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Eddie Conway speaks to people on the ground who are leading the poor people’s march, which will culminate in Washington DC on June 23rd. The Poor People’s Campaign is a coalition of organizations led by Rev. Dr William Barber II and Reverend Dr Liz Theoharis, inspired by the historic march lead by MLK Jr. 50 years ago

Story Transcript

SPEAKER: We are standing with 37 states, plus the District of Columbia, against poverty, systemic racism, ecological devastation, the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative, and we are saying the time is now.

EDDIE CONWAY: We spoke with several activists that have organized this rally.

DANIELLE BLOCKER: I’m here because poverty is at a point of crisis, an epidemic, crisis in the United States right now. Yet our politicians, our public figures, aren’t doing enough to address it. We have a culture in our society that blames us for being poor.

PHILIP ATETO: Well, I guess I’ve been an activist for a long time. But I’ve gotten good at playing the game of looking like I’m not in poverty. But I’m on the edge of poverty. You know, frankly, this has become kind of a country of the haves and have nots. And I guess I’ve become more keen of the game of knowing how to look like I’m middle class, when maybe I’m struggling a little bit more than it looks.

ERICA JACKSON: At the age of 18 I became homeless, and began a chronic period of homelessness in the Baltimore City system. For four years I waited for housing, and there was nothing. Finally, after four years with the new mayor and four years of struggling through homelessness, I got an emergency Section 8 voucher. Though it was much better, my living conditions were terrible. I had a bad landlord who refused to fix the leaky roof of my apartment, and because I was receiving housing assistance they knew I had nowhere else to go. They were allowed to not fix my apartment. These are political issues, and these are moral issues. America cannot deny that anymore.

JIM HENKELMAN-BAHN: Well, I’ve been involved in civil rights work since the ’60s, and was involved in the first Poor People’s Campaign. So we opened up our church so that the people on the Mall who were getting rained out were able to have a place to sleep. So I get involved in this for a long time, and it’s about time that we revisit Martin Luther King’s three general issues that he raised, of racism, militarism, and poverty. And now we’ve added the degradation of the environment, because that’s key, too.

EDDIE CONWAY: I’m not aware, is that place there closed now the legislation session is over with?

DANIELLE BLOCKER: Yes, absolutely. But we say every day that there is extreme poverty in our country, and in the state of Maryland. Our politicians need to be working to eradicate it, to fix it. And so, you know, people don’t get a day off from being poor. And so our politicians shouldn’t take a day off from working to fix these problems.

PHILIP ATETO: Fifty percent of people in this country went on strike for a week. You see how the teacher strikes work. You know, I don’t think we’ll change their mind. I think we will make them do it if things go, if this campaign continues to grow the way it needs to.

EDDIE CONWAY: This action is going to go on for the next six weeks. And on June 23, there will be a gathering in Washington, D.C. of from all the different states and areas that’s involved.

JIM HENKELMAN-BAHN: Martin Luther King said civil disobedience was the best way to make social change, and I believe that.

DANIELLE BLOCKER: Talking about this in coffee shops, barber shops, school, church, et cetera. We want people to be paying attention to this issue and saying, OK, what are we going to do to tangibly change this?

EDDIE CONWAY: Thank you for joining me at this rally, and we’ll continue to follow these activities. And thank you for joining the Real News. I’m Eddie Conway.

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Executive Producer
Eddie Conway is an Executive Producer of The Real News Network. He is the host of the TRNN show Rattling the Bars. He is Chairman of the Board of Ida B's Restaurant, and the author of two books: Marshall Law: The Life & Times of a Baltimore Black Panther and The Greatest Threat: The Black Panther Party and COINTELPRO. A former member of the Black Panther Party, Eddie Conway is an internationally known political prisoner for over 43 years, a long time prisoners' rights organizer in Maryland, the co-founder of the Friend of a Friend mentoring program, and the President of Tubman House Inc. of Baltimore. He is a national and international speaker and has several degrees.