One of the greatest fights for African Americans throughout history has been the war on poverty. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took up this fight with his Poor People’s Campaign, a movement to embolden the nation’s poor to find strength in numbers and demand legislation to obliterate poverty.
King dreamed of a march that would unite the impoverished in Washington D.C. and announced the plan in December 1967. Though his assassination in April 1968 ended this work, his dream lives on today. Rev. Dr. William Barber, former North Carolina NAACP president and leader of the Moral Mondays movement for justice, and other activists have revived King’s Poor People’s Campaign. Monday (May 14) marks the kickoff of 40 days of civil actions in 40 states and D.C. They will hold numerous civil disobedience actions, such as visits to various state capitols and a mass rally in Washington, D.C., to build a multi-year, anti-poverty movement.
For millions of African Americans across the nation, the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) is a way to directly address the prevalence of poverty. Twenty-two percent, or 9.2 million, of African Americans lived below the poverty line in 2016, Talk Poverty reported. Overall, the number of poor and low-income Americans has grown to 140 million people when considering food, clothing, housing and utility costs, as well as government assistance programs, Barber told the Los Angeles Times.
Poverty has caused a number of severe problems for people of color. “Study after study tell us that hundreds of thousands of people die in the United States from poverty and low wealth, not because it’s their time to die,” Barber said.
The PPC movement is also a powerful way to stop the weaponizing of poverty by Trump.
It’s no secret that the president’s administration has made it a mission to support policies that hurt the nation’s poor. Case in point: Trump is requesting that Congress slash roughly $7 billion from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to fix deficits caused by tax cuts, Think Progress reported. Also, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is lobbying for the demise of DACA in a move that would split immigrant families.
Black supporters’ participation in PPC is a way to make history. The PPC days of action will be one of the “largest waves of nonviolent direct action in U.S. history,” organizers have said.