Martin Luther King Jr.’s last project was the Poor People’s Campaign, an attempt to bring economic concerns to the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. His death would strike a blow to the movement, but the Huffington Post reports that two ministers are thinking about reviving it.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, led by Rev. William Barber II and Rev. Liz Theoharis, is working to reignite Martin Luther King’s vision. The statistics show an obvious need, with poverty having increased 60% since 1968. The Huffington Post sat down with the two reverends to talk about their plan.
Theoharis starts by explaining how in some ways, things have slid backward even among all the progress we see. “Our campaign commissioned the Souls of Poor Folk audit ― which was put together by the Institute for Policy Studies, the Urban Institute and a team of economists, policymakers and impacted people — and a preliminary report came out on Dec. 4. And we do indeed see that there are 60 percent more people living below the poverty line today than 50 years ago. There are fewer voting rights than 50 years ago. Ecological devastation has really sped up with poisoned water, fracking and mountaintop removal. The extreme effects of climate change are impacting so many poor and marginalized communities across the globe. We have 60 cents of each discretionary dollar going to the war economy.” He also mentions how political discussion still isn’t addressing these issues.
“Dr. King connected three issues: racism, poverty and militarism. He saw those issues as interrelated, bound together, that you couldn’t address one without the other. He was very clear that in order to address these interlocking injustices, you had to have an intersectional response. He said that the only hope for the nation moving forward was for all working-class and poor people to come together and form a powerful movement for moral justice — not just resistance — and that would hold these issues together and not separate them into silos. He was very cognizant of the danger that America was in,” explains Barber, who adds that King’s dream is still not fully realized.
Ralph Abernathy, a contemporary of King, said that the efforts after King’s death were not enough. Theodaris acknowledges that what is enough is a fluid idea, but he wants to work to figure it out. “That’s the reason we’re launching this campaign with a two-month national tour, to learn what it would look like for the campaign to be successful. We want to see if state-based movements can be pulled into something bigger. We want strong, on-the-ground campaigns with deep community roots, with impacted people leading the way and involving clergy, other moral leaders, activists, advocates — everybody.”