On Saturday, February 11, the Kairos Center participated in the 11th HKonJ Moral March on Raleigh organized by the NC NAACP and a host of organizations that stand for justice and equality. It was the largest Moral March in history with upwards of 100,000 people holding signs that read “Health Care is a Moral Value,” “No Ban, No Wall,” “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” “End Poverty Now,” “Black Lives Matter,” “They tried to bury us, but didn’t know that we are seeds.”

Leading the march were young people joined by families impacted by the lack of Medicaid Expansion, disenfranchised voters, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and Christian faith leaders, LGBTQ families, veterans working for peace and a fusion movement of people working for justice in North Carolina and across the South and nation. There were so many marchers that it took the crowd hours to walk the 6 block route.

The rally at the Capitol featured leaders from the Fight for $15, doctors who believe in universal health care, advocates resisting the attack on voting rights, transgender leaders resisting HB2, Appalachian voices against poverty, and others impacted by the extremist attacks on workers rights, immigrant rights, women’s rights, environmental rights and equal protection under the law.

The Rev. Dr. William J Barber II concluded the rally with a call to action, imploring everyone assembled to remember the prophetic leaders on whose shoulders our movement for justice stands, to stand up against poverty, racism and oppression, and to join the #MoralResistance until justice flows down like water and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

I had the opportunity to speak at the concluding rally and talk about the problems of poverty and the need to build a New Poor People’s Campaign. Looking out to a crowd that I could not see an end to, I called out:

“In 1967, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said, ‘The dispossessed of this nation – the poor, both white and Negro – live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize…against the structures through which the society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty…

There are millions of poor people in this country who have very little, or even nothing, to lose. If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life.

Beginning in the new year, we will be recruiting thousands of the poorest citizens from… different urban and rural areas to initiate and lead a sustained, massive, direct action movement… Those who choose to join this non-violent army, this freedom church of the poor, will work with us…to develop non-violent action skills.’

Nearly 50 years later, these words are a call to action for us. A study came out this week that said that 43% of American children are living in poverty.  Here in North Carolina 1.7 million people are living below the poverty line. According to the U.S. Census, 1 in 2 Americans are poor or low-income, struggling to meet their basic necessities, living truly in a cruelly unjust society. This means poisoned water, failing schools, the lack of health care, housing troubles, unemployment insurance running out and working jobs that do not pay enough to live.

There are 8 people in this world who own as much wealth as half of the world’s population. This is not right! This is not just!

The prophet Isaiah has a message about this. Isaiah 10 reads,

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing homeless children.

Today in Raleigh and across the nation, we are heeding Isaiah’s call, we are following in the footsteps of Dr. King, we are taking action together, we are becoming a new and unsettling force, and we are building a new Poor People’s Campaign! North Carolina! Are you ready?

Forward Together, Not One Step Back!”