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In Baltimore, Fight for $15 is at the forefront of the 5th consecutive week of the Poor People’s Campaign that will culminate in Washington DC next Saturday, June 23

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EDDIE CONWAY: Welcome to The Real News. I’m Eddie Conway.

On Monday, Rev. William Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharis, the leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign, were arrested on Capitol Hill. They were set to speak at a forum on inequality and poverty in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

In Annapolis, for the fifth consecutive week, the Poor People’s Campaign has been holding a rally.

SPEAKER: We’ve been here for five weeks. This is our fifth week. We’ve got one more week, and we haven’t heard a word from the governor.

EDDIE CONWAY: Rallies have been held all over the nation, in 37 of the states. In addition, a rally was held in downtown Baltimore, organized by the Fight for $15 and the Poor People’s Campaign.

RICARRA JONES: It’s time to take back power for working people. Everybody’s got a right to live, because your financial situation should not determine if you have housing, or health care, or food, and if you can take care of your family, right? Y’all know we live in one of the wealthiest states in this country? And it is a damn shame that people who work 40 hours a week are still living in poverty, right? Exactly. So we’ve got to do something about that. This is a joint event between the Poor People’s Campaign and the Fight for $15 campaign. So, the Poor People’s Campaign has been participating in the 40 Days of Action in 35 states and in D.C. to change the narrative of blaming poor people just for being poor. Hey, hey, who’s that? Who’s that guy right there? Who is that guy right there?

SPEAKER: So, I’m not giving these workers fair pay. They don’t deserve fair pay. They don’t deserve a $15 an hour minimum wage. If they get a $15 an hour minimum wage, I don’t get to keep this. I make my money off the backs of these hard workers. If I paid them a fair wage and give them good benefits, that means I don’t get to keep this.

MARIE MOKUBA: I’m a part of the Baltimore Algebra Project, and we were invited down here by the Poor People’s Campaign to kind of bring in that educational aspect to it, especially because we’re a youth-run organization.

In higher education and higher levels, such as the state level, too many decisions are made without youth. Right? Where are the youth? Seriously, I mean, we have to hold ourselves accountable. Where are the youth? We need to be in the forefront of this movement. Our voices need to be heard, especially when we’re talking about educational equity.

We do have programs like Youth Works in Baltimore City. But when it comes to living wages, those don’t pay enough. Especially when we have students that are providing for their families when they don’t have parents in the household that have adequate employment opportunities. And you know, summer isn’t just the only time people need money, right. Like, we need to make sure that this is a sustainable movement. So that’s why we’re here today, to make sure that aspect is heard.

CHELSEA GILMER: How worthy is this math class if it’s not teaching me how to pay my bills before I’m off the streets enjoying those junkie thrills? How worthy is this English class if there’s no class discussion not teaching me that if I disagree there’s a need for a social disruption? Now how worthy is this chemistry class if I can’t use what I know about bonds to bring people together? How worthy is this government class if what I’m learning can’t help me change the minimum wage? I’m not 20 years of age, but I have 20-year-old responsibilities. Now this wage I’m given will keep me in this low-class cage. Just know that this school situation brings me more than just rage.

SPEAKER: Twenty three point four million of black people, 60 percent, are poor and low-income. Did you know that 37.6 million of Latinx people, 65 percent, are poor and low-income? Did you know that 7.8 million of Asian people, 41 percent, are poor and low-income? Did you know 66.2 million white people, 34 percent, are poor and low-income? Two hundred and fifty thousand people in the U.S. die each year because of poverty and low income.

JANE HENDERSON: Well, we’re here because we’ve been supporting the fight for $15, and you know, because we’re trying to support the, we’re going to continue to push for a raise in minimum wage. And I’m also here collecting signatures for an initiative called Better Budget Baltimore that we’re working on, which is to change the charter so the city council has equal budgetary powers with the mayor. Currently the mayor sets the budget. All the council can do is cut the budget. They can’t move money around they can’t and they can’t reset priorities. So we want a more democratic process for the budget and we think this is the start.

EDDIE CONWAY: So you can do that by petition here in Baltimore?

JANE HENDERSON: Yes. We have to get 10000 signatures verified as registered voters in the city of Baltimore, and we get it put on the ballot for the fall elections.

EDDIE CONWAY: Oh, really? OK, and so how are you doing so far?

JANE HENDERSON: Well, we’re just, we’re only a couple weeks in, so we’re probably only a thousand or two on our way towards our goal. We have to get a lot more than 10000 to make sure we have 10000 verified-. But we’ll make it. We have till, like, the middle of August.

DITANYA ROSEBUD: Good afternoon. Y’all are too quiet for me. Y’all are real quiet. What Do we want? [15.] When do we want it? [Now.] What do we want? [15.] When do we want it? [Now.] There we go. I couldn’t hear y’all when I was coming down the street. OK.

We are fed up and we are tired of having to make decisions about whether these kids are going to eat a meal, or if I got to pay a bill, just like I said. And it’s a shame that we’re working. And we work hard. And I work, myself, in a healthcare facility, and I still can’t make ends meet. And I’m not alone, and we’re going to let people in Annapolis know, and we’re going to hold our delegates and all our candidates accountable.

EDDIE CONWAY: OK. OK. So that means in the November election? Is that what I’m hearing?

DITANYA ROSEBUD: The primary election. We’re going to early voting. We’re going to Annapolis every chance we get, every time we get a chance. Every time we get a chance we’re going to keep on being outspoken, we’re going to keep on speaking out until something is done. And then that’s the beginning, and then we’re going to ’20.

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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.