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Poor People’s Campaign Puts the Spotlight on Poverty

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James Shearer was living out of sight and beyond care among Boston’s homeless in the 1980s. Now he is helping to give them a voice.

“Why does this country cater to the rich while allowing working-class men and women, who work multiple jobs, with long hours, to live in places that are unfit for humanity?” asked Shearer, sixty, at a mass meeting on February 5 in the small town of Greenfield in western Massachusetts. “Instead of helping the homeless, they are criminalized, abused, arrested, preyed upon by bullies, and marginalized. And when we die in the street, there is no funeral.”

At least thirteen more are scheduled nationwide by the end of May, leading to a mass meeting and march on June 20.

Shearer is the co-founder of Spare Change News, a publication written and distributed by people who are “currently or formerly homeless, or otherwise low-income individuals.” He spoke as part of “We Must Do M.O.R.E.” (Mobilize, Organize, Register and Educate), organized by the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

This gathering, which drew about 300 people to Greenfield’s Second Congregational Church, was the group’s eleventh mass meeting. At least thirteen more are scheduled nationwide by the end of May, leading to a mass meeting and march on June 20.

“All roads lead to—where?—Washington, D.C.,” longtime homeless advocate Minister Savina Martin reminded the crowd. She is one of three heads of the coordinating committee for the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign. Committees have been formed in forty-two states and the District of Columbia.

This campaign picks up where the original Poor People’s Campaign, called for by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., left off. And it comes with a sweeping set of demands, together with a comprehensive list of initiatives and how to pay for them.

Co-chaired by the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II and the Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis, the new Poor People’s Campaign was launched on December 4, 2017, on the fiftieth anniversary of King’s original Poor People’s Campaign announcement.

Barber and Theoharis regularly wear stoles with the words “Jesus Was a Poor Man”—a saying that comes from one of the mule train caravans in the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign.

Organizing by the campaign has been going on for more than two years, with such coordinated activities as 40 Days of Moral Action in state capitals and Washington D.C., in 2018.

The upcoming mass gathering and march in Washington, D.C., comes after the presidential primaries but........

© Common Dreams