Poor People’s Campaign aims to ‘shift political narrative’ with June 18 march

The Poor People’s Campaign holds a Moral March on Washington in December 2021. Included in this photo are the Rev. Liz Theoharis and the Rev. William Barber II.
The Poor People’s Campaign holds a Moral March on Washington in December 2021. Included in this photo are the Rev. Liz Theoharis and the Rev. William Barber II. | Poor People’s Campaign/Steve Pavey

Progressive Christian leaders are planning what they hope will be the largest gathering ever of low-income Americans and their allies in Washington, D.C., this weekend to help advance anti-poverty and anti-racism efforts. 

Known as the “Mass Poor People’s & Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls,” the gathering is scheduled for Saturday and was first announced earlier this year by The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

The organization behind the rally takes its name from the Poor People’s Campaign launched by the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967. The organization is led by the Rev. William Barber II, an NAACP leader and pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

Barber has often voiced his support for left-leaning causes, such as abortion, and was a strong critic of former President Donald Trump. In 2017, he remarked that faith leaders praying over the then-president at the White House “borders on heresy.” Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Barber hosted openly gay Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg at his church and maintained that Jesus never spoke out against homosexuality. 

The Poor People’s Campaign seeks to “confront the interlocking evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism,” according to the organization’s website.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has voiced its support for eliminating the Senate filibuster to get President Joe Biden’s agenda passed. The filibuster requires most legislation to receive 60 votes to pass. The Senate currently consists of 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, meaning that most legislation requires the support of at least 10 Republicans before it can become law, an elusive goal in a highly polarized era. 

The Rev. Liz Theoharis, the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, previously cited abolishing the filibuster as necessary to “save the soul of our democracy” and thwart the effort to “filibuster the expansion and protection of voting rights, to filibuster living wages, and healthcare, and housing, and adequate guaranteed incomes, and debt cancellation, and water, and sanitation, and housing rights, and so much more.” 

The Rev. Alvin O’Neal Jackson, national executive director of the June march, told The Christian Post in an interview that the event is part of an overall effort to “shift the political narrative,” “build power” and “make real policies to fully address poverty and low wealth from the bottom up.”

“This March will be the largest gathering of poor people and their moral allies in the history of our country,” Jackson asserted to CP.

“It will be a generationally transformative and disruptive gathering of poor and low-wealth people, state leaders, faith communities, moral allies, union and partnering organizations.”

Jackson views the event, which he noted as being an “assembly-march,” as something that “will spring us toward the 2022 elections and beyond.”

Activists tied to the Poor People’s Campaign hold a Moral March on Washington in December 2021.
Activists tied to the Poor People’s Campaign hold a Moral March on Washington in December 2021. | Poor People’s Campaign/Steve Pavey

“Before the assembly-march and after the assembly-march we will be doing MORE: mobilizing, organizing, registering, educating, engaging and empowering people for a movement that votes,” he added.

The march hopes to influence candidates running in the upcoming midterm elections for Congress, in which all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 seats in the Senate will be contested.

Several mainline and Evangelical church leaders have announced their intentions to participate in the rally. 

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness in Washington, has spoken at past Poor People’s Campaign events.

In an interview with CP, Hawkins explained that he was “inviting Presbyterians from around the country to be present and to participate locally in chapters working in their states.”

“The Poor People’s Campaign is one of our coalition partners, and we have participated in many of their events, their prophetic council weekly calls, and shared announcements of their programs,” Hawkins said.

“The campaign’s policy statements align with those of the PC(USA) on many issues, including healthcare, voting rights, living wage, criminal justice reform, and others.”

Hawkins told CP that he sees the rally as “a mobilization of low-wealth people around the world on issues of common concern” and that it was “of vital importance that people are able to cross racial and political differences to address the issues that affect all.”

“It is an opportunity to create a community that is composed of those most impacted by restrictive policies and harmful legislation and organized to act,” he concluded.

The Rev. Nancy Petty, pastor at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, will also be taking part in the march, having been a longtime supporter of the Poor People’s Campaign. 

Petty told CP that she supported the march because her faith “requires me to speak out against injustices and to be an advocate for the marginalized and the oppressed,” noting that the June 18 march “addresses issues of injustice.”

“From the perspective of my faith, I feel a responsibility to be involved in these kinds of movements that advocate for the poor,” she said. “Are we going to be a nation that keeps widening the gap between the poor and the rich?”

“Or are we going to live up to the ideals of our founding forbears that we are a nation that is a nation of opportunity, that cares, that we care for one another, that we believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all?”

The Poor People’s Campaign event will take place the day before Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the day in 1865 when Union troops announced to black slaves in Galveston, Texas, that they were free.

Also known as Freedom Day or Jubilee Day, Democrat President Joe Biden signed a law last year making Juneteenth an official federal holiday, the first new federal observance since Republican President Ronald Reagan created Martin Luther King Day in 1983.

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More Articles