On Juneteenth weekend, activists converged on Washington in support of the Mass Poor People’s & Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly. Grossly underreported by corporate media, the demonstration was led by the co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign, Reverend Dr. William J. Barber ll and Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis.
I’m Frank Hammer. I’m here with the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington DC supporting William Barber, Reverend William Barber, in his national appeal for a moral revival, for equality and justice for the folks’ who are low-wage workers.
My name is Antoinette Gardner. I’m from Goldsboro, North Carolina. Pastor William Barber is my Pastor. I support this march. My Pastor has always fought for justice, even before he became a director and the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. So many people are hurting. Our school kids now are suffering. Education is not like it was when I grew up. We had books. Kids don’t even have books in our schools nowadays.
My sister died of COVID. My uncle died of COVID. I have had people who died because of lack of medical care, and so that’s why I’m here. I have people that can’t even afford to have housing. They have to live with each other, and they work, but they just cannot afford the rent that people are charging nowadays. We’re suffering. We need the people that we put in Washington DC to listen to us.
They get medical benefits. We want medical benefits. They get a salary. We want a salary that we can live on, so we don’t have to go to the grocery store and decide what we’re going to eat today because we can’t afford even meat now. I mean, I have to count out pieces of chicken for my children. It’s sad. You got five wings apiece today and things like that. It’s sad, and it hurts.
It’s sad, and it hurts, but we hope that people will listen, they will participate, and they will vote. We need to vote for the people that don’t care about us out and put people that understand and know that we are all Americans, we are taxpayers, and we like to choose where that money goes sometimes. So I’m glad to be here, and I’m glad to see people from all different walks, all because they can’t say it’s a black thing, they can’t say it’s a gay thing, they can’t say it’s a woman thing or a man thing. It’s a people thing, and we love people.
I support the cause. It is very unfortunate that people don’t make enough to live. I just graduated. There’s barely anybody trying to pay people over $10 an hour. That’s not enough to support a family or even have a home. I really hope public officials listen because they’ve been elected into these positions, and the people count on them. I definitely want people to vote. I think the minimum wage should be raised. Everybody should have equal access to healthcare and healthcare benefits. I just hope people listen, and I hope they see that people are hurting. Times are getting rough for everybody, and vote.
Definitely vote. Come out and support causes like this. The bigger, the better. The more people who stand up and take a stand, the more the word will get out.
I came here to support the Poor People’s Campaign because in America, the richest country in the world, as I walk around this city, I see homeless encampments, people living out of tents, and low-wage workers who can’t afford to live here. I know family members who lost everything because of medical bills in the richest country in the world. The fact that we don’t have universal health care, a living wage, the same kind of things which Martin Luther King and the original Poor People’s Campaign were demanding in 1968. It’s a shame that in 2022 we still have to demand the exact same thing. I’m glad we’re still demanding, we’re still pushing, and we can make it happen.
It’s been 20 years that public education has been under attack. Multiple presidents have tried to privatize public education. The attacks on public education have especially hurt our most vulnerable students, those with special needs, because they privatize to these charters who don’t care about special needs kids. They wouldn’t get near my son, who has autism. They reject him out of hand. Public education is critical for the survival of a democracy.
Yet for 20 years, we’ve been under attack, and now they constantly blame everything on teachers. Now they wonder why there’s a looming teachers shortage, especially in the areas we most need them— special education. It’s just one more step. We got to keep pushing to let people know there are people from all over the country, and we’re not going to sit back and take this.
As I tell my students, we don’t expect miracles to happen overnight. You just got to constantly keep pushing for some kind of progressive change to create a country that serves all of its citizens, not just the wealthy. I love Reverend Barber’s emphasis on poor people because it’s something that all of us can relate to. Even if, personally, we may be living what we consider a middle-class lifestyle, we’re all on the edge in America. We’re one illness away from homelessness, a few paychecks away from losing everything. That is something everybody can relate to. Ninety-nine percent of Americans can relate to it, and it can unify us rather than all the different other issues that are used to splinter us.
