On November 15th, 2014, we brought together leaders in the struggle to secure our human right to water together to draw lessons from those fights, inspiration from the leadership emerging from the ranks of the poor and dispossessed, and clarity about who we’re fighting how we need to be organizing. Below are some of the powerful words from the unsung saints who joined us in taking this step toward a new Poor People’s Campaign.
Marian Kramer and Maureen Taylor of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization focused their comments on connections between automation, de-industrialization, gentrification, and water shutoffs.
“We are in pitched battle, around your throat kind of battle.”
“Technology that used to enhance labor has now replaced labor, and that’s not going to change. So the way you used to live your life, you can’t live that way anymore because there’s an economic base.”
“And your mind always lags behind the reality but this is starting to slap people right in the face. They don’t need you to produce no more.”
“They are doing all this in the interest of their particular class…There are 85 families who own so much of the wealth. We have to have the courage to hold them accountable. There are so many of us we have to ask why we can’t make a dent.”
“Right now the enemy is telling us how we are supposed to fight.”
“Over the past 20-25 years there’s been a systematic dispossession of people off the land…and water has been commodified.”
“We have a national water policy but it isn’t sufficient without mobilization. We’ve got millions of pro-poor policies in India but they aren’t functional.”
“Ghandi said there’s enough for everyone’s need, but there isn’t enough for ANYONE’S greed. This need vs. greed is in greated and accentuated struggle. And that’s what we’re dealing with all over the world.”
“[In Ekta Parishad]…the poorest women in the world, in India, put away one rupee and one handful of rice away every day for our joint struggle. We have to maintain our independence from financiers.”
“Somehow we have to take these bottom-up struggles and get them connected. And we’re already connecting because the problems are getting worse and worse and we see what’s common between our struggles. It’s not difficult to see that of course we need poor whites, poor blacks, poor latinos, poor Native Americans in the same poor people’s forum. We can’t let the state divide and rule us.”
“We have four pillars – the power of the poor, the power of the youth, the power of solidarity, and the power of non-violence.”
Cherri Foytlin of the Bridge the Gulf Project called us to action against the people responsible for the problems facing our communities.
“They don’t care about us. I don’t believe in violence but I do believe that what they’re doing to us is violence. It’s violence against women, it’s violence against children.”
“You already know what’s happening in my region – it’s the same thing that’s happening where you live.”
“That’s the question we have to ask. Do you want to win? I want to win!”
“What I want is another Freedom Summer. I want to educate our people and get them ready to roll. I want our people on fire. I want these people to shake and fear and quiver in their boots.”
“I realized it’s bigger than the Gulf. If we’re ever going to win in Gulf we have to bring people together from all over the place. It’s not about starting a new group but about supporting the communities and the groups that are already out there fighting.”
Paul Corbit Brown of the Keepers of the Mountain Foundation exposed the conditions in West Virginia and the relationships between all of our struggles.
“If there’s any one physical aspect of our lives that ties us all together in this shared garment of mutuality it’s got to be water. When we are deprived of water we are stripped of our humanity.”
“What happened to the war on poverty? It’s become a war on the impoverished. And what’s happening in West Virginia and Detroit is coming to a town near you.”
“26 peer-reviewed papers have said that 4,000 people die every year in Appalachia because of coal. This country is trillions of dollars in debt in a war on terror because 3,000 people died in 9/11. Yet in Appalachia 4,000 deaths a year is somehow seen as acceptable.”
“If we want to change what’s happening in this world we have to get our meat off the seat and put our feet in the street. And that doesn’t mean a march every 5 years. It means sustained outrage. Let’s do it until our foot is on the throat of that dragon.”
“There’s this distraction that Muslims are the enemy, or blacks or Mexicans or hill-billies. As long as we’re separate we’re weak.”
“They say you’re either a friend of coal or a tree-hugger. How about a friend of another person? Friend of coal? Coal’s been no friend of mine. Coal’s why my mom’s been through cancer twice. They say that coal miners are sacrificing to make this country strong. But is my dad getting a Purple Heart for his black lung?