Poor People's Campaign

June 8, 2021

The Poor People’s Campaign held Moral Monday actions in over 50 locations, demanding that congressional representatives embrace the agenda reflected in the Third Reconstruction resolution to end poverty, saying they choose to change the country rather than be victims of policies that don’t lift from the bottom. 

“Like all single parents I’ve known, I worked tirelessly to make it through. I’ve also been lucky,” said Kate Pousont Scarborough of Franklin County, Massachusetts, a single mother who has lived in 10 homes in 10 years and has struggled to keep food on the table and heat in the homes. “But luck and grit are no substitute for ethical and equitable policy. That is why I’m joining with the Poor People’s Campaign to urge all of our representatives to prioritize justice and support the Third Reconstruction Resolution.”

The nonpartisan resolution, introduced last month in the U.S. House, is a response to years of movement building to create the collective resolve necessary to implement real and transformational legislative action. 

“I am part of a social class who used to be on its knees but that is now standing up, speaking up and pushing back against all evils affecting our communities,” said Gabriela Castaneda of El Paso Texas, who lives in the Agua Dulce community in what she describes as “homeless-like conditions.”

“We support the Third Reconstruction and aim for the reestablishment of justice through the fight against poverty and not the poor,” she said. “As we emerge from pain, we understand that we are no longer victims but agents of change.”

CHICAGO: Activists march on June 7th to encourage Rep. Danny K. Davis to embrace the agenda of the Third Reconstruction congressional resolution to end poverty. (Photo by Gay Johnson) 

Massachusetts and Texas were among 28 states and Washington D.C., where the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival held actions Monday outside offices of congressional representatives. In addition to those two states, the 28 states are: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington state, West Virginia and Wisconsin. 

“Nothing less than a Third Reconstruction that seeks to end poverty and low wealth by building from the bottom up, that deals with all the issues at one time and not separately, is what’s needed,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. “We do not have a scarcity of money. We do not have a scarcity of money. What we have is a scarcity of social consciousness. You all are saying to this country, that’s over. That scarcity is over, too, because we are going to shift the narrative and the consciousness of this country.” 

The Third Reconstruction draws on the First Reconstruction following the Civil War and the Second Reconstruction of the civil rights struggles of the 20th century. The congressional resolution recognizes that in order to build a true Third Reconstruction we must simultaneously deal with the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the denial of health care, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism that blames the poor instead of the systems that cause poverty.

When we read this resolution that was inspired by the agenda of the Poor People’s Campaign, it reminds us that these are moral documents and we have to go back to our Constitution and our founding moral documents that remind us, it’s an abomination to have 140 million people in the richest country in the world who are poor and one emergency away from deep economic ruin; to remind us that we have the solutions, we have the ideas, we have the resources, in fact, to make all of this a reality,” said Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. 

The Poor People’s Campaign is building to June 21, when it will hold a National Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers Assembly, which will be held online and at a socially distanced rally on Halifax Mall in Raleigh. The Poor People’s Campaign then launches a one-year campaign toward a Moral March on Washington and Poor People’s & Low-Wage Workers Assembly on June 18, 2022, in Washington, D.C. 

Comments from other participants: 

Patry Lerwick of Collin County, Texas, a public school teacher in a Title I school. In these schools, 50% or more of children qualify for free or reduced lunches: 

“The message I want to leave with you today is simple: Let’s change for children. A child deserves to enjoy the benefits of parents making a living wage. Not be worried about where their next meal is coming from. Or if they will have a roof over their heads and end up being homeless. Our children need access to healthcare, including mental healthcare.” 

Darcy Gillespie of Columbia, Washington, a deacon in the Presbyterian Church USA: 

“People do not create poverty — policies create poverty. For those who do have enough to eat, those who don’t have access to healthcare, and don’t have enough to keep the electricity or water on….for those who are fighting to keep a roof over their heads and for those who are living exposed without shelter — everyday is a form of violence. Poverty is state-sanctioned violence and it is time to end the war on the poor. 

“We need a 3rdReconstruction NOW. And this time we MUST get it right.”

Nell Myhand, of San Francisco, who was among those who spoke outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, an unpaid family caregiver who was homeless for several years: 

“With the resolve to fully address poverty and low wealth from the bottom up, I and millions of others, Black/Latinx/Asian/White/Native American, moms, childless, trans, living with disability, immigrant, with or without papers, indeed, would have policies in place, including paying for caregiving, that end poverty and enable us to live decent, dignified lives. When you lift from the bottom, everybody rises! I’ll be joining on June 21, online for the National Poor People’s Assembly and getting into step for June 2022. Hey Congress… We COMIN’”

Myka Armisted of Lansing, Michigan, a leader the fight for justice in the death of Anthony Hulon, who died in April 2020 while in the custody of the Lansing police

“Police need to be held accountable to communities and the crimes they commit against us and resources need to be moved from policing and prisons into the hands of poor and low wage communities. 

“This is why we need our members of Congress to endorse and sponsor the Third Reconstruction resolution. The policies that this will lead to will protect and serve the 140 million poor and low-wealth people in the United States. We know that poverty is the mother of all crime. We know that if we lift from the bottom, everyone will rise. We can defund brutality and fund opportunity. We can eliminate crime if we eliminate poverty.”

Kassidi Nabors, a veteran from Savannah, Georgia:

Members of the military “risk our lives for our country, and when we come back, I feel like there should not be one military person going without food or shelter or any kind of help.”

Bradley Havenar, husband and father of three from Oklahoma: 

“For Oklahomans, working at the state minimum wage ($7.25/hour), it takes 86 hours of work per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment. …Oklahomans deserve the relief that the Third Reconstruction will bring to our nation.”

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