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We must have a new Poor People’s Campaign and moral revival

Bishop William J. Barber, II (President, Repairers of the Breach) | 9/16/2017, 11:51 a.m.
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Bishop William J. Barber II says that we need a Movement rooted in the moral forces that have demonstrated a capacity to change America. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

Our campaign aims 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.

For years, we have seen a kind of attention violence towards issues of systemic racism, poverty, and militarism. There was a time when our nation was fighting a war against poverty; now, it seems, we are waging a war on the poor. Our social fabric is stretched thin by widening income inequality, while politicians criminalize the poor, fan the flames of racism and xenophobia to divide the poor, and steal from the poor to give tax breaks to our richest neighbors and budget increases to a bloated military.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will strategically connect and grow different struggles and lift up and deepen the leadership of those most affected to transform the political, economic and moral structures of our society. The Campaign will push forward concrete demands, build unity across lines of division, and draw on art, music, and religious traditions to challenge the dominant narrative that blames poor people for poverty.

This will necessarily be a multi-year undertaking. This fall and winter we are touring the country to publicly launch the campaign with partners who have been working across race and class lines in their own communities. Next spring, we plan to begin engaging in highly publicized civil disobedience and direct action over a six-week period in at least 25 states and the District of Columbia. Our goal is to force a serious, national examination of the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, militarism and environmental devastation during a key election year, while strengthening and connecting informed and committed grassroots leadership in every state. We are building power to continue this fight long after June 2018.

A precise diagnosis is key, but naming the problem is never enough. We need a Movement rooted in the moral forces that have demonstrated a capacity to change America. At such a time as this, we need a Poor People’s Campaign and Moral Revival to help us become the nation we’ve not yet been.

Bishop William J. Barber, II, is President of Repairers of the Breach, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, and author of The Third Reconstruction. Follow Bishop Barber on Twitter @RevDrBarber. Follow Repairers of the Breach on Twitter @BRepairers.