Poor People's Campaign

On MLK Day, January 20th, the VA PPC in Hampton Roads took advantage of an opportunity to show a free sneak peak screening of the documentary “We Cried Power” describing the birth, growth, and mission of the Poor People’s Campaign. We had four objectives for the screening: (1) Honor Dr. King’s service and vision on MLK Day, (2) Introduce our campaign which is carrying on King’s legacy, (3) Canvass attendees on campaign roles that interest them, and (4) Promote the June 20th Poor People’s Mass Assembly and Moral March on Washington.

View the video trailer of the documentary. The documentary shown is a 45-minute version of the final, full-length (90 minute) documentary that will be shown in theaters later in the year. We have coordinated with a local theater to show the full-length documentary prior to the PPC June 20th march.

We requested a DVD copy of the documentary through the National PPC, and they put us in contact with the film company which not only provided the film but also provided promotional flyers and a post-screening survey. A local church active in social justice, Coastal Virginia Unitarian Universalist, agreed to host the screening and widely publicized it within their congregation. We used the promotional material in our social media sites and distributed it to local media outlets. As a result, 65 people from across Hampton Roads attended the screening.

When people entered the screening area, we gave them a detailed flyer about the June 20th Mass Assembly and Moral March on Washington. The flyer explains why the march is important and provides links for registering for the march, reserving a bus seat, and learning more about the PPC.

As the crowd settled, we provided welcoming and brief introductory remarks, introducing the Hampton Roads tri-chairs and requesting the attendees stay after the documentary ended for a brief Q&A session and completion of a short survey.

Before starting the documentary, we wanted to first engage the crowd in spiritual song that would wake them and unify the group. Since Hampton Roads does not have a theomusicologist, we recruited a choir member and Racial Justice Task Force member from our host church, Coastal Virginia Unitarian Universalist, to lead us in song. We kept it simple, but effective, using the format shown in the video here. While it was nice to be led by a strong, beautiful voice, the simple format we chose can be led by anyone able to carry a tune.

After singing we started the documentary. When it finished, we turned up the lights, passed out the survey and asked if there were any questions. An enthusiastic discussion ensued. This was followed by brief closing comments from the tri-chairs, one of which is an impacted person who talked about the work of the PPC to address her condition and about the importance of contributing to the rally bus fund so impacted persons like her can attend and have a voice. With that said, we asked people to give us their completed surveys and consider supporting the rally bus fund by contributing to the jar in the back of the room as they left. The survey served to give the film company feedback on the documentary and gave us information on the volunteer and support interest areas of each person.

From the 65 attendees, 49 completed surveys. Survey results were encouraging. For example, 20 persons expressed a desire to attend the June 20th rally, 16 expressed a desire to donate to the rally bus fund, and 18 expressed a desire to get involved with the campaign. Additionally, we collected nearly $400 on the spot for the rally bus fund.

This was our most successful event in terms of raising awareness, promoting the June 20th march, and recruiting members for the campaign. By reading about our event story here, I hope you can incorporate some of what we did into your own successful events.