When you think about democracy, you think about fairness. You think about people standing up for their rights and liberties, and I can’t think of a better situation here with so many colors, people, and diversity represented here. From low wages to voting rights to all kinds of different causes, and that’s really what America is about. The goodwill and love that you can sense here is really what America is about. We can easily bash each other’s heads in, but this is one where you care about each other and the people around you and the strangers. If you think about it, that’s the best thing, one of the ideals that America has to offer.
Hopefully, the outcome is that people won’t go unnoticed, that the legislatures will notice, the legislatures will wake up, and legislators will remember why they’re there in the first place. So that’s what I’m hoping will come out of it. My confidence and faith in William Barber, from things I’ve seen, that he can help push the right buttons to make that happen.
Poverty affects so many people, and the wealth gap is closing so much. Even people with college degrees are facing poverty. As that gets closer, I feel like it’s an interest for everybody, regardless of race, gender or class, to embrace the movement, and that’s why I’m here today, to do my part.
I’m a librarian. I work at George Mason University here in Virginia. As I said, I’m back and forth between Virginia and North Carolina. Student loan debt is definitely a burden that I have and something that I care about. If something were to occur, one way or the other, I could easily be in a worse situation than I am right now. I want to make sure that I’m in solidarity with everyone here and in solidarity with the movement. I hope that it will galvanize people, galvanize people to vote, not only to vote but to be consistently active in things that affect their local community, which in turn will affect their State. I think everything is connected internationally, so everything is world-making. I just hope that everyone here can do everything that they can do where they live so that we can act in solidarity with one another. In one connection and in unity, so that the politics of profit won’t outweigh the moral issues that we all need to fight for, and that connects everyone.
I think everything from the clothes we wear to pollution and to the things that we have, our devices are made around the world, made under unjust circumstances that everyone may not be aware of, but it’s what they are. One thing affects another. The quicker people realize that, I think the more of our kind of partisan walls can kind of break down and we can all join around things that interest humanity as a whole. I just hope that everyone continues with the march. It’s not about an individual effort; it’s a unified effort. I just hope that this kind of thing continues and it strengthens. There’s a groundswell of people around the country who wake up and realize that there are things like racism that kind of cloud our ability to see what’s best for the greater interests of everybody.
Being from North Carolina, we’re very familiar with Reverend Barber’s work. Twelve years ago, longer than that, Reverend Barber led the Moral Mondays Movement after the Republican takeover of our State legislature and State government. When he began reviving the Poor People’s Campaign and in seeing the fusion coalition that he was able to build in the State of North Carolina, I think it’s amazing and wonderful if such a coalition could be built across America.
Poverty is a huge driver of ill health. You look at climate change and the disproportionate effects of climate change on poor people in rural North Carolina and the effect of disasters and severe weather, obviously reproductive rights, and the access to control over people’s bodies. We have a number of criminal justice-involved patients in our clinic. We have homeless patients whose homelessness is criminalized. We have people who are hungry. We have people who are illiterate and have been denied all the things that a just and wealthy society such as ours should be able to guarantee for all people.
It changed my life to see people who are concerned with everyday people. What we can do to not lobby but to gather together and make a difference in our communities and to help people who can’t pay their utilities, who can’t afford housing, who can’t afford to fill up their gas tanks now. We are trying so hard to make a difference in our communities so that people can just live safely.
I have children in West Virginia, and if it weren’t for my husband and I, they would not have decent places to live. They wouldn’t be able to feed my grandson. They wouldn’t be able to afford education. Even some of the laws that are being made are stripping us of the rights that we do have. I am always constantly trying to make sure that people understand what’s going on and how we have to gather together to make a difference, to keep people informed, and to keep people voting.
I’m with the UE150 out of Charlotte, and I’m here to be in support of the poor people and low wages because that’s what we’re all about. Fighting for low wages, fighting for poor people, trying to make a difference, trying to get new members to come aboard at UE150 and take back some knowledge from what we heard from some leaders here and take it back to Charlotte, North Carolina and build our recruitment and make a difference in Charlotte as far as working with the poor people, wages, and the living wages.
We came here today in solidarity, but we’re also connecting with other unions. We’re connecting with other organizations so that we can build a broad base and we can all fight together. Senators and leaders realize that we’re tired of this. We’re tired of this, and we’re not going to stand for it anymore, and if they don’t start exercising the will of the people, we’re going to vote them out of office. Some of us are going to start running for office because we can’t continue to do the same thing. So we’re going to educate, we’re going to get out and vote, and we’re going to keep fighting and pushing until we can create more change.
