The Poor People’s Campaign announced plans Monday for a massive online assembly of poor people & low-wage workers in June 2021, followed by an in-person assembly the next year in Washington.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, announced the plans during April 19th Moral Monday held in Jackson, Mississippi.
“It’s time for poor and low-wealth people to flex our power,” Rev. Barber said. “We are committed on that day to put poor and working poor voices at the center of the national agenda during the midterm election because we know that we must lift from the bottom and if we lift this nation from the bottom, then everybody rises. Poor and low wealth people are organizing to demand a moral and economic agenda that lifts from the bottom.”
The Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington drew more than 2.4 million viewers when it aired over the weekend of June 20. The program focused on the 140 million people, or 43% of the country, who live in poverty or are low-income in this country. And 700 people die each day from poverty — that’s 250,000 people a year. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic that disproportionately infected and killed people of color and poor people.
After the 2021 online assembly, the Poor People’s Campaign will hold a 365-day mobilization leading to the mass assembly of poor people and low-wage workers during a march on Washington on June 18, 2022, Rev. Barber said.
Poor and low-income people won’t be silent about the lack of healthcare and living wages or about voter suppression, Rev. Barber said.
“And that’s why we wanted to come to the hallowed state of Mississippi, deep down in the South, to say that the mass Poor People’s Campaign’s Assembly and Low-Wage Workers Assembly and Moral March on Washington will rise — will rise from here and all over this country, virtually, this June. And in person in June of 2022, because we will not slip into the darkness silently. This nation has to change. This nation will change.”
Several speakers focused on voting rights and the plans for a constitutional referendum drive in Mississippi to enfranchise formerly incarcerated Mississippians, including Benny Ivey, who owns his own plumbing business and has become a community leader over the past 11 years but can’t vote because he served time in prison.
“I’ve built a life for myself. I built a life for my family. I co-direct a program to keep young men and young women from going down the same path that I did. And I still can’t vote,” said Ivey, co-director of the Strong Arms of Jackson, a violence-interruption program.
“What more do I have to do? What more do all the tens of thousands of people have to do that have transformed our lives, transformed our minds, done something with ourselves, but we still can’t vote?” he asked.
Other speakers included Debra Brown, whose voting rights were restored this year but was just two of 40 people who had their rights restored; and Ollie Taylor,who spoke for the family of Courtney Rainey, who remains in detention even though the Mississippi Court of Appeals overturned her 15-year sentence for voter fraud last month.
The Poor People’s Campaign is working with two other groups on a ballot initiative to restore voting rights to people convicted of some felonies.
Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, led an online roll call of PPC activists in more than 30 states and Washington, D.C., who said they will participate in the 2021 and 2022 mass assemblies.
“We are building power — strong, bold, visionary power among the 140 million people who are poor or one storm, one healthcare crisis, one job loss, one emergency from economic ruin in this, the richest country in the world,” Rev. Theoharis said. “And from Mississippi, like we started today, to Michigan, from California to the Carolinas, we’re committed — we’re committed — to lifting from the bottom so that everybody may rise.”
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