The Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, held its three-day Moral Poverty Action Congress. We met “to place the nation on notice that we will not be silent anymore as poverty kills 800 people every single day in this country, more than homicide, more than respiratory disease, and more than opioid overdoses,” says it’s leaders including Bishop William J. Barber, II, National Co-Chair of the Poor People's Campaign, President & Senior Lecturer of Repairers of the Breach.
Over three days, they strategized, mobilized and planned on how to shift the nation’s attention to the reality of poverty in the country, highlight poverty and low wages as an American death sentence, and force elected leaders to take action to end unnecessary and avoidable murder by public policy.
The organization provided these five highlights from their third Congress:
1. What It Means To Be America Is At Stake
The Congress opened June 19 with a launch event televised live in its entirety on C-SPAN hosted by the Yale Center for Public Policy and Public Theology, featuring Barber in conversation with Yale School of Public Health Assistant Professor Gregg Gonsalves; UC-Riverside Professor David Brady, the author of a recent report citing poverty as the fourth leading cause of death in America; Valerie Wilson from the Economic Policy Institute; and Valerie Eguavoen, the Center’s Associate Director.
“What does it say about the greatest country on earth, the land of the greatest opportunities, if we know what we need to do to address the problem, but only do it periodically for limited amounts of time,?” Wilson said.
2. Back in Survival Mode
Impacted people and faith leaders held a national speakout in front of the Supreme Court, where they raised the alarm about the death sentence of poverty in America and honored loved ones lost to poverty and the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, militarism, ecological devastation, the denial of healthcare, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism.
“Thirty-nine percent of our population in Ohio lives in poverty,” Joyce Kendrick, of Middletown, Ohio told the crowd during the speakout. “Lawmakers let the SNAP expansion and other pandemic programs expire. I’m back in survival mode. I’m back to choosing between proper medical care and a proper meal.” (Port of Harlem Note: The US Census put the official Ohio poverty rate at 13.4 percent).
3. A Third Reconstruction
Following the speakout, the advocates from more than 30 states walked to the U.S. Capitol where they joined Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Barbara Lee as they re-introduced a resolution to fully eradicate poverty throughout the United States. The Third Reconstruction: Fully Addressing Poverty and Low Wages from the Bottom Up resolution draws on the history of the First Reconstruction following the American Civil War and the Second Reconstruction of the Civil Rights Movement.