The Poor People’s Campaign
This Memorial Day I chose to leave my relaxing, sunny yard and drive for sixty miles to our state capital in Olympia to participate in week three of “The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival” public witness. Each week of the six “moral Mondays” has a theme, and this time it was The War Economy: Militarism and the Proliferation of Gun Violence. First, after recently reading the biography of Fannie Lou Hamer, which brought me to tears and to my knees, I wanted to participate and be counted. Second, I heard a rumor that Unitarian Universalists were preparing to be arrested. Sure enough, after the speakers were done and the march started, Westside’s Joe Rettenmaier, Edmonds U.U. social justice minister, Rev. Cecilia Kingman, and others were sitting in the road, blocking a freeway off-ramp and singing. Why are these people willing to be arrested? Because they are deeply committed to moral analysis based on deepest religious and constitutional values that demand genuine justice and access – for everyone.
This year we are commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The current Poor People’s Campaign is rooted in those who gathered and organized after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. They erected Resurrection City in an encampment on the National Mall and demanded that their government address why in the wealthiest nation in the world so many were still living in poverty. They demanded that hungry children be fed, and that adequate education come to the poorest of school districts. They publicly witnessed again the war in Vietnam for being immoral and without reason. The Souls of Poor Folk understood and called out the relationships between systemic racism, the war economy, and persistent poverty. Later, the ecological devastation of the planet has been named. The issues that confronted The Souls of Poor Folk are still with us today, pervasive in the lives of the poor and disenfranchised. I will add that when we do nothing, we allow the problems to persevere. The Poor People’s Campaign is demanding that our government stop blaming the poor and claiming that the richest country in the world does not have the abundance of resources available to them to overcome poverty, and to end false narratives used to continue generations of economic exploitation by maintaining deep inequality.
How do you get involved? First, go to www.poorpeoplescampaign.org and read both the principles and demands. Next, sign up for the June 10th Puget Sound Spring Summit in Bellevue, hosted by Faith Action Network at www.fanwa.org (go to events/spring summits). The Poor People’s Campaign is a multi-faith, non-partisan, nonviolent protest. Become educated, then become an educator by speaking out to all who listen. One of my favorite singer songwriters tells us that “the greatest revolution is a simple change of heart” (Carrie Newcomer). We cannot change the hearts and actions of others unless we engage them in conversation. Former UUA President Peter Morales tells us that we are an incarnational faith – that means witness and action. Conversation means just that, listening and responding. After you have become informed, you have facts on your side, and once your heart is changed, you have become the righteous. Blessed be.