MALVEAUX: Everybody’s Got the Right to Live
More than 900 people crowded into the Church of the Epiphany, an Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. They had gathered to hear Rev. William Barber, the dynamic and prophetic co-leader (with Rev. Liz Theoharis) of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. They came not only to hear Rev. Barber but also to sing and bond and listen to poor people tell their own stories. This late-January gathering is one of many that the Poor People’s Campaign is having all over the country, leading up to a Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington on June 20. With 43 state coordinating committees actively working in communities, Barber and Theoharis are planning to peacefully “take it to the streets” in downtown Washington and to make the statement that “everybody’s got the right to live.” Several of the poor people told their stories, while Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), among others, listened to the harrowing personal narratives from homeless people, a deaf student whose financial aid was cut when her father got a small raise, a woman who was arrested and incarcerated in front of her children when she sold food on the street, and many more. The audience was urged not to clap but to shout supportively, “Somebody is hurting our people, and we won’t be silent anymore.” Poverty is trauma. Poverty can be the source of enormous stress, and perhaps even some mental illness (though you don’t have to be impoverished to be crazy!). Poverty or near-poverty affects 140 million people, nearly half of us. Rev. Barber says we must have “righteous indignation” about poverty.