By John Zippert, Co-Publisher
Pictured John Zippert, Faya Rose Toure and Hank Sanders at
a Poor Peoples Campaign Rally
On Saturday, June 23rd thousands of people from across the nation came to the Mall in Washington D. C. for a Rally and March to mark the end of the initial phase of the revitalized Poor Peoples Campaign and plan for the future.
The Rally heard from the leaders of the Poor Peoples Campaign, those of national recognition and those who have emerged from the past three years of organizing at the grass roots level. The rally was opened with a prayer from the San Carlos Apache Nation, an indigenous group that prayed, sang and danced to a traditional drumbeat.
Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the Campaign said to the assembled crowd, “You are the founding members of the 21st century Poor Peoples Campaign. This is not a commemoration of what happened 50 years ago but this is a re-inauguration of the struggle. We have had 3,000 arrested for civil disobedience in 30 state capitals over the past forty days of protest since Mothers Day. We are moving forward and if the system resists change then we will have to shut-it-down.”
Rex. Liz Theoharis, a Presbyterian minister and head of the Kairos Center for Peace and Justice and co-chair of the Poor Peoples Campaign said, “ We have 140 million poor and working poor people in this country and they are seeking justice and fairness in issues that affect their daily lives, access to health care, a $15 an hour minimum wage, free tuition at colleges, an end to our war economy and ecological devastation in our communities.”
There were two massive banners hanging from the stage saying ”Fight Poverty – Not Poor People” which sum up the theme of the campaign and rally to date. There were many songs including some civil rights standards but also new songs like ‘When you lift from the bottom – Everybody rises’.
There were speakers like Rev. Jesse Jackson, actor Danny Glover, Essence Magazine publisher, Susan Taylor, but there were also many new leaders and organizers of the Poor Peoples Campaign, A Call for a National Moral Revival. One of the strongest speakers was Louise Brown, who led the Charleston, South Carolina hospital workers strike 50 years ago and is still battling for workers rights.
Rev. Barber moderated a discussion by grassroots organizers in the five thematic areas of the campaign: systemic racism, systemic poverty, labor and workers rights, ecological devastation and ending the war economy and militarism.
After the speeches, more than 10,000 marched from the Mall up to the U. S. Capitol building and back. A smaller representative group from the Poor Peoples Campaign went into the capitol and brought a letter of the Campaign’s demands for every Senator and Congressperson.
About twenty people from Alabama were part of the delegation including Rev. Carolyn Foster of Greater Birmingham Ministries, who is co-chair of the state committee. More than 50 people from Alabama participated in civil disobedience during the initial 40-day campaign since mid-June. Many were present at the rally and march.
During the march, many of us walked behind a banner that attracted much attention, which said, “We are from Alabama, and we are ashamed of Attorney General Jeff Sessions”.
Riding home from the event with Alabama participants, all said they were pleased to be part of founding this new movement and ready to take part in the next steps as they are developed and implemented.
Any one seeking more information or wishing to join may go to: http://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org.