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Presbyterians show support for Moral March on Washington

The Poor People’s Campaign will hold event June 29 to highlight injustices and mobilize voters

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-founder of the Poor People’s Campaign, speaks during January’s Matthew 25 Summit. (Photo by Rich Copley)

LOUISVILLE — The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival announced Monday that it will once again hold an assembly and march in Washington, D.C., to call attention to the plight of poor and low-wage workers, push for moral public policies and encourage people to vote.

Presbyterian ministers the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, national co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, and the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, advocacy director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), were among those present at the announcement of the June 29 event dubbed the Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls. (Watch the full press conference here.)

The summer event is designed to launch the “mobilization and outreach of 15 million poor and low-income, infrequent voters” across the United States as part of the PPC’s national movement to counter those policymakers who are proposing and passing legislation against living wages, affordable health care, access to clean water and air, adequate housingand the like, according to material distributed to partners.

“We know and we have heard and we will continue to hear this morning that poor and low income voters make up nearly 40% of the electorate in some key places, and when we come together around a moral agenda, we have the power to fundamentally transform the politics of this nation,” said Theoharis, Executive Director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary.

The movement is necessary to propel elected officials to take a stand on issues that keep people struggling and hungry, according to the Poor People’s Campaign.

“It’s immoral and it’s wrong that we throw out more food than it takes to feed everybody,” she said. “It’s immoral and it’s wrong that there are five abandoned homes for every unhoused person in this country and yet millions have nowhere to lay their heads. It’s immoral and wrong that there’s not a county, a city, a town anywhere in this country where someone working full-time on the federal minimum wage can even afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment.”

Bishop William J. Barber II, national co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign with Theoharis, said people in dozens of states will be trained in activism and mobilization to aid the movement’s efforts to defeat systemic racism, systemic poverty and other ills, including falsehoods tied to religious nationalism.

“The scriptures even tell us that the stones that the builders rejected can come together and be the cornerstones of a brand-new reality,” Barber said. “We need a big mobilization and we’re not doing it alone. This is not a top-down. This is a bottom-up movement.”

Supporters who got a chance to speak during the Monday press conference in Washington, D.C., included Hawkins, who oversees the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. He offered strong support from the PC(USA).

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of advocacy for the PC(USA), speaks during Monday’s press conference. (Screenshot)

“The Presbyterian Church stands with the Poor People’s Campaign as it organizes poor and low-income people and we will be present for the Moral March on Washington on June 29 here in Washington, D.C,” Hawkins said. “We as Presbyterians commit ourselves to being a moral ally as we stand with the Poor People’s Campaign in its call for fair and comprehensive wages for low- wage workers who deserve to make enough money to feed their children, to provide warm clothing in the winter and cool clothing in the summer.”

Hawkins also spoke in favor of “full and universal health care for all people” and noted that “we stand with the Poor People’s Campaign in its call for justice and integrity on the part of the United States Supreme Court in its rulings that should favor those who are facing discrimination and who need a fair arbitrator of justice.”

He went on to say, “This is a call for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act. People have a right to vote … It is not a privilege, and we stand with the Poor People’s Campaign on all the issues of justice which it is putting forth. The Presbyterian Church will be there with you.”

Flanked by, from left, Bishop William J. Barber II, the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Virginia Kase Solomón of Common Cause speaks during Monday’s press conference. (Screenshot)

He was followed by Virginia Kase Solomón, president and chief executive of the democracy watchdog Common Cause, who said it’s important to stand together to hold elected officials accountable and to help people to live, noting that she was once a teenage mom who needed safety net programs, such as Women, Infants and Children, to get by.

“We don’t want charity,” she said. “People want to be able to live a life.”

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