By Cianna Hope Reeves,
JSU Student Intern,
In an effort to eradicate unjust actions against Americans living in poverty, the national Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) has revived itself across the country to rally for equal human rights for the disadvantaged, not in mules and trains like their successor did in 1967 but in a more modern and intense way – marching in hot degree weather and protesting in front of state capitol buildings.
In response to the cry for change, a mass meeting was held Monday, June 25, by the Mississippi Chapter at Mt. Helm Baptist Church to encourage youth, public leaders, church organizations and citizens to embark on the journey to assist the deprived.
The Poor People’s Campaign, introduced by Martin Luther King Jr., was planned to become a cross-racial coalition of impoverished Americans to demand better living conditions and social reform in order to reduce the suffering and struggles that many had to face in the 1960s.
After King spent time in Marks, Miss. which was then in the poorest state of the country, the idea of the organization dawned on him as he witnessed a teacher feed her students crackers and apples for lunch because that was all she had to give; he realized then how critical the fight was for disadvantage families across the nation.
Unfortunately, the civil rights activist was assassinated before the organization’s arrival in the eyes of the American people.
Fifty years later, due to the nation’s cycle of a distorted moral agenda and the continuation of systematic racism, poverty and ecological devastation that has prevented impoverished families from being lifted out of their uncontrollable circumstance, a plea for help has been called.
Justin McCreary, minister of Unitarian Universalist Church and PPC activist, acknowledged the reason why the plea for moral revival is necessary.
“We are separating families on the border and that doesn’t fit into our moral agenda. We are legalizing discrimination on whom you are allowed to sell to or not but that isn’t moral. We talk about gutting welfare and we talk about hurting those who we forced into the margin, but that isn’t moral. This call for a moral revival is to save the heart and soul of the democracy,” said McCreary.
After reciting the principles that the organization is built on, he referenced the coalition as “family” because of the personal impact the union has had on him while participating in rallies across the country.
“I feel like I am part of a family forged in the heat of the capital steps, forged in the asphalt while we took action in the roads, forged in the gates of the Governors’ mansion making an important appeal. I feel as if we are a family because when we block the road the most important hands in my life became the hand of the human being right next to me, and the hand that kept me from having to stand alone,” expressed McCreary.
The organization has not only influenced adults in a positive way but also teenagers. Celeste Gilbert, an impacted teen, delivered her testimony regarding PPC’s guidance and how it has led to her own personal evolution.
“Before I found out about the Poor People’s Campaign, I was just observing the things around us and what was happening to us. I was seeing my mother work three jobs just to get her rent paid and food for us, homeless people in the street, and hearing about guns being the cause of recent deaths in Jackson. When I joined the organization I not only observed what was going on, but I was also learning more about the issues people were facing,” said Gilbert.
In her closing, she encouraged more teenagers to join the movement.
“The campaign has really opened my eyes and taught me how to stand up for what I believe in. It gives you the chance to let your voice be heard, and that is why more teenagers should join because we are the future and we cannot be a future filled with hate, pollution and greed.
From a clergy prospective Bishop Thomas Jenkins joined others on stage to profess the importance of church involvement and encouraged pastors to get involved in the moment.
“As clergymen it’s time for us to rise up; we cannot be fearful of what people think about us. It is time for us to understand that 50 years later poverty here is a real issue in a free country like America and we cannot be silent.”
He added, “God is calling us to move out in 2018, and we cannot allow our legacy to say we didn’t do anything.”
National organizer, Danyelle Holmes, ended the assembly encouraging citizens of all demographics and status to unite.
“When you lift from the bottom, everybody rises, and that’s what we have to do – we have to get to the point of helping others,”said Holmes.