In a time of growing global crisis, the Poor People’s Campaign came to Washington, DC.
It was a powerful gathering reflecting hard work building the movement of movements many of us have been dreaming of for decades. More words below, but first some photos!
Let's start with cute kids making key points. This shirt reads, "It Doesn't Have To Be This Way"
This sign from the West Virginia ACLU reads, "Stop Criminalizing Poverty"
The Poor People's Campaign Proudly Declares that We Won't Be Silent!
For those not already familiar with this exciting campaign please scroll down below the final photo.
(Look closely and notice the two flags displayed here)
The most commonly heard chant on this special day was, "Forward Together. Not One Step Back!"
Everybody Rises - Lift From the Bottom!
More and more people are coming to see that deep system change is needed.
"Poverty is the Disease: A New System is the Cure!"
The Youth-Led Climate Movement was well represented. "Fight for a Green New Deal"
"Fund People Not War - Nuclear Weapons are Illegal"
I moved from Maine to DC in 1997 to work for the wonderful Veterans for Peace. Was great to see them out in force at the Poor People's Campaign. Note the US Capitol in the background. VFP is an organization that seeks to abolish the war system using the power and influence of those who have seen the horror of war and understand how militarism is connected to other pressing issues.
"U.S. Militarism Fuels Climate Crisis"
Veterans for Peace says, "Fight Poverty Not Wars!"
Before the event began there was a special Sabbath service led, in part, by Reb. Arthur Waskow, of the Shalom Center. He was kind to me when I was little kid in Philly interested in all things peace. As the Sabbath ritual wrapped up, I saw the amazing Jodie Evans of Code Pink and went up to say a quick hello. Code Pink shared an office with the Institute for Policy Studies when I worked there and I hadn't seen her in years. She is a skilled organizer who gets stuff done and she immediately recruited me to march with a Code Pink sign. I picked out a nice one that linked militarism with poverty and was about to head off when Jodie said, "no, you are an educator. How about this one?" She gave me the sign above on the poverty draft and student debt. Unlike the other sign I picked this one had a QR code people could scan and upload their photos to be seen along with all the others uploaded. Jodie gave me a large roll of stickers and flyers and thus made my day even more fun. It was a thrill to see how many people were interested in taking pictures with this sign. I used the sign to engage with dozens of people and each person I spoke with was introduced to the important work of the impressive women-led peace group Code Pink. Thanks Jodie, Medea, Ariel, and all the Code Pink team. Your work inspires us all.
Code Pink was a notable presence throughout the march. What's this photo of? Not a war tank. We were in DC, but it is not a think tank, but Code Pink's Peace Tank with clear concise messages "Demilitarize Everything! Food not F-35s. Books not Bombs. Homes not Drones. Everybody's Got a Right to Live."
Code Pink's beautiful Peace Tank from the other side. Sign reads, "War is Ecocide"
I started with a kid’s shirt. The final photo I'll share sums it all up. This leader's shirt reads simply, "There Comes a Time When Silence is Betrayal"
Yes, dear friends, I think we all know in our hearts that time is now. For far too long we have allowed ourselves to become numb to the totally avoidable daily suffering of precious people living in poverty in the shadow of plenty. That this suffering continues is a result of policy decisions we have made. We will not be silent any longer. At long last, when the interrelated crises are hurting so deeply, the movement of movements we need is underway.
There are two important truths that are now finally being acknowledged. No one movement - no matter how powerful - can solve the problems facing us today. None of the movements for peace, planet, or justice have any chance to achieve our goals in isolation. But, together we might just bring some light into the world and match the moral clarity with the soul force and political clout sufficient to respond to the urgent challenges of our time. The need to come together is a gift since we realize our movements are connected in fundamental ways. In decades past, we had to debate this fact even with our friends and allies, but now many more people understand that our issues are inextricably linked and can only be solved together.
At its radical loving best active nonviolence can play a unifying role bringing activists across movements together. Nonviolence should never allow ourselves to be misunderstood to suggest an attempt to police how oppressed people protest, but instead as the Force More Powerful we are just beginning to experiment with. We know Nonviolent Tactics are the tools of liberation (check out our recent webinar on this very topic).
Nonviolence International celebrates the bold leadership of Rev. William Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign. We are inspired by their moral witness and join with them in solidarity asking all our friends and supporters to do whatever you can to help raise up their vital work.
There are 140 million poor and low-wealth people in the richest country in the world. Somehow we have allowed enormous and totally unnecessary suffering to continue year after year, decade after decade. It is as if we have forgotten our moral obligation to reduce the violence inherent in the way our society is structured. We at NVI ask - how have Americans become accepting of violence in their economy? How do our actions at home and abroad impact others living in poverty?
Those who recently lectured on how Dr. King would have felt about property destruction seemed to have missed his larger point. We must recognize the humanity of all people. That recognition requires long-delayed and bold action. The time for small ideas is over. This movement, rooted in the leadership of poor people, deserves the active support of all who consider themselves to be committed to nonviolence.
Focusing our attention on those who are most in need has long been a central guiding principle of active nonviolence. For those interested in history, please see how Dr. King’s final campaign echoes in the work we are engaged in today.
See our earlier post on this topic that explores Gandhi and King’s moral commitment:
Here is the full livestream of the event. So much to love here. Great music, visionary leaders, hearing directly from those most impacted, and a spirit of revolutionary love and solidarity. Rev. Barber's energy as emcee in call and response created a powerful united flow to the program. His speech is among the best I've ever heard. Find it at: 2:01. Phyllis Bennis, the great scholar of Middle East peace (whose office was next to mine when I was at the Institute for Policy Studies) speaks at 3:49. She reminds us that budgets are moral documents and shares hard truths about how the US Federal Budget is distorted to value war above all else. As usual, Rev. Cornell West knocks it out of the park noting the importance of international solidarity. Check to out at: 4:20 or just watch the whole video and be inspired by the emerging movement of movements. As they say, this is, "A Moral Revolution of Values" and it has come to us in these crucial years. May we embrace this movement, help it grow, and claim our future.