Poor People's Campaign Unity Press Conference

On Monday, February 5th, in conjunction with 31 other states, the New York State Poor People's Campaign held a Unity Press Conference, announcing our participation in the upcoming 40 Days of Action. We delivered letters to Senate Majority Leader Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

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Local Press Coverage:

Times Union
WAMC

National Press Coverage highlights via the Kairos Center.

You can watch the video of our press conference here and read the press release and letter below. Some highlights:

I know this is no fault of my own, and that I am fighting a war against systemic oppression.  Our neighborhoods are being transformed without us.  The people of color and the working poor are being pushed out and priced out of their neighborhoods at record levels.  Gentrification has become our new reality. We can no longer afford to live in the neighborhoods we were born in, grew up in, and even work in. - GG, VOCAL-NY

 

For much of my life, I didn’t understand how systemic poverty and injustice are here in the US.  I didn’t understand how the policies, procedures, and practice across our country keep us poor, how they keep us separate, and how they keep us silent.  Over the years, though, I’ve learned better.  I’ve learned it through my own life and through the life stories of people I know, and of the people I love.  We’ve all experienced the trauma of poverty while living in the land of abundance. I’m learning to understand myself more accurately and am correcting my own narrative as I see the interconnected injustices that keep us poor. I now understand that there should be no shame in being poor, because it is poverty itself that we should consider shameful. - Suzanne Krull, Cuba Cultural Center

The military industrial complex is literally corporate greed - weaponized. The United States government is the largest weapons dealer in the world and the largest user of those weapons. From the militarized equipment in which our police forces and federal agencies are clad, to the large percentage of current and former soldiers conditioned for war and then hired to occupy our streets to keep peace. Is it any wonder our neighborhoods are treated like combat zones and our neighbors like combatants? From the toxic masculinity that objectifies our bodies as nothing more than weapons or toys- to the nationalism that tears us away from the true patriotism that is demanding that America live up to the dream it has always been. - Brittany Ramos DeBarros, About Face

After weeks of doing these tasks I learned that the state could have sent in water tankers, set up water deliveries or made the corporations do so. None of these efforts were made. It all fell on volunteers. I feel that had we lived in a different area needs would have been met and a better effort would have been made to inform the public of issues and any available help. Many times I asked our then mayor to mail flyers out and was always told it would be too costly. Volunteers and I made copies of info whenever we could or shared info through our cell phones to community members. I think our community was failed on many levels and that so much more could have been done. I can't help but wonder how differently things would have been if we weren't a small, low income area in the middle of nowhere. New York State has a responsibility to protect all New Yorkers regardless of their income status, and we know that stories just like ours are happening in poor communities around the state and the country. We’ll only be able to end these injustices if we join our voices together. - Michelle O'Leary, Hoosick Falls

Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

For Immediate Release: February 5, 2018

New Yorkers Join The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

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Poor, Clergy, Activists go to the Capitol, Serving Notice of Massive Wave of Nonviolent Civil Disobedience, Direct Action This Spring

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News Conferences and Letter Deliveries Held in Over 30 State Capitols, U.S. Capitol To Stand Against Systemic Racism, Poverty, the War Economy, Ecological Devastation

[ALBANY, NEW YORK] – Demanding elected leaders at all levels of government adopt an agenda that lifts up the poor, poor and disenfranchised people, clergy and moral leaders from across New York announced Monday they are joining the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

Poor people, clergy and activists went to the state capitol to serve notice on legislative leaders that their failure to address the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and America’s distorted national morality will be met this spring with six weeks of direct action - including one of the largest waves of nonviolent civil disobedience in U.S. history.

 “We have come to say clearly that a politics that ignores the poor has gone on far too long,” said Rev. Claudia de la Cruz, co-chair of the New York State Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. “And we will not be silent anymore.”                                                                                        

The New York delegation of impacted people and moral leaders delivered a letter to politicians highlighting dozens of racist voter suppression laws passed nationwide in recent years and a stark jump in the percentage of people living in poverty. They vowed to risk arrest beginning Mother’s Day if politicians fail to adopt a moral and just agenda.  

We demand a change in course,” the letter reads. “Our faith traditions and state and federal constitutions all testify to the immorality of an economy that leaves out the poor, yet our political discourse consistently ignores the 140 million poor and low-income people in America.”

The news conference in New York was one of more than 30 to happen at state capitols and the U.S. Capitol Monday, marking the first nationwide action by the campaign since it launched last year on Dec. 4, 50 years to the day after Dr. Martin Luther King and others called for the original Poor People’s Campaign.  Monday’s nationwide day of action will conclude with an evening mass meeting led by campaign co-chairs the Revs. Dr. Liz Theoharis and Dr. William Barber II at All Souls Church in Washington, D.C.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is co-organized by Repairers of the Breach, a social justice organization founded by the Rev. Dr. William Barber II; the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary; and scores of state and local groups.  