One of the things that resonate so strongly with me with the Poor People’s Campaign is that we all have a broad obligation as American citizens and Christians to really care for the least of these amongst us and to make sure that we always balance our moral obligation as Christians to our obligation as citizens. So that’s really important to me that we advocate for.
One of the things that are on the poster and really resonates with me is when we raise up the lowest, we all rise. If you reach to the bottom and make sure that the bottom rises, all of us rise. I do feel as though when you help others, that gives you life when you’re helping others. This mission is so powerful to help others that it gives you energy and gives you life. The goal is to make sure everybody in America has a life— life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Poverty is the one thing that is forbidding a lot of people from pursuing their happiness. It’s preventing them from having full liberty, and it really is curtailing people’s lives. All of our missions are really, really connected to ending poverty because you cannot get what you want until we end poverty.
One of the things I hope is that this is a revival, that there is something in this that happens today that reenergizes us. As workers, you sometimes get tired of the fight, or you get caught up in the details. Everybody needs to be revived, which means that there has to be a spiritual connection, something that reignites the higher calling in what you’re doing, so you don’t get caught up in the busy work that you really are about helping and empowering people and their lives.
This is Frank doing interviews for theAnalysis.news in Washington, DC. Participants who are here for the Poor People’s Campaign, in a march for a moral revival. I’m here today with Reverend Ed Rowe from Detroit, from my hometown.
Reverend Ed Rowe
Well, I think you have to show up. I’m a United Methodist Pastor, and our whole history is people who made a difference because they showed up. I think it’s sort of like the church. If all you’re going to do is worship, all you’re going to do is come to rallies; it’s what you do in between the rallies that make the rallies make sense. So hopefully, we have thousands of people here who spend every day of their life responding to Dr. King’s statement that there comes a time when silence is betrayal. Not just silence, but inaction is betrayal.
Frankly, I’ve been doing this for 55 years, and I think we’re going in the other direction. I worry more about not the rallies because we can always get thousands of people on a good day to come to Washington, but it’s what we do between the worship services. I think that this is a worship service. It’s more of a worship service than most of the worship services. The info we’re here for is to realize we’re not alone, to gain strength and power, to go back and do the work between the worship services, and I say amen.
If what we’re here for is to simply find a food truck and find a place on the lawn, then I say stay home because your calling happens between the worship services. I think this is an amazing worship service, but only if it gives us the power to do something between the worship services. Let’s not just wait until the next rally because I’ve been to more rallies than I can count in my lifetime, and Donald Trump still happened. People are still in poverty, people still die from lack of health care, people still die from homophobia, people still die because of garbage dumped in their neighborhoods, and they still die because their grocery store is targeted because black people go there. People are killed. Innocent people are killed every day. He says 700. I think it’s more like thousands of people that die every day. White cops kill black people every day. Every day, more people are killed. Parents are afraid to send their kids to school, praying that they’ll come home. What kind of world is this? What kind of Party sits in these chairs funded by billionaires and votes what the billionaire wants them to vote and forget about their own conscience. Then they go to church or the synagogue or the mosque, and they listen to holy books that tell them to do something about the poor, and they do nothing.
Mitch McConnell, you’re a killer. The Republican Party, the Democrats who vote against the poor, you’re killing people. Blood is on your hands. So this is a worship service to say let’s gain the power to go and vote people out who are killers, killing people every day. That’s why I’m here. I’m here for the people who struggle every day and don’t get a chance to go anywhere near a microphone.
I would hope that people would be listening to this that couldn’t get here, that their hearts would be moved, and that they would— I have health care. I have a pension. I have a place to live. How do I justify taking advantage of all this white privilege while people are dying in the streets? The Dan Gilberts’, Mike Ilitchs’ of the world and people like him move corporate heads into our city and build buildings for the corporate giants of the world while people are dying in the streets right below their building. I don’t know. I don’t know the answer. I just can’t quit because Dr. King said silence is betrayal. I think Dr. King also said, if you don’t have anything worth dying for, you don’t have anything worth living for.