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Poor People’s Campaign Aims to Bring MLK’s Dream to Fruition

Image via Poor People's Campaign

On Monday, thousands of activists will gather at the U.S. Capitol and in more than 30 cities across the nation to kick off the revival of the Poor People’s Campaign, a radical civil disobedience movement that aims to bring the issue of poverty to the center of the political agenda.

Inspired by a 1968 initiative organized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the campaign will involve 40 days of protests to highlight the issues of racism, poverty, environmental destruction, the war economy and militarism. The movement’s organizers say it will be one of the largest waves of nonviolent protest and direct action in national history, largely motivated by the plight of the estimated 41 million Americans who live below the official poverty line. The organizers say the official measure of poverty is too narrow, that the number of poor Americans is about 140 million if food, clothing and housing costs are taken into account.

The campaign’s official demands include federal and state living-wage laws, an end to anti-union and anti-workers’ rights efforts, welfare programs for the poor, equity in education, Medicaid expansion, accessible housing and more.

“The truth is that economic insecurity, poverty and misery are affecting more of us in 2018 than we are made aware,” according to the campaign’s website. “We remain in the dark about who is poor and this ignorance prevents us from being able to address the broad and deep poverty in our midst. We have the right to know the true state of our Union.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was involved in the campaign’s first iteration, wrote for CNN:

Fifty years later, a new movement of the locked out is rising. It is right on time. Everything we worked for—and too many of us died for—during the civil rights movement is under attack. Voting rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, access to affordable health care, housing, education, the air we breathe and the water we drink are in peril. …

Rooted in faith, love and a rock-solid belief and commitment to nonviolence, the campaign co-chairs are two incredible patriots, the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary and the Rev. William Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach, a nonpartisan social justice organization.

When the new Poor People’s Campaign hits the streets, I will proudly join them.

In order to provide our readers with comprehensive coverage of the Poor People’s Campaign, Truthdig is launching its first fully reader-funded project. With readers’ support, we will be able to provide firsthand accounts of the people and actions involved in addressing some of the most pressing issues of our time. Please check back on Monday for our live blog coverage of the campaign’s first meeting, in Washington, D.C.

Emily Wells
​Emily Wells is an Ear to the Ground blogger at Truthdig. As a journalist, she began as a crime reporter at the Pulitzer-winning daily newspaper, The Press-Enterprise...
Emily Wells

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