Thursday, July 18, 2024

How often do we hear this startling statistic on the news?

There are 140 million poor and low-income people in the United States today. This includes more than half of our children, 74 million women, 38 million Hispanic people, 23 million black people, 8 million Asian people, 2 million Native people and 66 million white people, with a disproportionate number of LGBTQ+ people and people with disabilities.

Although these 140 million people account for an astounding 40 percent of the U.S. population, their problems are not recognized by our nation’s policies, laws or legislation. As a result, 250,000 people die every year – that’s 700 people a day – from poverty and inequality.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival was founded by Bishop William Barber II and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis in 2017 to address these issues. Inspired by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign of the 1960s, this new Poor People’s Campaign is a diverse umbrella movement lifting from the bottom up, bringing together people and organizations nationwide, working from the grassroots to policy levels to build power for change. The campaign fights the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, systemic poverty, the war economy, climate destruction and the false narrative of religious nationalism. 

The PPC calls for a Third Reconstruction Agenda to end poverty and low wages from the bottom up. The campaign has 14 demands:

  • That our politics, policies, laws and legislation center and prioritize the poor.
  • That every person has the right to work with dignity, with a federal minimum wage of at least $15 an hour, equal pay for equal work, paid family and medical leave and the right to form unions.
  • That the ultra-rich, corporations and Wall Street pay their fair share of taxes.
  • That the great wealth, resources and capacities of this nation be directed toward expanded social welfare programs that center the poor, rather than corporations and the wealthy, so we can all fare well. 
  • That voting rights be expanded and our democracy is secured against extremist threats and violence to allow for meaningful participation in the decisions that affect our lives.
  • That there be quality comprehensive health care for all.
  • That everyone’s basic needs for housing, food, water and utilities are met and that there be an end to homelessness and the criminalization of unhoused people.
  • That there be quality, equitable and diverse public education for all of our students from pre-K to college, and the elimination of student debt.
  • That immigrant rights are respected and protected wherever we live, move or work.
  • That the rights of indigenous people and the First Nations are fully protected and respected, including the rights to their lands, resources, free exercise of religion, sovereignty, constitutional guarantees, treaty protections and other beneficial federal legislation.
  • That there be a robust climate agenda to ensure a swift transition to a green economy.
  • That our government prioritize peace in the world and at home, and that at least 10 percent of U.S. military spending be redirected immediately to the needs above.
  • That the laws, legislation, policies and budgets of this nation are based on the five key principles of the U.S. Constitution: to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and future generations.
  • That there be a Third Reconstruction that unites the 140 million poor and low-income people in this country to realize their political power.

The Massachusetts chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign invites you to join. We’re in the beginning of 40 weeks of moral action in which we take back the mic, lift our voices and register our votes as demands. We gather to manifest the unity of love, not the division of hate.

We invite all supportive individuals, organizations and faith communities to join us at 10 a.m. March 2 when we march from the Old State House to the current Statehouse at the Boston Common, where we will rally from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The rally will include speeches and community singing. On that same day and time mass gatherings of Poor People’s Campaign chapters will take place simultaneously in 31 state capitals across the country to demand the abolition of poverty in the United States.

For information about the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign, go to emappc on Facebook; ma_poorpeoplescampaign on Instagram; or @MA_PPC on the site formerly known as Twitter. Send email to [email protected].

Jenny Bonham-Carter is a Somerville resident and the music and arts coordinator for the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign.