The national movement to revive the Poor People’s Campaign launched half a century ago by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to the state capitol in Albany Monday.
The Albany rally and press conference was one of about 30 at state capitols and in Washington. Activists contend lawmakers have failed “to address the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and America’s distorted national morality.”
The Albany delegation delivered a letter to Senate and Assembly leaders highlighting what they said are dozens of racist voter suppression laws passed nationwide in recent years and a stark jump in poverty.
Claudia de la Cruz with the New York Poor People’s Campaign co-chairs the Popular Education Project. "Fifty years ago, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King called for a poor people's campaign to begin the revolution of values in America. He and other leaders invited people of all races and religions to unite against the evils of races, poverty and militarism. Today a new poor people's campaign is needed to save and protect the livelihood of its citizens and those who have been historically placed in the margins of society. The Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for moral revival will reignite the effort to unite the poor and disenfranchised and marginalized to transform our nation's political, economic and moral structure."
A woman who wished to be identified only as "GG" is a homeless member of VOCAL New York. For the last year she has lived in a women's shelter in Harlem, unable to find affordable housing. "Our neighborhoods are being transformed without us. The people of color and the working poor are being pushed out and priced out of their neighborhoods. Gentrification has become our new reality. We can no longer afford to live in the neighborhoods we were born in, grew up in and even worked in. New York is at its worst housing crisis since the Great Depression. We have over 88,000 people living in shelters across the state... housing is a human right, not a luxury."
de la Cruz adds that while great wealth exists in New York State, economic inequality has accelerated. "55 percent of jobs in New York pay less than $20 an hour. And it takes $21 an hour for an adult and a child to support themselves. Black and brown households are hurting the most. Over 60 percent of those households are not making anything. More than half of children in Buffalo and Rochester are living below the federal poverty line. From the Bronx to Newburgh, to Hoosick Falls, polluted air and poisoned water are making people sick. And while profits down on Wall St. keep soaring, politicians keep saying 'we can't afford to feed and house and educate and employ everybody.’ We don't buy it."
Neither Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan's nor Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's offices responded to requests for comment.
The activists say they are planning six weeks of direct action beginning on May 13th, Mother’s Day, including what they promise will be one of the largest waves of nonviolent civil disobedience in U.S. history.