“The need for a new moral movement is more urgent than ever,” said the Rev. Liz Theoharis, the campaign’s co-chair. “The linked evils of voter suppression laws, mass incarceration, bloated military spending, and a lack of access to clean air and water require everyone who believes in justice to come together. Our movement is breaking down barriers by uniting poor and marginalized people, moral leaders and people of all backgrounds to fight for a common moral agenda.”

The campaign is uniting the poor, disenfranchised, and marginalized across the country in an effort to transform the political, economic, and moral structures of society and to save America’s soul. It will intensify starting Mother’s Day, leading up to a mass mobilization at the U.S. Capitol on June 23, and combine direct action with grassroots organizing, voter registration, power building and nonviolent civil disobedience.

“There was a time when our nation was fighting a war against poverty, but now we are waging a war on the poor,” said the Rev. Dr. Barber. “Policies that sustain systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation and extreme militarism violate our deep religious and constitutional values. Fifty years ago, Americans across all races, religions, classes and other divides united to launch a revolution of values. As the moral agents of our time, we must do the same.”

Since 1968, the number of Americans below the official poverty line has increased by 60 percent to 40.6 million, a preliminary audit released by the Institute for Policy Studies shows. In that same period, the top 1 percent’s share of national income has nearly doubled. A full version of the audit will be released this spring.

Beginning Feb. 12, the Revs. Dr. Barber and Dr. Theoharis will travel the country, putting a face not only on the deep poverty afflicting our nation, but the inspiring organizing that seeks to combat it. From the Mississippi Delta to the heart of Appalachia and from the Rust Belt to the Pacific Northwest, the campaign co-chairs will meet with poor and disenfranchised people and invite them to join the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

Despite real political wins in 1968 and beyond, the original Poor People’s Campaign was tragically cut short, both by Dr. King’s assassination and by the subversion of the coalition that sustained it. Still, the original vision and many of its followers did not go away. The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is the product of a decade of organizing by grassroots groups, religious leaders and others to end systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation.

The campaign names so-called Christian nationalism as a threat to a shared moral agenda and focuses on the Southern and Midwestern states that have been exploited by the alliance of the Southern Strategy and the Religious Right. Its architects aim to build a broad and deep national moral movement – rooted in the leadership of poor people and reflecting the great moral teachings – to unite our country from the bottom up. A list of movement principles is here.

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SPEAKERS

Rev. Emily McNeill, Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS, co-chair, New York Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

Rev. Claudia de la Cruz, Popular Education Project, co-chair, New York Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

Rev. Amaury Tañón-Santos, Synod of the Northeast, Presbyterian Church USA

Imam Suleimane Konaté, Masjid Aqsa Mosque

Mark Emanatian, Capital District Area Labor Federation

GG Morgan, VOCAL-NY

Suzanne Krull, Cuba Cultural Center, Cuba, NY

Brittany DeBarros, About Face: Veterans Against the War

Michelle O’Leary, Hoosick Falls resident


February 5, 2018

Dear Senator Flanagan and Speaker Heastie,

All over the country, in state capitols like Albany and Washington, D.C., policies that promote systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation are threatening our democracy and decaying our national morality. 

Too often, distorted religious articulations confine morality to only personal issues and not public policies.  Racist voter suppression laws undermine access to the ballot box and the power of the vote while DACA recipients are treated as political pawns. Poor people of all races are being ignored in our political conversation and dismissed in our political decisions. Programs to sustain the poor are being cut and health care access and living wages are denied at the state and federal level.

Meanwhile, the United States House and Senate passed a tax bill that is an obscene transfer of wealth to the richest among us and the president quickly signed it into law. And further cuts that benefit the wealthiest are being passed in statehouses across the country.

Here are just a few facts:

  • We’ve seen a 60% increase in people living in poverty over the last 50 years, while the share of income lining the pockets of the top one percent has nearly doubled. New York has the highest income inequality in the nation and over 3 million living below the federal poverty line.

  • Twenty-three states have passed racist voter suppression laws since 2010. New York’s restrictive voting laws contribute to low voter turnout, which puts us 41st in the nation.

  • Federal spending on prisons has increased tenfold to $7.5 billion a year since 1976 and more than eightfold to $17 billion on immigration enforcement and deportations.

  • Fifty-three cents out of every discretionary dollar from our taxes goes directly to the military while the single biggest threat to global security is climate change.

We demand a change in course. Our faith traditions and state and federal constitutions all testify to the immorality of an economy that leaves out the poor, yet our political discourse consistently ignores the 140 million poor and low-income people in America.

We are here today to demand that, in committees and on the floors of this State’s legislative bodies, you uphold the oath that you have taken to represent us on a moral agenda that lifts up the common good and the general welfare. And we are prepared to take direct action and engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to insist that Republicans, Democrats and Independents develop serious proposals to address such an agenda.

We are the poor and disenfranchised, clergy and moral leaders from across New York. We are the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. We have come to say clearly that a politics that ignores the poor has gone on far too long. And we will not be silent anymore.

Sincerely,

The New York Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival Coordinating Committee