By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
There are many activities surrounding the call for the “Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival” launched by former North Carolina NAACP President the Rev. William Barber II. The District of Columbia will play a key part in the events.
The Rev. Wanda Thompson, pastor of the Ambassador Baptist Church, is one of the leaders of the District’s contingent leading the Poor People’ Campaign. Thompson spoke about the campaign and the need for District residents to get involved at the May 12 Ward 8 Clergy and Faith Leaders Breakfast Meeting at the America’s Islamic Heritage Museum.
“This is a national movement,” Thompson said to the 30 people at the event. “We are calling for direct action across state capitals because our lawmakers must know that we will not tolerate poverty and discrimination in this country.”
Since President Trump took office last year, Barber has criticized the White House and the Republican Congress on its inaction dealing with poverty, hunger, economic distress and systemic racism.
Barber delivered a stirring message on fighting for the principles of the campaign on May 6 at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, Thompson said, and District residents should pick up the mantle.
“It has been calculated that 70 percent of every dollar circulated in the U.S. goes to war efforts and only 12 percent goes to social services,” she said. “This is not right. Many people in this country are living paycheck to paycheck and can be wiped out by a medical crisis.”
Thompson outlined events to take place in the District, and around the country, dealing with specific issues. May 13-19 will deal with “Somebody’s Hurting Our People: Child Poverty, Women and People with Disabilities” and there will be weekly themes until a mass rally on June 23 in the District. Also in the District, there will be weekly Moral Mondays with a rally at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. action at the U.S. Capitol.
“We are focusing on the Capitol because we know that D.C. laws are made there, in spite of the city council,” Thompson said.
Thompson encouraged the ministers to get their congregations involved. In response to a question by the AFRO, she said the NAACP has embraced the campaign but wasn’t clear about other national Black organizations such as the Congressional Black Caucus, the National Urban League, and SCLC.
“This is a grassroots movement,” she said. “We are organizing from the ground up and not by organization.”
The co-chairs in the District are the Rev. Graylan Hagler of the Plymouth Congregational UCC, and the Rev. Terrence Mayo.
Ambrose Lane Jr., a candidate for the at-large independent seat on the D.C. Council, supports the aims of the campaign, but has a concern. “One of the things Dr. King talked about was guaranteed jobs,” Lane told the AFRO. “But I checked the website of this campaign and there is no mention of that. I think that should be included.”
Thompson responded to Lane by telling him “to get involved” and make his feelings known. “We need people to say things like we need guaranteed jobs,” she said. “This is not a one-time thing, it is a sustained effort and we need everybody to get involved.”