Poor People’s Campaign Gears Up
Mother’s Day Launch
By Sarah Anderson
"A major new report makes the case for a
'fusion movement' against systemic racism,
poverty and inequality, militarism and the
war economy, and ecological devastation."
am not speaking about the poor.
am not speaking for the poor.
am the poor.”
De la Cruz was speaking at an April 10 press briefing in Washington,
D.C. on behalf of the Poor
People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.
Inspired by a similar 1968 initiative led by Dr. Martin Luther King
and other civil rights leaders, the campaign aims to lift up the
voices of people like De la Cruz who’ve been most affected by
our country’s persistent poverty.
descendant of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, De la Cruz was
born in the South Bronx, the poorest Congressional district in the
country. Median household income there is about $26,000, compared to
$116,000 for the wealthiest district, which straddles Virginia’s
northern suburbs. She’s a member of the national steering
committee of the Poor People’s Campaign and one of the state
organizers for the New York City area.
the briefing, the Poor People’s Campaign and the Institute for
Policy Studies co-released a 120-page report on poverty and
inequality, systemic racism, ecological devastation, the war economy,
and militarism. The Souls
of Poor Folk
draws on empirical data and interviews with grassroots leaders in
each of these inter-related areas to make the case for reviving the
1968 campaign. The report points out, for example, that 140 million
Americans today are poor or low-income.
a country that is filled with wealth, that has an abundant amount of
resources, this is immoral and shameful,” said De la Cruz.
report also finds that one of the most dramatic trends since the
original Poor People’s Campaign is the rising gap between the
poor and the extreme rich. While the official poverty rate is about
the same today as it was 50 years ago, the share of national income
going towards the top 1% of earners has nearly doubled. The 400
wealthiest Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 64
of the U.S. population (or 204 million people).
percent of all U.S. households (60 million people) have zero wealth
or their debts exceeded the value of their assets (excluding the
family car) — and the percentage is even higher among people of
color. Because of rising housing costs and wage stagnation, there is
no state or county in the nation where an individual earning the
federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour can afford a two-bedroom
apartment at market rent. Five decades after the original Poor
People’s Campaign, homelessness continues to be a severe
problem in the world’s richest nation, with the majority of
homeless families headed by single women with young children.
these overwhelmingly dismal indicators, De la Cruz explained that the
new Poor People’s Campaign is “organizing the hope of the
poor, the hope that is often used and abused by politicians —
whether they are Republicans or Democrats — the hope of a
dignified life, our very right to exist.”
Co-Chairs Rev. Liz Theoharis and Rev. William Barber also released an
of preliminary demands
for the campaign at the National Press Club event. Among the key
priorities: “the repeal of the 2017 federal tax law and the
reinvestment of those funds into social programming that helps all”
and “relief from crushing household, student, and consumer
coming Mother’s Day, the Poor People’s Campaign will
launch 40 days of coordinated protests, including civil disobedience,
in 30 states. On June 23, they will organize a mobilization in the
nation’s capital, just as the 1968 campaign did only a couple
months after the assassination of Dr. King.
la Cruz ended her statement by sending this message to politicians
about America’s poor: “We are here. And we’re ready
to take over. Because we may not run
the United States, but we make
run. And we are ready to shut it down with our bodies.”
BlackCommentator.com Guest Commentator, Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and is a co-editor of the IPS web site Inequality.org.
Sarah’s research covers a wide range of international and domestic
economic issues, including inequality, Wall Street reform, CEO pay,
taxes, labor, and international trade and investment. Sarah is a
well-known expert on executive compensation, as the lead author of more
than 20 annual “Executive Excess” reports that have received extensive
media coverage. Follow Ms. Anderson at @Anderson_IPS.