systemic poverty, rather than having our police force sweep vulnerable human beings from bridge, to doorways, to jail cells.
We entered this protest with three distinct goals. So far, advancement with the City has appeared a little bleak. But if you pay close attention, you can see a subtle change in our approach on the issue. I’d like to thank the Mayor and City Council for their responsiveness, their advocacy, and endless work behind the scenes to address our general welfare. We have their attention, and are beginning to broaden their policies to deal with the housing crisis.
Now, it is time for the citizenry do to their part. August 10th will be an observance of the 70th day of my hunger strike, and the day the United States’ Declaration of Independence first reached the streets of London. Beginning right here, we will host a rally, march, potluck, dance party, and slumber party. I strongly encourage the students, the workers, the unemployed and poor, those left in endless debt, and all others looked as being less than “middle class” to participate in our Day of Economic Justice.
There is so much visibility for this great cause, the whole world is watching. Now is the time for unity, not to divide amongst ourselves. I can see the light inside of every single one of you right now. Never surrender that power. Thank you.
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