May 24, 2021
The Poor People’s Campaign will hold an online rally Monday for the launch of a congressional resolution to end poverty, which reflects an agenda emerging from years of movement-building. The Moral Monday will feature poor and low-wealth moral leaders who provided the basis for the document.
The rally begins at 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. Pacific at https://www.3rdreconstruction.org. Participants include Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and members of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Most importantly, poor and low-wealth people will tell their stories of building their power and shifting the narrative about poverty.
The resolution, “Third Reconstruction: Fully Addressing Poverty and Low Wages from the Bottom Up,” was unveiled Thursday in Washington, D.C., and will be introduced this week. It’s the result of the ongoing historic effort to summon the moral and political resolve of the nation to center the needs of the 140 million people who are poor or low-wealth in order to change these conditions with moral laws and policies.
“If this nation is serious and wants to address poverty and low wealth from the bottom up, all of us, first as human beings and as moral agents, must embrace this, an omnibus vision, of the Third Reconstruction,” Rev. Barber, who also is president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, said Thursday. “We can’t tinker around the edges. … No democracy can claim to be strong when 140 million people or 43% or its people are poor and low-wealth.”
Drawing on the transformational history of the First Reconstruction following the Civil War and the Second Reconstruction of the civil rights struggles of the 20th century, the Third Reconstruction is a revival of our constitutional commitment to establish justice, provide for the general welfare, end decades of austerity, and recognize that policies that center the 140 million are also good economic policies that can heal and transform the nation.
Among other resolves, the resolution calls on the country to update the poverty measurement; raise the federal minimum wage, enact comprehensive and just immigration reform and expand voting rights.
“Let me be clear: We are facing a poverty crisis in America,” Rep. Barbara Lee of California, co-chair of the Poverty Task Force, said. “The COVID pandemic — it’s just exposed and exacerbated the longstanding inequities that are the result of generational and generations of structural racism in this country and economic inequity.”
Rev. Theoharis, who also is director of Kairos: The Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice, said she spoke Thursday on behalf of the many poor and low-wealth people in the campaign.
“I stand here aware, too aware, of so many people who have died of poverty and inequality in this … the richest country in the world — a nation that has the resources to fully address the curse of poverty,” she said. “A nation that throws away more food than it takes to feed every person. A nation that has five empty housing units for every homeless person and family and yet evictions continue to rise.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said: “Poverty exists because we allow it to exist. In the wealthiest country in the world, 140 million people are poor because we have chosen to allow it to be so. We have the power to end poverty.”
To those who would point to the cost of the resolution’s plans, Rev. Barber had an answer.
“And those who may criticize, we’ve already got two answers for you so get ready: there is no scarcity of resources. We’ve already done a budget, too,” Rev. Barber said. “Secondly, there is no scarcity of solutions. What we have in this country and have had for far too long is a scarcity of moral fusion social conscience. It ends now. With us. With this movement.”
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