Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis (center) leads a march of more than 200 people in downtown Memphis on Monday afternoon as a part of a stop by the Poor People’s Campaign. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50

In four weeks, on June 18, there will be a march in Washington.

The goal of the Mass Poor People’s & Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly & Moral March on Washington and to the Polls is to pick up where our namesake left off, to fight for policies that address poverty and low wealth. 

Before the march, there was a tour to mobilize participation and, of course, Memphis was one of the stops — in fact, it was the last stop earlier today. (These images are from the gathering at the National Civil Rights Museum.) the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and one of the leaders of this effort, has often spoken about changing Memphis from the place known for Dr. King’s death. “Where there’s a crucifixion, there must be resurrection,” he’s said

Yes, the work violently interrupted by an assassin must continue. The Poor People’s Campaign is calling for a Third Reconstruction, a House bill that resolves, among other things, to “revive our commitment to implement moral laws and policies that can heal and transform the nation.”

The campaign’s effort has seen results; contact from their non-partisan outreach and engagement drive drove more people to the polls. Their study, done after an effort to reach low-income voters, shows that in the 2020 general election, 35% of the voting electorate or 58 million voters were low-income voters. About 45% of the population of Tennessee are low-income voters; about 39% of Tennessee voters who are low-income voted in the 2020 election. 

What’s particularly powerful about his effort, in my mind, is not just the framing that, for instance, the country’s federal budget is a moral document, but also that, with that framing, the effort crosses the false boundaries around race. After all, there are 140 million poor and low-income people in our nation and not all of them are Black. 

That may seem obvious, but the powerful have been successful in making sure that’s overlooked. They’ve created, what the movement calls,” the lie of scarcity” — a sum-zero mindset that’s left many of us in the 98% bamboozled and some believing in things like a Great Replacement Theory. And we’ve seen where that’s gotten us. 

I’ve written recently about the damage of opting out. This march, this movement has multiple ways to heed the call. 

Adrienne Johnson Martin is executive editor of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. Contact her at adrienne.martin@mlk50.com



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