Poor People's Campaign

Over 200 activists listen as campaign presents agenda to Democrats; Republicans are a no-show 

July 16, 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she will share the Poor People’s Campaign moral policy agenda with her colleagues in Congress, calling it “a sweeping transformative plan to advance the values of justice, fairness and the freedom upon which America was founded.”

Pelosi spoke during a congressional briefing that the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival held to review its Moral Policy Agenda to Heal America: The Poor People’s Jubilee Platform, released during a time of three pandemics: COVID-19, systemic racism and systemic poverty.

“A budget should be a statement of our national values,” Pelosi said. “What we care about as a nation should be reflected in our budget. This is a wonderful guide to lifting us to a higher standard.”

She described the agenda as “an important document, a moral document that supports our democracy but more importantly respects the dignity and worth of every single person.”

More than 200 activists listened to the briefing along with Democratic members of the House and Senate. Republican leaders, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, also were invited but did not attend. 

“We’re looking for those Congress people that will champion not a left platform, not right platform, not a conservative platform and not a liberal platform, but a moral platform that’s rooted in our deepest moral principles, our deepest constitutional principles and yes, rooted in our deepest economic policies because … the cost of inequality is worse than the cost of fixing it,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and president of Repairers of the Breach, based in Goldsboro, North Carolina. 

The sweeping Jubilee platform offers a roadmap for lawmakers to take seriously the moral and constitutional principles upon which this country was founded: to establish justice, promote the general welfare, ensure domestic tranquility, secure the blessings of liberty and provide for the common defense.

Policy prescriptions include new protections for voting rights, equitable and quality public education, guaranteed incomes and housing for all, including rehabilitating the country’s 18 million uninhabitable homes, a national water affordability plan, ending medical debt and student debt, and redirecting resources from policing, prison, immigration enforcement, the military and fair taxes towards living wages, a federal jobs program, green transition and more. 

“For too long our society, including Congress, has invested in punishing the poor,” said Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice in New York City,

“What we’re saying here, with this moral agenda to heal the nation, is that we must now invest in the welfare of all. This nation has invested in systemic racism, voter suppression, the militarization of our communities for too long. We must now invest in expanding democracy and establishing peace and justice across the land. Too much state, local and federal money is invested in the wealthy and in large corporations while poor and low-income people are left to fend for ourselves.”

Shailly Gupta Barnes, the campaign’s policy director, said the 140 million poor and low-income people in the country, along with their descendants and the millions of people who witness their suffering, “deserve no less than this platform. We all deserve the right to thrive and live lives that honor the dignity inherent in our very being.” 

Four testifiers from California, Michigan, Kentucky and North Carolina, who spoke during the briefing, described people whose lives are hurting from evictions;  life as an undocumented person and the failure of national leaders to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

“The reality is that the Jubilee platform allows us to push for everything and not just one thing,” said Kenia Alcocer, co-chair of the California Poor People’s Campaign. “As an undocumented person, if you told me you would give me citizenship tomorrow, it is meaningless for me if that doesn’t come attached with a guarantee to have a home for my children, without debt relief for medical expenses and with the guarantee that everyone would have the right to live.”

Maureen Taylor, a campaign activist and state chairperson of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, said 10,000 households in Detroit now face eviction. 

“What did they do wrong?” she asked. “They didn’t do anything wrong. The virus showed up, we had no national leadership. We’re on our own.”

Abigail Mosley of North Carolina said she felt discouraged and even erased because of voter suppression but now fights with the campaign for voting rights. 

“The right to vote should not be dependent upon one’s race, one’s economic status, whether one has been or is incarcerated or one’s level of education,” she said. “We must prioritize the marginalized, the historically disenfranchised and the overlooked. We must move not with ideas based around political or economic gain as so many do today but with a good moral compass guided by justice.”

Mikaela Curry of Kentucky said she knows many people are thinking about her state because Breonna Taylor was killed in her home by police who broke in using a no-knock warrant and David McAtee was killed by the Kentucky National Guard during a protest in Louisville over Taylor’s death. 

“I think a lot of times when people think of rural areas, when they think of rural, eastern Kentucky, they have fixed ideas about what that is,” she said. “I think when they think about rural folks, they think about hillbillies, and they think about rednecks, and they think about people from the South. But we’re not their scapegoats. We’re not on board with their regressive policies that are not just affecting Kentucky and are not just affecting the American South, but are affecting all of America.

The briefing followed the campaign’s digital Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on June 20th, when more than 2.7 million people tuned in to the digital justice gathering to hear the reality facing 140 million people who are poor or low-income in the wealthiest country in the world and where 700 people die each day from poverty — even before COVID-19. 

Also on that day, the campaign’s coordinating committees from 45 states and over 200 organizational partners, labor unions and religious denominations came together around the Jubilee platform. 

Contact: Martha Waggoner | [email protected]  | 919-295-0802

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral  Revival, is building a broad and deep moral fusion movement rooted in the leadership of poor people to unite our country from the bottom up. We demand that both major political parties address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism. Our Moral Policy Agenda to Heal America: The Poor People’s Jubilee Platform addresses these issues.