Poor People’s Campaign holds multi-state rallies calling for the end of US poverty

EXCLUSIVE: The events are the first of many ahead of the Mass Poor People's & Low-Wage Workers' Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls on June 18.

Poor People's Campaign
Left to right: Rev. William Barber and march participants. (Photo: Steve Pavey and Yolanda Barksdale of Poor People's Campaign/Repairers of the Breach/Kairos Center)

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival (PPC: NCMR) and its co-chairs Bishop William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis have consistently addressed the overwhelming amount of poverty plaguing the nation.

On Monday, the PPC: NCMR held its first in-person march and rally in Cleveland, Ohio — the first of several planned marches in nine other states — in preparation for a major event this summer in Washington.

The mission of PPC: NCMR will be familiar to those who’ve studied the works of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., as it stands as a continuation of the civil rights leader’s call to address the concerns of poor, working class Americans. Today, the PPC: NCMR directs much of its efforts to what Rev. Barber refers to as the “moral center” of nation and bringing economic justice to those lowest on the rungs of greater society.

Barber’s command of the mission and focus on the numbers highlighted the group’s intention of getting their issues heard by members of Congress to hopefully advance policies that will close the poverty gap. 

“If we’re going to talk about poverty and low wealth, we have to break through some false narratives,” Barber told theGrio. “First of all, we need to break through the lie of scarcity in a country, where we have a $22 trillion in gross domestic product, that we don’t have the resources to address those needs.”

Reverend William Barber speaks during a demonstration at the U.S. Supreme Court during the MoveOn and Poor People’s Build Back Better Action on November 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for MoveOn)

Barber continued, “Secondly, we need to address the lie of that we don’t know what to do [about poverty]. We do know what to do, we know what the answers are. We know that we can use the tax codes, expand voting rights, and improve healthcare. We could fix all our issues instantly.”

The civil rights activist added, “The third lie is that poverty isn’t a fundamental, moral, and constitutional issue across the country, and it is. It is the moral issue of our time. And in addition to those lies we need to break through, we need to stop the lie that poverty is a deep south issue, or a Black issue, or the fact people are choosing to be poor.”

Barber went on to share several verifiable facts and figures, including a mention of the 140 million poor and low-wage people in the United States, and adding that these numbers were extremely high even before the COVID-19 pandemic shattered the economy. Further, Barber shared that over 40 million Americans made less than a living wage in the past year, no doubt impacted by the realities of the public health crisis many across the nation are still combating.

In Ohio alone, Barber noted, 41% of state residents are considered poor and low-wage earners and he was clear to note that while people of color were most affected by poverty, a staggering number of whites in the state are also suffering under the weight of poverty.

(Photo: Steve Pavey of Poor People’s Campaign/Repairers of the Breach/Kairos Center)

“In Ohio right now, there are over 600,000 people without healthcare and the state accepted the Medicaid expansion program. Over 45% of Ohioans earn less than a living wage. This can’t be ignored anymore. We must put faces and names on this issue and that’s why the Mass Poor People’s & Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington will put their faces, names and their pains in the forefront,” Barber said.

Barber added that the rallies and the upcoming march on Washington will put front and center a Third Reconstruction agenda, also known as House Resolution 438, which has aims of addressing poverty and low wages from bottom up. Barber believes wholeheartedly that the poor and low-wage earners across the electorate are realizing that their concerns are unheard or bypassed in favor of the middle class and high-earning workers.

Before the rally in Ohio on Monday, newly sworn-in U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown, who represents Ohio’s 11th congressional district, shared her support for the Poor People’s Campaign and its dedication to uplifting not only people in her state, but also for the rest of the nation.

Rep. Shontel Brown
Rep. Shontel Brown (D-OH) speaks at a press conference on H.R. 40 legislation on Capitol Hill on November 16, 2021 in Washington, DC. During the press conference participants called on the legislation to be passed which would then create a commission to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“Hebrews 6:10 reads, ‘God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.’ That verse has guided me throughout my career in public service, and it speaks to the moral revival the Poor People’s Campaign is calling for today,” Rep. Brown said.

“I support the Poor People’s Campaign’s continuing commitment to upholding our country’s deepest moral and constitutional values. I am excited for the campaign’s presence here in Cleveland and for the work they are doing to bring attention to voter suppression, economic injustice, and the many issues impacting our people.”

To learn more about the PPC:NCMR’s upcoming activations and rallies, please visit this page

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