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  • Jason Laurenzano

Poorpeoplescampaign.org

Recent events have energized millions world-wide to demand extensive social change. Lip service to the needs are insufficient now (and always has been). Rethinking the role of "the police" is certainly on the front burner. There is a growing belief that too much is expected of untrained police when it comes to "responding" to various forms of social situations. Other, more skilled professionals can respond and better diffuse the matter.


But the solutions must go much deeper. There needs to be a serious commitment to supporting and uplifting impoverished communities: Universal health care of good quality, strong public health practices and support, quality public education for all, subsidized higher education to make it accessible to all. Housing, stable food access, readily available start-up loans for small business formation, vocational training, a living minimum wage, programs designed to bring people of different races and ethnicities together so that commonality rather than differences become the "default" - in other words, a comprehensive approach.


One has to wonder: if multiple trillions of dollars can be quickly found to address a pandemic, or to bail out industries and corporations and banks, or to build unnecessary penal institutions, or pad the wealthy and corporations with tax cuts, or overspend on defense when other approaches would provide greater national security, than it stands to reason that our nation should invest in its people.


If you oppose "welfare" then eliminate the need for it! Remember that it was on the backs of black slaves that the agricultural economy of the south was advanced. The economy of the industrial north depended on the labor of scores of freed slaves. Rather than acknowledge and pay tribute to this, much of society de-humanized our black population, condoned slavery and waged war to preserve it, resorted to Jim Crow lynchings after they lost the Civil War, approved mass incarceration rather than understanding the root of most crimes, and accepted self-serving institutional racism.


It is time for a tectonic paradigm shift. It is the moral thing to do. It is the right thing to do and the only thing that makes sense (except to those who are benefitting from the status quo, a selfish perspective).


It is encouraging, in this renewed period of reflection, that deeper proposals are being considered. Today I heard the Rev. William Barber on NPR discuss www.poorpeoplescampaign.org. The organization is staging a virtual Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington to be held on June 20, 2020. A week prior, on June 13 at 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. PDT there is a virtual town hall entitled "Poor People's Campaign 1968-2020: Everybody's Got a Right to Live! We Won't Be Silent Anymore".


From the website:


“Rev. Dr. Barber and Ms. Austin lead a conversation about why every American should participate in the Mass Poor People’s Assembly & Moral March on Washington, which will be the largest digital and social media gathering of poor and low‐wealth people, moral and religious leaders, advocates, and people of conscience in United States history. This gathering will bring together and raise the voices of the 140 million poor and low‐income Americans.”


This is not a new organization. Important work has been done over the past few years. It provides options for those who wish to become actively involved in the movement to make systemic changes.


Here is an Instagram image of a past march in California.



From the website:


FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES

  1. We are rooted in a moral analysis based on our deepest religious and constitutional values that demand justice for all. Moral revival is necessary to save the heart and soul of our democracy.

  2. We are committed to lifting up and deepening the leadership of those most affected by systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation and to building unity across lines of division.

  3. We believe in the dismantling of unjust criminalization systems that exploit poor communities and communities of color and the transformation of the “War Economy” into a “Peace Economy” that values all humanity.

  4. We believe that equal protection under the law is non-negotiable.

  5. We believe that people should not live in or die from poverty in the richest nation ever to exist. Blaming the poor and claiming that the United States does not have an abundance of resources to overcome poverty are false narratives used to perpetuate economic exploitation, exclusion, and deep inequality.

  6. We recognize the centrality of systemic racism in maintaining economic oppression must be named, detailed and exposed empirically, morally and spiritually. Poverty and economic inequality cannot be understood apart from a society built on white supremacy.

  7. Whereas the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism blames poor and oppressed people for our poverty and oppression, our deepest religious and constitutional values insist that the primary moral issues of our day must be how our society treats the poor, those on the margins, women, LGBTQIA2S+ folks, workers, immigrants, the disabled and the sick; equal protection under the law; and the desire for peace, love and harmony within and among nations.

  8. We will build up the power of people and state-based movements to serve as a vehicle for a powerful moral movement in the country and to transform the political, economic and moral structures of our society.

  9. We recognize the need to organize at the state and local level—many of the most regressive policies are being passed at the state level, and these policies will have long and lasting effect, past even executive orders. The movement is not from above but below.

  10. We will do our work in a non-partisan way—no elected officials or candidates get the stage or serve on the State Organizing Committee of the Campaign. This is not about left and right, Democrat or Republican but about right and wrong.

  11. We uphold the need to do a season of sustained moral direct action as a way to break through the tweets and shift the moral narrative. We are demonstrating the power of people coming together across issues and geography and putting our bodies on the line to the issues that are affecting us all.

  12. The Campaign and all its Participants and Endorsers embrace nonviolence. Violent tactics or actions will not be tolerated.

Read the “About” from the pull-down menu on the website to learn more. There are also multiple press releases and other media coverage of the movement as well as suggestions on how to become active in the movement.

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