Rev. William J. Barber II - Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King called for a “revolution of values” in America, inviting people who had been divided to stand together against the “triplets of evil”?—?militarism, racism, and economic injustice?—?to insist that people need not die from poverty in the richest nation to ever exist. Poor people in communities across America?—?black, white, brown and Native?—?responded by building a Poor People’s Campaign that would demand a Marshall Plan for America’s poor.
This is the true legacy of religious freedom in America.
Dr. King, along with many other impacted people and moral leaders in the Poor People’s Campaign of 1967/68, began an effort to build a broad, fusion coalition that would audit America, demanding an accounting of promissory notes that had been returned marked “insufficient funds.” We have not finished their work. Though Trump’s presidency is the culmination of a violent backlash against the Second Reconstruction that Dr. King and many others led, the future of our democracy depends on us completing the work of a Third Reconstruction today.
This is why I hear the Spirit calling us to build a new Poor People’s Campaign.
The fights for racial and economic equality are as inseparable today as they were half a century ago. Make no mistake about it: We face a crisis in America. The twin forces of white supremacy and unchecked corporate greed have gained newfound power and influence, both in statehouses across this nation and at the highest levels of our federal government. Sixty-four million Americans make less than a living wage, while millions of children and adults continue to live without access to healthcare, even as extremist Republicans in Congress threaten to strip access away from millions more. As our social fabric is stretched thin by widening income inequality, politicians criminalize the poor, fan the flames of racism and xenophobia to divide the poor, and steal from the poor to give tax breaks to our richest neighbors and budget increases to a bloated military.
Americans across the country are crying out in defiance?—?and for change. Bringing this cry into the public square, a Resistance has emerged: The Fight for $15, the Movement for Black Lives, Moral Mondays, the Women’s March, The People’s Climate March and No Ban/No Wall protesters have taken to the streets. We are, indeed, The Majority, crying out against the hijacking of democracy by the richest cabinet in U.S. history and a Congressional leadership that does its bidding.
At such a time as this, we need a new Poor People’s Campaign for Moral Revival to help us become the nation we’ve not yet been. I don’t just know this because the river of resistance in my tradition echoes its truth down through the centuries. I know it because I have seen it in North Carolina.