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Sunday, April 12, 2009

King, Obama, Economic Stimulus, Poverty, and The Poor People's Campaign, Inc.

The Chicago Tribune has a must read article on how the economy meltdown presents obstacles to King's push for economic justice as Obama has taken office — The focus of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 wasn't what had been accomplished — but rather his view of what still needed to be done.

More than four decades later, King scholars say he would take the same approach at this historic moment — the
inauguration of the first black president at a time when the nation is facing its greatest
economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The crisis could widen the already large financial gaps between whites and blacks and make it more difficult to attain King's dream of
economic equaility in America.

"I believe that Dr. King would caution us not to rest on
the election of a black president and say our work here is done," said Kendra King, associate professor of politics at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. More HERE

AAPP: I had the opportunity to speak with Jerry Robinson, president of The Poor People’s Campaign and Floyd Davis, Vice President, of The Poor People’s Campaign, who have decided to take the Poor Peoples’ Campaign to another level. These two Chicago based grassroots activist saw the Poor people’s campaign lie dormant for over 40 years, and decided to re-establish the Poor Peoples Campaign, as a grassroots national organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.

Back in the Day

Larger view
Resurrection City, June 1968

There are still people around who can remember back in November and December of 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) met with leaders of the movement following the passage of civil rights legislation, concerned about the emergence of black power movement and the urban riots of the previous summer. SCLC decided to launch the Poor People’s Campaign, Inc., a movement to broadly address economic inequalities with nonviolent direct action. From 1965 and 1966, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King brought the brilliant organizing insights of the SCLC to the slums of Chicago to confront the evils of a number of slum lords. King moved his own family into a rundown housing unit in Chicago’s Lawndale community (renamed Slumdale at the time by its occupants), where they endured for a time the harrowing poverty, squalor, and overcrowding that other slum residents had endured for decades. I’m also reminded that Dr. King was able to inspire many grassroots people in Chicago interested in the Poor People’s Campaign, Inc.

Fast Forward

Since 2003, Jerry Robinson and Floyd Davis of Chicago, both long time residents and community activist in Chicago re-established the long dormant Poor People’s Campaign, Inc. Today, The Poor People’s Campaign, Inc. is working to help poor and low-income people of Chicago achieve economic prosperity and self sufficiency.

To achieve this goal, they have developed networks of community-based organizations that assist clients with comprehensive self sufficiency services. “These networks, says Jerry Robinson, help poor and low-income individuals enter the workforce.” Jerry Robinson says, “The bottom line is we connect our clients to income-enhancing benefits that help them move toward financial independence and self sufficiency.”

The Poor People’s Campaign 21st Century Style

Both Jerry Robinson, Floyd Davis, who are quintessential grass roots organizers, are not taking their efforts lightly. Floyd Davis says, “The Poor People’s Campaign, Inc. board of Directors has worked with a community development consultant out of Washington, DC to develop and approve a business model that includes a 5 year business plan.” Floyd Davis say, “We are taking grass root organizing to the next level, we will be using technology, including twitter, my-space, You-tube, and other social networking sites to organize and fund raise.”

Jerry Robinson said, “We understand that in order to succeed in our efforts to improve the plight of the poor in Chicago, we must work with Chicago’s local workforce system, the Chicago Workforce Board and a variety of local, state and national organizations.”

He also said The Poor People’s campaign will link to a variety of public, private, and non-profit agencies, and will collaborate with city and county agencies such as, the Chicago Department of Children and Youth Services, the Chicago Jobs Council, Chicago Public Schools, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development.

Jerry Robinson and Floyd Davis say they are excited about the level of support they have received from Congressman Danny K. Davis, Congressman Bobby Rush, and the office of Mayor Richard M. Daley as they have developed and grown the Poor People's Campaign to a viable organization addressing the many need of poor People through the metro Chicago community.

Jerry Robinson said, “We plan to expand nationally to key partnership cities, including, Peoria, Illinois, Rockford, Illinois, East St. Louis, Illinois. and Los Angeles, California, in order to serve the poor people in those cities, with a clear goal of expanding nationally in major urban cities, to develop and implement projects and programs to create economic opportunity for people who are struggling to move out of poverty.”

Floyd Davis said, “We plan to work with city agencies to ensure that the new Green-collar economy and economic stimulus plan works for the poor as well.” Floyd went on to say, The Poor People’s Campaign, Inc. plans to provide meaningful employment opportunities – full-time jobs with living wages and benefits – to poor people in the targeted metro-Chicago area communities.” He went on to say, “Our plans are also to provide necessary supportive services to make employment possible, including life skills training, job training, quality accessible childcare, and transportation.”

Jerry Robinson said “the bottom line is poor people need jobs.” He went on to say, “The Poor Peoples Campaign will work with the city and county to recruit and train residents for construction jobs, as part of the Obama Economic Recovery Plan.” Our plan is to work with the Chicago Workforce Investment Board (WIB) and area labor unions to develop the best possible Economic Recovery implementation strategy that includes poor people.

UPDATE: Poor Peoples Campaign, Inc. has sent a Open Letter to The President of The United States on ways to address poverty in America.

The Poor People’s campaign, Inc. is located on the web at: www.poorpeoplescampaignppc.org

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