The Rhode Island Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival kicked off a six-week season of nonviolent direct action Monday afternoon in Providence. The 60 plus people in attendance included clergy, advocates and members of the poor and disenfranchised communities from Rhode Island. They gathered outside the Rhode Island State House to demand “new programs to lift up the 140 million Americans living in poverty, immediate attention to ecological devastation and measures to curb militarism and the war economy.”
Inspired by Dr Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign, organizers will engage in 40 days of nonviolent direct action and voter mobilization. The movement aims to transform the nation’s political, economic and moral structures in this country. The action in Providence is one of 30 taking place across the United States today.
Monday’s protest focused on child poverty, women in poverty and people with disabilities. Organizers said that subsequent weeks will focus on systemic racism, veterans and the war economy, ecological devastation, inequality, and our nation’s distorted moral narrative.
Rhode Island Poor People’s Chair Reverend Ebony Grisom stated “On Mother’s Day, the country pauses to honor mothers with cards and flowers. On Monday, we honor them with protest. We protest the double-standard that celebrates mothers one day, yet watched them (and their children) languish in poverty the next.”
“We are gathering on Monday, May 14th, to share our struggles, then to proceed to the statehouse, on the same day as many other cities across the country. We are waging the Rhode Island Poor People’s Campaign to address the injustices of widespread poverty, systemic racism and rampant inequality in Rhode Island,” said Camilo Viveiros, Chair of the Rhode Island Poor People’s Campaign.
At the conclusion of the 40 days, on June 23, poor people, clergy and advocates from Rhode Island and coast to coast will join together for a mass mobilization at the United States Capitol in Washington DC. They’ll then return to their states to continue building the campaign, which is expected to be a multi-year effort.
The march from Gloria Dei Evangelical Lutheran Church to the Rhode Island State House:
Rachel Flum, executive director of the Economic Progress Institute:
Malchus Mills from DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality):
Cathy, from ReFocus talked about the problems at the Rhode Island Department of Human Services and the not working UHIP system.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is co-organized by Repairers of the Breach, a social justice organization founded by the Reverend Barber; the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary; and hundreds of local and national grassroots groups across the country.
The campaign is building a broad and deep national moral movement – rooted in the leadership of poor people and reflecting the great moral teachings – to unite our country from the bottom up. Coalitions have formed in 39 states and Washington D.\C to challenge extremism locally and at the federal level and to demand a moral agenda for the common good.
Over the past two years, leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival have carried out a listening tour in dozens of states across this nation, meeting with tens of thousands of people from El Paso, Texas to Marks, Mississippi to South Charleston, West Virginia. Led by the Reverends Barber and Theoharis, the campaign has gathered testimonies from hundreds of poor people and listened to their demands for a better society.
A Poor People’s Campaign Moral Agenda, announced last month, was drawn from this listening tour, while an audit of America conducted with allied organizations, including the Institute for Policy Studies and the Urban Institute, showed that, in many ways, we are worse off than we were in 1968.
The Moral Agenda, which will guide the 40 days of actions, calls for major changes to address systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and our distorted moral narrative, including repeal of the 2017 federal tax law, implementation of federal and state living wage laws, universal single-payer health care, and clean water for all.
Earlier this year, poor people, clergy and advocates traveled to statehouses all over the country and the United States Capitol to serve notice on lawmakers that their failure to address the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and America’s distorted national morality would be met this spring with six weeks of nonviolent moral fusion direct action.
The Campaign draws on the unfinished work of the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, reigniting the effort led by civil rights organizations, labor union and tenant unions, farm workers, Native American elders and grassroots organizers to foster a moral revolution of values. Despite real political wins in 1968 and beyond, the original Poor People’s Campaign was tragically cut short, both by the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination and by the subversion of the coalition that sustained it. Still, the original vision and many of its followers did not go away.
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