I found the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Chicago office on Halsted, in the Pilsner neighborhood of Chicago. State Representative Litesa Wallace (below), from Rockford, IL, came to wish us well before we boarded the overnight bus. In her wok in the state legislature, she created the House is the Economic Justice and Equity committee.
I loved being on a bus full of people with whom I share the values of the Poor People’s Campaign. We understand the various ways most people are vulnerable to our economic system of extreme wealth and fear, prejudice and discrimination.
While waiting for the bus, I chatted with these follow activists:
Above: Darryl Robinson, Ron “Kowboy” Jackson, and Curtis, who braved arrest a at a PPC action in Springfield a few weeks ago. I asked Kowboy what makes him endure the discomfort of two nights on a bus for the Poor People’s Campaign. “I’ve seen so much suffering,” he said. In 1988 he put children on stretchers after a shooting at Winnetka Elementary. Years later, after a car accident, doctors told him he would never walk again, but he does walk. He walks for the poor and depressed, for society’s most vulnerable, for veterans, and victims of police brutality.
After a night of sleeping while sitting up, we arrived in D.C. Saturday morning, and the SEIU received us with hot breakfast.
While we ate, the 83-year-old Louise Brown (below, wearing bright blue and orange) told us her hospital strike story.
If Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the queen of justice by written opinion, Louise Brown is the queen of justice by action. In the 60s, Mrs. Brown and ten other women striked for living wages, fair treatment, and the right to unionize. They went to jail. Today, Mrs. Brown goes to jail in order to illuminate the widespread and extreme poverty that this country has normalized and ignored.
On the Capitol Mall, for three hours, we rallied, listened to the voices of the poor people, and danced. Folks came from 40 states. Danny Glover sang.
I loved it that Rev. Barber said: This is not a rally—it’s a REVOLUTION.
I love Rev. Barber’s discipline. He privileges the voices of the poor and limits the voices of allies in privileged positions. If we really want to learn and understand, we will listen to the poor.
Barber’s co-leader, Liz Theoharris (below), arms herself with facts. She makes it impossible to logically accept the myths about poverty– myths that only lazy people are poor and there’s nothing to be done. In fact, working people are poor, and there is something to be done. There is, she says, ENOUGH housing, food, and healthcare for all.
Elija Blu, a voice of the Illinois PPC, stands to the left of Theoharris. I recently heard Elija tell a crowd that he comes from a long line of “irrespectability.” He used to belong to a gang. He works full-time now, but is still poor. But he, with the 43% of US inhabitants who are poor, has a right to shelter, nourishment, and health.
A highlight of the day was the “roll call,” in which representatives from forty states shouted the name of their state. Here’s a sample:
I love that the PPC demands the ENTIRE REVOLUTION. Everyone is important–no one left behind. We do not privilege one form of discrimination or vulnerability above others. If one person is hurting, we are all hurting. The PPC includes black immigrant rights.
Seala Matthis, from Virgin Islands (which has not recovered from Hurricane Maria) wore a shirt that says, “Immigrants Make America Great.”
After a three-hour rally, we marched to the Capitol.
The PPC is not afraid to quote from a variety of sacred texts and other moral documents that nations and countries hold dear, such as preambles to state and federal constitutions. These texts say that every human life is dear and that we must take care of each other. We must take care of the people who are most vulnerable, which usually means, take care of the poor and the immigrants.
After the march, I went in the National Gallery East and found works by two African American women: