Poor People’s campaign was a project Martin Luther King Jr. was working on when he was assassinated in 1968. In describing this campaign, Dr. King saw it as a shift from the “reform movement” of desegregation and voting rights to a “revolutionary movement” that would demand nothing less than a “radical redistribution of economic and political power”. In Dec. of 2017, nearly 300 people gathered in DC to reignite the Poor People’s Campaign. They were here to address this litany of injustices: deaths caused by lack of health insurance, the rollback of voting rights, corporate drilling on Native American lands, homelessness, police violence, an unbelievable minimum wage, Flint’s inability to provide its citizens with clean water, political corruption.
This movement realizes that real change does not take place in DC, it begins with people doing the ground work in their own communities but many times need help because they have been so disempowered and hopeless.
The Poor Peoples Campaign has many demands for the poor that are centered in these areas:
Systemic Racism: “We all have the right to vote and the right to accountable political representation.”
Poverty and Inequality: “The truth is that the millions of poor people in the US today are poor because the wealth and resources of our country have been flowing to a small number of people and federal programs are not meeting the needs of the poor. “
Ecological Devastation: “The truth is that our policies have not fundamentally valued human life or the ecological systems in which we live. Instead, it has prioritized private, corporate and financial interests over our precious natural resources.”
War Economy and Militarism: “The truth is that instead of waging a War on Poverty, we have been waging a War on the Poor, at home and abroad, for the financial benefit of a few. It is morally indefensible to profit from perpetual war.”
National Morality: “We demand that all policies and budgets are based on whether they serve the general welfare and lift up lives and environment.”
I counted 32 demands that come under the above areas. I thought that is a lot of demands but as I read them I realized that all were necessary to fulfil the Catholic Social Principles especially Dignity and Respect of the Human Person, and the Preferential Option and Love for the Poor and Vulnerable.
Did You Know: there are fewer voting rights in 2018 than there were 50 years ago when the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights were passed?
Did You Know: while the US economy has grown 18-fold in the past 50 years, wealth inequality has expanded, costs of living have increased, and social programs have been restructured & cut dramatically?
Did You Know: we imprison and detain more people, especially the poor than any other country?
Did You Know: 13.8 million US households cannot afford water?
Did You Know: currently .53 of every federal discretionary dollar goes to military spending and .15 is spent on anti-poverty programs?
Did You Know: that thousands of people die every year from anti-poor policies?
Did You Know: there are 140 million people who are poor or low-income in the US today?
According to Frances Fox Piven, a professor of Political and social theory, two things have to happen, “You have to cause a certain amount of disarray, and you have to be an electoral threat. He says: “The former is important because poor people lack traditional forms of power such as money, authority and social connections. When protesters occupy a government building, block traffic, they exercise the only form of power available to them: withdrawing their cooperation from social and civic institutions. The latter is important because ultimately if the movement is to win specific policy concessions, they have to be shepherded by elected politicians.” (Information taken from Sojourners’ Magazine, May, 2018 and Poor People’s Campaign’s website).