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National News / Politics

Wednesday, 22 April, 2009 0:16 AM

Poor People's Campaign looks to restructure America with an economic bill of rights

Photo credit: nyc.indymedia.org

Poor People's Campaign Kicks Off Rally

by Garrett Godwin
ggodwin82@yahoo.com

 

Most people know that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15, 1929 and died on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. What they most remembered about him is his memorable "I Have a Dream" speech at the nation's capital on August 28, 1963. However, what they may don't know about Dr. King is that he spoke out against the Vietnam War, and that before his death, he was beginning the next chapter of the civil rights movement. It was on December 4, 1967 that Dr. King began developing the Poor People's Campaign, which focuses on economic justice.

He saw a need for adequate housing, a need for health care, an increase in living wages, more funding of education, jobs, and public transportation in rural areas" states Antoinette Harrell, one of the co-founders of Gathering of Hearts, who also started the campaign with several others back in February. "The real work is in the field addressing the need of the people. We must move beyond the four walls of building: churches, universities, offices, and buildings, and address the needs and concerns of the people. President Obama is concerned of other families because he is a loving husband and father to his family. Indeed, I do believe that he wants to help parents to provide a better quality of life for their children and families. I must continue to do the works of Dr. King: feed the hungry, clothed the naked, take care of the children, the elderly and those in need."

The Poor People's Campaign started back in the south in Marks, Mississippi, where Dr. King traveled throughout the nation to create "a multiracial army of the poor" that would lead to Washington in enforcing an economic bill of rights that involves government jobs programs to restructure America. King saw the desire to talk to Congress that showed their "hosility to the poor" appropriating "military fund and alarcity and generosity yet giving "poverty fund with miserliness."

However, there were some who believed that this wasn't a good idea, and that Dr. King was no longer "a drum major for justice" during the height of the "Black Power" movement in the late 1960s -- meaning black and white people may never learn to coexist peacefully. "It was a terrible time for him," Bearing the Cross author David Cross told USA Today on Dr. King's holiday, the day before Obama's presidential inauguration. "He was phenomenally exhausted. He'd carried on a presidential campaign for 15 years."

Yet speaking of presidential, several believed that President Obama is the Messiah while others considered that his accepting his Democratic nomination on the anniversary of "I Have a Dream" last year as well as being the first-ever African-American elected into the White House is part of God's plan: picking up where Dr. King left off. "I think it is God-ordained," said Harrell. "President Obama comes with peace and love, and that's the difference. There's no way to leave God out of our lives. President Obama is concerned for all families as well as his own. I love a President who has compassion and listens to the concerns of the people."

As Harrell plans on speaking to Congress about enforcing the Economic Bill of Rights, she calls the Poor People's Campaign "the unfinished business of Dr. King" -- knowing that it's not easy going to bed at night. "I must continue to do the work: feeding [and clothing] the homeless," she continues. "I think we should listen to the works of Dr. King. We are doing ourselves injustice by focusing on just one of his speeches, "I Have a Dream". There are so many great speeches, sermons, and lectures of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Why would you cut education when we need to educate the children? These are the issues Dr. King should discuss with Preisdent Obama. Dr. King would say to Obama, 'We need to educate the children, we need health care, to take care of the poor and needy'.

"We have become so complacent. We think we have arrived by the gated communities -- the cars we drive [,for instance]. Dr. King had a God-given way to reach out because he loved everyone. He didn't judge [anyone by the color of their skin]."

The campaign will start on June 19 in Lambert, Mississippi, as both Gathering of Hearts and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) discuss affordable housing, health care, education, jobs, and several important issues, and then to Jackson on June 20. "While many people live in the comfort of their own homes and lives", Harrell said in a press release from BlackNews.com three weeks ago, "millions of people right here in the United States does not have enough food to eat. Not to mention living in homes with holes in the floors and walls big enough for any small animal to crawl in said.

"It is essential that we provide those who are in need with resources for standard living. Clean water, affordable housing, health care, 21st century education, jobs, recreation programs for the youth and public transportation, and it all begins with awareness of the problems that many people face on a daily basis."

 

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