SOUDERTON — Along with being involved in specific programs to fight poverty, such as food banks, improved health care or restoring clean water to poor communities, the Poor People's Campaign aims to change the things that have led to poverty, according to a pastor at Zion Mennonite Church in Souderton who was part of a Pennsylvania Poor People's Campaign rally in Harrisburg on Monday, June 7.
"What makes the Poor People's Campaign different is we're a network that's trying to create change at the policy level," Zion's Associate Pastor of Faith Formation Jordan Luther said. "It's a group that gets a lot of its spirit and energy from faith-based communities, which is why I'm a part of it."
Luther said he's known about the Poor People's Campaign for about three years.
"In 2018, the Poor People's Campaign was relaunched in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first Poor People's Campaign, which was under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders," Luther said.
Current national leaders include Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, he said.
The goal is "to push our legislators to make policies that are more in line morally with the needs of the poor," Luther said.
He said he's part of the faith leaders group of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Poor People Campaign and offered a blessing at the Harrisburg rally.
"Emerging from the pain and organizing power of the 140 million people living in poverty or with low wages in this nation, the congressional resolution for a Third Reconstruction, launched at a national online event on May 24 with members of the Progressive Caucus, reflects an omnibus vision for a fundamental restructuring of society that lifts from the bottom. The nonpartisan resolution is a response to years of movement building to create the collective resolve necessary to implement real and transformational legislative action," a PA Poor People's Campaign release said.
"Drawing on the transformational history of the First Reconstruction following the Civil War and the Second Reconstruction of the civil rights struggles of the 20th century, the Third Reconstruction is a revival of our constitutional commitment to establish justice, provide for the general welfare, end decades of austerity, and recognize that policies that center the 140 million are also good economic policies that can heal and transform the nation," the release said. "The congressional resolution recognizes that in order to build a true Third Reconstruction we must simultaneously deal with the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the denial of health care, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism that blames the poor instead of the systems that cause poverty."
The Harrisburg rally was one of about 50 taking place in 36 different states on June 7, the release said.
"As we campaign for a fundamental restructuring of our politics and economy at a national level -- including pushing to update outdated poverty measures that leave out so many of us who are one $400 emergency away from crisis -- we also are demanding a complete transformation of our state budget to center our needs -- from the budget process itself, to what gets funded and prioritized," Nijmie Zakkiyyah Dzurinko, state co-chair of the Pennsylvania Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, said in the release.
The rally was held to demand that legislators sign onto the proposed Third Reconstruction Resolution, Luther said.
The proposal currently has the endorsement of about 30 U.S. House of Representatives members, none of whom are from Pennsylvania, he said.
"It's not up for a vote. It's just been proposed," he said. "In order for it to get to the floor, you need more endorsements."
Online information about the proposal says it includes support for universal health care, raising the minimum wage to a living wage, guaranteed rights to form and join unions, redirecting part of the military budget to anti-poverty programs, expanded voting rights and comprehensive and just immigration reform.
A National Poor People's and Low-Wage Workers Assembly to continue building support will be held online and in person June 21 in Raleigh, North Carolina, followed by a year long campaign leading to a June 18, 2022 march in Washington, D.C., the PA Poor People's Campaign release said.