Poor People’s Campaign marches into Jackson

Marchers gather at Mt. Helm MB Church in Jackson, Miss. 9/26/22. PhotoS BY Chris Young

By Christopher Young,

Contributing Writer,

Poor People’s Campaign rally site with Governor’s Mansion in the background Photos BY Chris Young

A Moral Monday March was conducted by the Mississippi Poor People’s Campaign joining forces with Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival on Monday, September 26, in downtown Jackson, with co-chairman Reverend William Joseph Barber II in attendance.

The focus of the march was Clean Water is a Human Right. 

Starting at Mt. Helm Missionary Baptist Church, marchers proceeded to the intersection of Capitol and Congress Streets, in front of the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion for a rally that lasted over two hours, a part of which was featured on MSNBC’s Reid Out with Joy Reid.

Between one and two hundred people gathered at Mt. Helm and were joined by others along the route to the rally and by still more at the rally site – about 500 people in all.

Rukia Lumumba of the People’s Advocacy Institute and Electoral Justice Project led the crowd in chants of Free The Land – Clean The Water – Keep It Public. Numerous leaders of community organizations were in attendance and numerous clergy including Reverend C.J. Rhodes and Bishop Dr. DeWayne Pickett. 

Reverend William Barber arriving at rally

Barber indicated that this may be his first rally centered on the voices of those impacted by Jackson’s water crisis. Speaker after speaker came to the podium to share their personal stories, some with tears, and others with blistering outrage that decade after decade the State of Mississippi has failed Jacksonians. The entire evening was rife with prayer, song, preaching and call and response.

Barber reported that this is just the first Moral Monday Rally in Jackson. “This is the inauguration, and there will be many more in the coming weeks and months ahead. Moral Mondays are never about one day of action…they will continue until change happens. Moral Monday is about telling the truth. It’s immoral that there is poison in the water. It’s immoral that you have to be washing your babies in poison. It’s a sin and a violation of equal protection under the law and a violation of human rights to have a system and a fight over controlling water that has been going on since 1972.”

Barber spared no intensity when speaking of Governor Reeves either. “You have a governor who demeans Jackson when he goes into another city and says he would rather be there than in Jackson. He lies on Jackson, and lies about Jackson, rather than joining hands with Jackson to clean the water. He says Jackson doesn’t have a plan, but Jackson does have a plan, you just don’t have the damn consciousness to make the plan happen.”

Barber said, “For this state’s former governor and some others to seemingly be caught up with Brett Favre – a scandal to rob money from poor and low income people and use it for their own pet projects while you and your children and the sick and the disabled of every race and creed and color, are the ones being hit the hardest by this crisis – it’s immoral, its sinful, it’s a violation of equal protection under the law and a violation of human rights in the 21st century.”

Marchers arriving at rally point.

Barber offered many statistics: “351,000 Mississippians are uninsured, 52% of Mississippians are poor, 500+ thousand are working for less than a living wage – and you spend time robbing from the poor – that’s immoral, that’s sinful.”

He took aim at pastors, and acknowledged that he is a pastor himself. “If you care about your pastor’s anniversary but don’t care about this water getting clean and helping these people out here, then something is wrong. Something is wrong with your theology.”

James Sims, the great great great grandson of confederate colonel and U.S. Senator from Mississippi, James Z. George, who was the primary architect of the Jim Crow laws – labeled the water crisis in Jackson as economic and institutional racism. He cried out, “Tate Reeves clean drinking water is not optional. Clean drinking water is mandatory. If this crisis was happening in Oxford, Ocean Springs or Madison, Mississippi, how long would it take to find a solution?”

As the evening was coming to a close, Barber asked Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba to come to the front of the stage. He placed his stole over the mayor’s shoulder – the stole says Jesus Was A Poor Man – before leading the crowd in a methodical version of the song ‘We Shall Overcome.’ Barber amped it up a bit by encouraging the DJ to play the O’Jays song ‘Give The People What They Want.’

The Poor People’s Campaign (www.poorpeoplescampaign.org) has a moral agenda based on fundamental rights, and in addition to its twelve principles, has two parts: Declaration of Fundamental Rights and Poor People’s Moral Agenda (which includes addressing systemic racism, poverty and inequality, ecological devastation, war economy and militarism, and national morality) and the history behind and moral justification for this Moral Agenda.

For those that want to get involved with Mississippi Poor People’s Campaign, email mississippi@poorpeoplescampaign.org.

Marchers arriving at rally point from Mt. Helm.
Impacted resident and Rev. Barber while Live with MSNBC Reid Out.
Charles Sims, great great great grandson of James Z. George (aka Jim Crow architect)
Cassandra Welchin, Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable
Cheikh Taylor, Jackson resident
Marchers arriving to rally site from Mt. Helm Church.
Jackson Mayor Lumumba with stole on his shoulder presented by Rev. Barber


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