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The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival just had its first Poor People’s Moral Action Congress in June where over 1,000 people who are poor along with activists and faith leaders from each state throughout this nation gathered together to take a stand against the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, militarism, ecological devastation, and our distorted moral narrative.

This work is reviving the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign that was led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and thousands of others. Sr. Noreen and Sr. Dottie were present along with me, Katie, a Deaconess Candidate. We stood in solidarity with 1,000 brothers and sisters from around this country along with the Co-Chairs of the Campaign, Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, to say that we are a new unsettling force that is here for a revolution of values because there are over 140,000,000 people in this country who are living in poverty or who are one $400 emergency away from poverty. That is 43.5% of our population…

At the Congress, we joined in the revived Freedom School, learning about how systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation are inextricably connected injustices and how our country is ignoring the moral crisis we are in. We learned about moral fusion organizing. Rev. Barber explained this fusion movement by sharing, “I want you to know that when hands that once picked cotton join hands of Latinos, join hands of progressive whites, join faith hands and labor hands and Asian hands and Native American hands, and poor hands and wealthy hands with a conscience, and gay hands and straight hands and trans hands and Christian hands and Jewish hands and Muslim hands and Hindu hands and Buddhist hands, when we all get together we are an instrument of redemption!”

Rev. Theoharis explained, “Always in history, when those most impacted by injustice band together with moral leaders and advocates, that’s when change begins to happen. We don’t believe in helicopter leadership; we’re not trying to form a new national organization. The center of gravity is in the local work that people are doing to build a deep and broad and strong foundation for an actual movement for the long haul.”This is a movement rooted in the leadership of the poor, marginalized and moral agents and reflecting all great moral teachings to unite our country from the bottom up.

There was a Presidential Forum where 9 presidential candidates agreed to participate with our Congress. They were not there so we could hear what they had to say. Instead, they were there to hear that 140 million people are living in poverty and low wealth in our communities. They were there to hear that we won’t be silent anymore and that we demand that this be part of the national conversation by having an entire presidential debate dedicated to this issue and that we have a moral agenda that we want to see put into action.

On the last day, we sent the Co-Chairs and directly impacted people as our witnesses and prophets to the Congressional Budget Committee Hearing to give a presentation and deliver our Poor People’s Moral Budget, which shows that our demand to end poverty, systemic racism, the war economy, and ecological devastation are not only morally right but that we have the resources in this country to do so. www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/budget/

This time together as a movement was truly an experience of the “both/and.” I felt the mystery of being both sinner and saint, broken and whole exhausted yet fully alive! And I felt, and still feel, the music, the vocal joining of all our hearts and minds as we sang through joyous tears, “Yes! My soul says yes…” The sense of a glimpse of a beloved community…. which gave strength so that we could return home into action to work together to make that feeling an ongoing reality for all of creation.

 

Katie Thiesen is a Deaconess Community Candidate.