POOR PEOPLE’S ECONOMIC HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN
Contact: Cheri Honkala, 267 439-8419
Marching to Fulfill the Dream: Campaign Will Mobilize Thousands to Claim Economic Rights
“Martin Luther King dreamed not only of racial justice, but of organizing across racial lines to secure economic justice for all. In 1998 the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) picked up the mantle of MLK and vowed to work until the dream was fulfilled. If you think we’re there, you can ignore this. But if you’re hurting, or your mother or your brother or your neighbor or friend is hurting, put on your walking shoes,” said Cheri Honkala, National Organizer of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC).
At its national conference in July, nearly 400 representatives of PPEHRC member organizations voted to organize the next phase of the campaign—a march from the Katrina-torn Gulf through the Mississippi Delta and on through the Rust Belt.
The march will culminate in Detroit at the 2010 US Social Forum, which expects upwards of 20,000 participants from around the country and the globe. As was the case in the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, other marchers will follow Freedom Roads from other parts of the country to join the main branch, which will visibly unite south and north in their common cause.
In 2003, PPEHRC recreated the 1968 Poor People’s March, caravanning from Marks, Mississippi to Washington, DC. Commemorating the 35th anniversary of the campaign planned by King before his assassination, organizers of that march pointed to the shameful lack of achievement of the original economic justice goals of jobs, housing, and health care. Since then things have gotten worse—much worse.
“In 1968 the white middle class liberals who had supported civil rights largely abandoned the struggle for economic rights,” said a PPEHRC organizer, “but today whites and people of all colors increasingly understand out of their own experience that poverty is not the result of moral failure and laziness. They have worked hard, educated themselves and their children, served their communities and their country, and yet they are losing their homes and their health care. Robots are doing their jobs, and if they can find a job they work harder and longer for less.”
Another PPEHRC leader elaborated on today’s growing understanding of poverty. “People who have followed all the rules of ‘middle class America’ are having to choose among their basic human rights: Shelter or medicine? Food or clothing? Education or basic necessities? Water or pre-natal care? That’s the nature of poverty. It’s structural. Millions who thought of themselves as middle class are awakening to that fact—that securing economic human rights for all is not a safety net for the fallen, but a foundation on which the people of this country can rebuild this country. We are calling them to this march and to the US Social Forum to create a people’s solution to the economic crisis.”
The plan to undertake the march was announced by Marian Kramer, Co-Chair of the National Welfare Rights Union, at the July PPEHRC event, “Building the Unsettling Force: A National Conference to End Poverty,” held in Louisville, KY. It was endorsed enthusiastically by the participants, most of whom represented over 60 of the 131 member organizations of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC). The theme of the conference was based on Martin Luther King’s call to organize the “dispossessed of the nation” into an unsettling force to demand economic human rights. The conference was co-sponsored by the Social Welfare Action Alliance, and hosted by Women in Transition, both PPEHRC member organizations.