Poor People’s Campaign

Dr. William Barber is the impressive and impassioned clergyman who began the “Moral Monday” movement in North Carolina–a movement that has since spread to other states. I regretted missing his speech when he came to Indiana recently, and was interested to see this article about the lessons of Martin Luther King day in The Nation.

After quoting King’s admonition that we either go up together or go down together, Barber summed up America’s current situation:

King did not live to see another 24 hours of that pivotal year in American history, but 50 years later we face a similar collective crisis as we begin 2018. Extremists who’ve hijacked the Republican Party worked in concert with a charlatan to deconstruct the federal government, but a resistance made itself public in 2017, making clear that we are still the majority in this nation. Congress and many of our state legislatures refuse to represent the will of the majority. In the face of this basic subversion of democracy, we do well to remember that “either we go up together, or we go down together.” King’s assessment is more crucial than ever: Nothing would be more tragic than to turn back now.

Fifty years after Dr. King and many others launched a Poor People’s Campaign to demand a Marshall Plan for America’s poor, inequality in our nation has reached extremes we have not seen since the Gilded Age. As the Dow climbs and the wealthiest Americans get a massive tax break, 15 million more Americans are poor today than in 1968. In the same time period, the rate of extreme poverty has nearly doubled. Because of the systemic racism of voter suppression, which has been implemented in 23 of the nation’s poorest states since 2010, our political system is held captive by extremists who deny workers health care and a living wage, undermine the equal-protection clause of the constitution, attack public education, and encourage poor white people to blame people of color and immigrants for their problems. All the while, more and more of our collective resources are dedicated to a war without end.

Barber writes that a Presidency as flawed and unpopular as Trump’s will not last long, but he acknowledges the immense amount of harm being done in the meantime–especially in the nation’s courts, where lifetime appointments are being made at a pace far exceeding that of preceding administrations.

Barber details the numerous voter suppression tactics of a GOP that “cheats when it can’t win in a fair fight.” And he has nothing but scorn for the white Evangelicals who have traded integrity for power:

So-called “white evangelicals” and their Christian nationalism have become the apologists and enablers of political extremism. Their voices are so loud when joining the course of those who hate gay people, women, and brown and black-skinned immigrants, but so quiet on issues of poverty, systemic racism, ecological devastation, and the war economy. This is a form of modern heresy and theological malpractice, taught all over the country.

He also has a lot to say about the recent tax “reform” bill, the efforts to further erode America’s already inadequate social welfare network, and about the importance of building multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalitions. But his most important message is one that should resonate with all of us: this is no time to quit. It’s no time to stop resisting.

I have dedicated myself to a new Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival that is going deep into Southern communities and reclaiming the moral narrative that was bought by the religious right in the 20th century.

In 2018, we are determined to see the South rise again—not in the redemption that white supremacists have long awaited with Confederate flags, but in the future that George White, the last African-American representative to Congress during Reconstruction, foresaw when he said, “This may be the Negro’s farewell to Congress, but Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again.”…

And when we change the South, we will shift the power balance in this nation.

In Alabama, African-American turnout defeated Roy Moore. If anyone can move the South, it’s William Barber, with his eloquence, his passion, his organizing genius –and his repeated insistence that we should never give up.


  1. MaryJo,

    Excellent suggestions. That’s the kind of positive vectoring we need more of. The successful and healthy countries around the world all invest in their people with free health care and education. They have high taxes, sure, but their infrastructure is being a main driver for employment.

    The United States lords of the money realm think that everything should be a profit center while the Chicago “School” economics thinks and wants everything to be private. Then, they’ll ask why we are so divided. The CCC, as well as the WPA (My father dug his share of ditches.) actually hired journeymen trades people to train the unskilled folks to perform construction tasks. Oh, and there was a relatively high illiteracy rate back then, so the young men and women were required to attend classes to learn the three R’s, too. Not a bad investment. Remember that the next time you walk a path in a National Park or Monument.

    So, to those who think that my commentary is not suitable for their tenderness, try reading up on this stuff and sending your ideas to your Reps. and Senators. Offer your ideas to candidate forums or people who are actually running for office. Try being pro-active; we’ve all proven how good you are at whining. There is a treasure trove of valuable knowledge and experience on this blog, and I’m enjoying those parts immensely.

    So, if you don’t like what I write, don’t read it.

  2. I suspect that the talk at the RNC is all about how to divide Democrats. They certainly have no accomplishments to talk about and it seems Democrats are easy to divide.

  3. Thanks a lot Marv!!! I have heard of him but have never heard these broadcasts and will check them out. You’re right of course – none of this is new at all just horrifying that it is happening here, really horrifying. My Dad lent me a copy of William L. Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” when I was a kid and read it cover to cover so I was introduced to the hell that was Nazi Germany at an early age. I still have it, a very prized possession.

    I’ve read a lot about and by Martin Niemoller and especially Dietrich Bonhoeffer as well, some of the bravest people that I have ever heard of along with the students that were members of The White Rose Movement. They knew that it was their duty to speak out against what was horribly wrong no matter what the cost and that’s what we need today, right now. It’s called courage and the uncompromising pursuit of the truth no matter where it leads. Reverend William Barber is smack dab on that same mission.

    Thanks again!

  4. Tom,

    “I’ve read a lot about and by Martin Niemoller and especially Dietrich Bonhoeffer as well, some of the bravest people that I have ever heard of along with the students that were members of The White Rose Movement.”

    Back in 2005, I flew to New York especially to see a movie on one of the participants in the White Rose. In 2010, I spent another 10 days living on the campus of Union Theological Seminary in New York reading everything that was available on Deitrich Bonhoeffer who was a student there. Niemoller, Bonhoeffer, and the participant in the White Rose, especially the PROFESSOR who led them, have to be our role models in order to stand-up to the MASKED FASCISM.

    Because of the MASSIVE DECEPTION for so many years from the Religious Right/Far Right we haven’t understood what is necessary to take an effective stand. I’ll bet the Reverend William Barber has been affected by Union. My longtime companion who died in 2009 received her Masters in Religious Education from there and is one of Union’s most accomplished graduates. Also, Cornell West has taught there for many years, and Bill Moyers is a longtime trustee.

    One of the reasons I tweet on a regular basis in Sweden is because they understand the importance of the German resistance. In June of 2008, anticipating a backlash against Barack Obama, I advertised a TEACH-IN within The Nation Magazine to include the GERMAN RESISTANCE to be held at the Jacksonville Public Library. I had educators around the U. S. who were interested in attending, but when I candidly told them that we would be discussing the DEEP SYSTEMIC problems everyone started to pull out and I had to cancel the seminar.

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