Today (May 14), the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival kicks off with a march on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Featuring people living in poverty, clergy and advocates, the march is part of a larger effort to secure programming to aid the impoverished and the world they inhabit. It comes in conjunction with three dozen activities across the nation, and it launches six weeks of nonviolent direct actions.
The campaign takes it name from Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People Campaign, which kicked off 50 years ago with the goal of targeting the nation’s overlapping problems of poverty, racism and militarism. The new iteration is chaired by Reverend Dr. William Barber II and Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis, and supported by Barber’s Repairers of the Breach, the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice, plus what an emailed statement describes as “hundreds of local and national grassroots groups across the country.”
The campaign draws direction from a two-year listening tour. What organizers learned while traveling the nation informs the campaign’s moral agenda and accompanying list of demands, which directly addresses the issues of systemic racism and economic inequality. Demands include:
We demand the immediate full restoration and expansion of the Voting Rights Act, an end to racist gerrymandering and redistricting, early registration of 17 and 18 year olds, the implementation of automatic registration to vote at the age of 18, early voting in every state, same-day registration, the enactment of Election Day as a holiday, and a verifiable paper record. We demand the right to vote for the formerly incarcerated.
We demand that First Nations, Native Americans and Alaskan Native people retain their tribal recognition as nations, not races, to make substantive claims to their sovereignty.
We demand the immediate implementation of federal and state living wage laws that are commensurate for the 21st century economy, guaranteed annual incomes, full employment and the right for all workers to form and join unions.
We demand equity in education, ensuring every child receives a high-quality, well-funded, diverse public education. We demand an end to the resegregation of schools. We demand free tuition at public colleges and universities and an end to profiteering on student debt. We demand equitable funding for historically Black colleges and universities.
We demand that the nation and our lawmakers turn their immediate attention to passing policies and budget allocations that would end child poverty. This includes a public hearing on the federal and state institutions charged with child safety and protection, including on how their resources are used to take children away rather than strengthening families.
We demand a change in the current poverty standards. We demand an accurate assessment of who is poor—based on access to decent and adequate housing, education, health care, water, sanitation and public utilities, childcare, as well as income, savings and debt, and welfare—and that is made widely available to all.
We demand particular attention be paid to data concerning First Nations, Native Americans, Alaskan Native, LGBTQIA and disabled people regarding poverty. This means working with these communities to ensure the safekeeping of sensitive information and that all data is collected with respect, dignity and security.