06-20-2024  3:46 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather

Bishop William J. Barber II, National Co- Chair, Poor Peoples Campaign. (Photo: DreamInColorPhoto / NNPA.)
Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Published: 07 May 2024

Bishop William J. Barber II, president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, alongside Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, led a press conference on Monday at the National Press Club to unveil plans for the “Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington, D.C.: A Call to the Polls and to Vote.”

Scheduled for June 29th, the assembly aims to commence four months of outreach efforts targeting 15 million poor and low-wage infrequent voters nationwide. According to the study “Waking the Sleeping Giant: Poor and Low-Income Voters in the 2020 Elections,” approximately 85 million eligible voters in the United States are classified as poor or low wage, constituting at least 30% of the electorate. In battleground states, the percentage climbs to over 40%.

“This is movement time,” declared Bishop Barber. “We are here this morning to mobilize the power of over 33 million infrequent voters, poor and low wage, to demand attention to their concerns in the political arena.”

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis echoed this sentiment. “Our goal is to center the desires and political agenda of those who are often left out of the conversation,” Theoharis stated.

The coalition, comprising representatives from over thirty state coordinating committees, religious organizations, labor unions, and advocacy groups, seeks to mobilize the substantial voting bloc to demand political candidates’ endorsement of a moral agenda addressing the poverty and low-wealth crisis, which claims 295,000 lives annually.

“Poor and low-wage voters are saying in this season that if you want these votes, talk to poor and low-wage folks,” said Bishop Barber.

Rev. Mark Thompson, who also works for the National Newspaper Publishers Association, was among the many coalition members who addressed the issues during the news conference, which aired live on C-Span and at BlackPressUSA.com.

Thompson highlighted the interconnectedness of poverty with various social issues. “Wherever there is a lack of health care and voting rights, LGBT rights and immigrant rights, there is an abundance of poverty,” he asserted. “Wherever there is a lack of jobs and labor unions and sensible gun laws in women’s bodily autonomy, there is an abundance of poverty.”

He continued:

“Wherever there is a lack of racial justice and legal rights, criminal justice reform, access to adequate legal representation, an alternative to incarceration and police reform, wherever those things are in lack, there is an abundance of poverty. Wherever there is a lack of what is now under attack, diversity, equity, and inclusion, affirmative action, investment in education, a lack of educational opportunities, there is an abundance of poverty. Wherever there is lack of religious tolerance, racial harmony, and beloved community, there is an abundance of poverty.”

The event’s organizers emphasized their commitment to empowering impoverished and low-wage individuals, aiming to amplify their voices in the political discourse. Rev. Thompson concluded, “I contend we do not need to ask permission to finish Dr. King’s work. He did not retire. It is our duty to pick up his baton and move forward. They always talk about the people who don’t want to vote. They never talk about the impoverished and low-wage individuals. We want to lift them and bring them forth. If we address these issues, we will address all these others.”

As the nation gears up for the 2024 elections, Bishop Barber, the Poor People’s Campaign, and its allies assert that they are poised to make their presence felt, advocating for policies that address the systemic issues perpetuating poverty and economic inequality across the country.

“We want to lift them up and bring them forth. If we address these issues, we will address all these others,” Thompson insisted.

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