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June 29 Moral March gathers steam as PC(USA) and others offer continued support

Stated Clerk and fellow Presbyterian ministers among those urging people to attend

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Bishop William J. Barber II and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis of the Poor People’s Campaign are urging people to participate in a June 29 march in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Rich Copley)

LOUISVILLE — The Poor People’s Campaign held a virtual pep rally this week to encourage the public to head to Washington, D.C., for an in-person Moral March that’s being organized to stimulate voter turnout and push for policies to uplift people who are struggling under the weight of poverty.

“June 29 at 10 a.m. on the corner of Pennsylvania and Third, it’s time for our voices, our faces to be heard” along with “our commitment to building the most massive turnout to the polls that we’ve seen,” said Bishop William J. Barber II, who co-chairs the Poor People’s Campaign with the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, a Presbyterian minister.

The Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington, D.C. and to the Polls is the launch of outreach to 15 million poor and low-wage infrequent voters during an important election year. (You can RSVP here and also register your bus.)

Urging them to rise up and take a stand, Barber said, “We are the resurrection; we are the swing vote. Our power can make a difference. We can force policies that transform this nation, and we not only have a democracy but a democracy worth having, that truly lifts everybody from the bottom.”

The Rev. Dr. Terrlyn L. Curry Avery

With help from faith leaders, labor groups and other supporters around the country, the Poor People’s Campaign is pushing a 17-point agenda that it hopes candidates running for office will commit to enacting. The demands include abolishing poverty, establishing a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour, guaranteeing workers’ rights, and ending voter suppression. The PPC also is advocating for affordable, adequate housing and an end to the criminalization of homelessness.

“The homeless and the poor are not just faceless statistics,” said the Rev. Dr. Terrlyn L. Curry Avery, who pastors Martin Luther King Jr. Community Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Massachusetts. “They are our neighbors, our fellow human beings. They are individuals who, like us, deserve dignity, compassion and opportunity.”

Curry Avery was part of a long string of speakers who extended enthusiastic invitations to the march and laid out the need for policy reform. She cited several statistics about how hard it is to make ends meet and to keep a roof over one’s head in her home state and appealed to viewers’ sense of morality and justice.

“As we strive to build a better world where every person feels worthy, we cannot ignore the marginalized or the disadvantaged,” Curry Avery said. “So, addressing poverty requires us to challenge the root causes of inequity and advocate for policies that promote economic opportunities and create communities where everyone has a place to feel safe.”

The Poor People’s Campaign has held several events to promote the upcoming march. Earlier in the month, the Rev. Bronwen Boswell, Acting Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), joined several other faith leaders in expressing support.

“I am here to encourage all who can to join in the Poor People’s Campaign event on June 29,” Boswell said during the June 10 gathering. “As Presbyterians, we have engaged in justice advocacy for much of the history of our denomination, and today, as a denomination, we stand and witness around the globe to eliminate those boundaries preventing people from living full and whole lives as children of God.”

Dr. Christopher Williams (Screenshot)

In this week’s pep rally, Dr. Christopher Williams of the Washington, D.C. Poor People’s Campaign provided a local perspective. He said people there are fed up with racism and the mistreatment of low-income and low-wealth residents, such as those who live in public housing. He also decried rampant gentrification, wide variation in life expectancy, and school-related problems, including academic deficiencies and chronic absenteeism, before inviting young people to the Moral March.

“To our young people in high school and college, I say to you that you have a reason for optimism,” Williams said. “Despite our broken politics and our broken systems, you have the power to change things. So please, please join us.”

To view the pep rally, go here. To read a previous story that includes quotes from the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness, go here.

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