Rev. William Barber speaking in Washington D. C., June 18, 2022
By Hamil R. Harris
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – In June 1968, the disciples of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took over Washington DC in a Poor People’s march and campaign with thousands of signs calling for an end of segregation, voting rights, and decent wages for all people.
Fifty-four years later, a new crowd of thousands walked up Pennsylvania Avenue and stood on stage with the US Capitol in the background. They had signs that read: “We are the 140 million poor and low-wage people. We won’t be silent anymore…Forward Together.”
And while King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4th, 1968, fighting for garbage workers, Rev. William Barber, a North Carolinian, surrounded by a cadre of male and female leaders, came to Washington DC on Saturday, June 18, to warn Democrats and Republican lawmakers that the new chapter of the poor people’s campaign is far from over.
“From here, we only intensify, and we say to America, you have two years,” Barber boomed, “two years to do some fundamental changes in living raises and raising childhood income tax credit and health care, or we will be back in every street and backroad in America.”
Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis are co-chairs of The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. For the last four years, their primary effort has been to organize leaders across the country instead of star-studied events in Washington DC.
The campaign has 40 state coordinating committees and is supported by more than 170 mobilizing partners, more than 20 religious and denominational bodies, and a growing “ Prophetic Counsel” of more than 2,500 clerics that organized Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March.
One of the speakers at the march was Rukiye Abdul-Mutakallim, a Cincinnati, Ohio activist who came to Washington DC with a bus load of activists who are all part of her organization—called The Musketeer Association.
Even though Rukiye’s son was killed in the streets of Cincinnati, She forgave the boys who did it, and since then, she’s been working to end violence in her community.
“Our mission is to save the three B’s babies, butterflies, and bees,” said Abdul-Mutakalim as she loaded up the vans and prepared to return home. “We will vote them out if they don’t change these laws.”
There were dozens and dozens of speakers who each had a minute to talk. But the cry of one young lady stood out on stage when she said, “I am tired of donating plasma because I don’t have the money to meet my basic needs.”
Among those in the crowd were Rev . Andrew Wilks and Rev. Gabby Cudjoe Wilkes, co-pastors of Double Love Experience in Brooklyn, New York.
Andrew Wilks said, “I wanted to come here because people are here from every state saying one message: We have a right to live, and we want the White House to act so that we can finally deal with poverty once and for all.”
In terms of going forward, Barber said in an interview after the event, “the people are ready, we have mobilized to this point, and now we organize forward. We have seven things that we have to do.”
Barber was referring to the Seven Steps Before Midterms,” a group of demands released by the Poor People’s campaign.
They include: We demand every member of Congress commit to creating and supporting legislation that reflects the Third Reconstruction Agenda developed by poor and low-wage communities. No action available to this Congress to relieve this injury and protect our democracy should be taken off the table – no matter how close we are to an election. We declare that this Campaign will engage in massive mobilization and outreach through every means available to us – by visits, letters, petitions, candidate forums, and phone calls – advocating for our current representatives to take action now to address the needs of 140 million poor and low wealth people in this country.