In the U.S., new Poor People’s Campaign mobilises push to end poverty
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spent the final months of his life organising for economic justice and preparing a Poor People’s Campaign to occupy Washington, D.C.
“Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality,” he told a rally of union sanitation workers in Memphis on March 1968, weeks before his death. “For we know now that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger?”
Unfortunately, this question is just as relevant today as it was then—if not more so.
That is why, in the United States, a new call to action is ringing out right now. Thousands of workers, religious leaders, and activists are joining together at the U.S. Capitol and roughly 40 statehouses to launch a new Poor People's Campaign, a movement to push the problem of poverty to the top of the national political and moral agenda.
Rev. William Barber, along with his campaign co-chair Rev. Liz Theoharris, is at the centre of this 40-day drive of civil disobedience and protests, culminating in a June 23 international day of action. The campaign’s goal is to reengage Dr. King’s radical vision of economic and racial justice and jumpstart a multi-year effort to build an economy—and a country—that truly works for all.
“We’ve got to hold up the banner until every person has health care, we’ve got to hold it up until every child is lifted in love, we’ve got to hold it up until every job is a living-wage job, until every person in poverty has guaranteed subsistence,” Barber said at an event in Memphis commemorating King’s assassination.
Over the past five years, Rev. Barber, a pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, in Goldsboro, North Carolina, has become a leading figure in the civil rights movement, and, some have called him the “individual most capable of crafting a broad-based political counterpoint to the divisiveness of Trumpism.”
He spearheaded the Moral Monday’s movement in his home state, which beat back repressive voting laws the U.S. Supreme Court deemed to be "surgical racism." He has also been a leading advocate of the Fight for $15 effort to raise the minimum wage throughout the United States.
Revs. Barber and Theoharris have been traveling to nearly every state to build support for the movement, which after the first 40 days will roll out massive voter mobilisation and registration drives. Rev. Barber will bring his message to UNI’s World Congress in Liverpool this June.
“The widening gap between rich and poor in the United States and throughout the world is the biggest threat to democracy, peace, and planet of our time,” said UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings. “The Poor People’s Campaign and Rev. Barber’s work makes clear that poverty is not just a policy failing but a moral failing of our governments and our societies. If we stand for peace and human rights, for putting people and planet over profits, we cannot allow this failure to continue any longer.”
In one of his final sermons, Dr. King proclaimed, “We are coming to Washington in a poor people’s campaign. Yes, we are going to bring the tired, the poor, the huddled masses … We are coming to demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty.”
Rev. Barber, Rev. Theoharris, and thousands of their allies will make sure that, 50 years later, this demand is heard loud and clear.
Get involved here: https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/.