Co-chairs of the Poor People's Campaign, Dr. William Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach, and Dr. Liz Theoharis, director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice, detailed a June 18 march on Washington during a virtual press conference Friday. In October 2021, they were in Memphis to receive the National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award as part of the museum's 30th-anniversary celebration.

“A Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls” is projected to usher thousands to the nation’s capital this June.

Religious leaders, social activists and 200-plus partner organizations have launched coordinating committees from 45 states to bring attention to the plight of Americans living in poverty, said Dr. William Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chairman of the Poor People’s Campaign.

“There must be a Third Reconstruction in America,” said Barber during a virtual news conference live-streamed on Facebook on Friday.

“We must, in the nonviolent moral tradition, put a face on the pain that obstructionism is causing and shift the moral narrative and reject the lies of scarcity, and the morally indefensible, politically insensitive politics we are witnessing today.”

The Poor People’s Campaign contexts a “Third Reconstruction” with “the transformational history of the First Reconstruction following the Civil War and the Second Reconstruction of the civil rights struggles of the 20th century.”

Set for June 18, the Washington gathering is designed to support 141 million Americans living in poverty, Barber said.

Dr. Alvin O’Neal Jackson, executive director of the Poor People’s Campaign, said the event is a call to moral revival.

“Moral revival appeals to our constitutional values and to our deep faith values,” said Jackson. “Systemic racism, poverty and the effects of poverty – they reflect a spiritual problem, a moral problem. America needs a heart resuscitation. Moral revival will speak to some of those deep moral, spiritual issues.”

On Friday, an array of speakers delivered brief and impassioned remarks about witnessing, first-hand, the effects of poverty on families and children. Among them was Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts).

“I will continue to lead efforts to address poverty and its effects on millions of Americans,” said Warren. “The Third Reconstruction will fully address poverty and low wages for 140 million people. America has a moral obligation to its people, especially those who are one emergency away from economic ruin. Millions more have been added to this number since the pandemic.”

The Third Reconstruction: Fully Addressing Poverty and Low Wages from the Bottom Up is a resolution introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) in May 2021. Barber said every Republican and some Democrats have blocked the bill.

“Passing this bill would have lifted 41 percent out of poverty instantly by mandating a living wage,” said Barber.

“The minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009. And the people should know that every state passing voter suppression laws are also the same states from which politicians are blocking living wages. We want people to make these connections because the march is a springboard for the November 2022 elections. We must mobilize to the polls.”

Barber said the June 18 event is not just one day of action.

“This assembly is an ongoing, committed, nonviolent, multi-racial, interfaith, moral movement,” said Barber. “We are building and mobilizing our political voting power. We will support candidates who stand with us in making real policies that fully address systemic poverty, systemic racism and denial of healthcare.”

Poor People’s Campaign Co-Chair Dr. Liz Theoharis, director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice, affirmed Barber’s remarks.

“Our movement agenda brings together blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans – people from every race, creed, color, region and sexuality,” Theoharis said.

“Our movement is a long-term, nonviolent moral activism and analysis informed by our deepest constitutional and religious values.”

Barber said the COVID-19 pandemic “exposed the fissures of systemic racism and poverty” even more. Mentioning Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky directly, Barber said “extremist Republicans” have used outright obstructionism to block the passage of “even a watered-down responsive step to invest in the uplift of 140 million people.”

Barber said the assembly and march will be acts of “nonviolent disobedience.”

“We’re not going to talk about every strategy we will use,” said Barber. “The poor are going to tell the politicians in Washington, ‘See me. You’re not going to ignore me anymore.’ But we are not violent. We are not a part of the insurrection. We are the resurrection.”

(For more information, contact: Faith Morris at: [email protected], or call: 312-813-6965. Martha Waggoner can also provide additional information: [email protected].)