ArticlesBlog

Before & After ’68: The Poor People’s Campaign, Then & Now

Before & After ’68: The Poor People’s Campaign, Then & Now


>>Unidentified Speaker:
From the Library of Congress in Washington DC.>>Guha Shankar: Okay,
folks, I’m Guha Shankar. I’m here at the American
Folklife Center with the Folklife specialists
and I want to welcome all of you to the symposium. It’s going to be a great
turnout, a great group of guests and a fascinating topic, and
I’m going to turn the podium over to the head of research
and programs John Fenn. He’ll do the welcoming
remarks, the official ones. In the meantime, what I wanted
to do was to give you a sense of what the symposium entails. As you know, 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King’s last
great unfinished social mass action, the Poor People’s
Campaign, was taking place here in Washington, DC, on the mall. And in order to tell
you a little bit about what came before,
we’re actually going to start at the present and
talk to you about — tell you a little bit
about what’s happening with the new Poor People’s
Campaign, which just launched over the course of
the last year or so with actions across the country. It’ll be — it’s been led by
the Reverend William Barber, formerly of the NAACP, and
the Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis who is — who were both
of the Kairos Institute, a Union Theological
Seminary up in New York. And we’re going to start
with this brief framing, a video about the new
Poor People’s Campaign. Take it away, John. [ Music ]>>Unidentified Speaker: We must
be honest about the foundations of the political and economic
systems we call America. I love America because
of her potential, but I know that America
will never even get close to being a more perfect
nation until we are honest about the politics of rejection.>>Unidentified Speaker: I
want to tell you about some of the leaders who are building
the Poor People’s Campaign. Callie Greer from
Selma, Alabama, who had to bury her
daughter Venus because she didn’t
have health care.>>Callie Greer: I’m here today to share my daughter
Venus’s story. Venus discovered a small
lump in her breast. She wasn’t insured. Venus had to be approved
for every prescription and every piece of medical
equipment that she needed. I’m standing here
today in solidarity with the Poor People’s Campaign
because no one should have to bury their child in America because they don’t have
health care insurance.>>Unidentified Speaker:
I’m 46 years old. I’ve lived in poverty here
in West Virginia every day of my life and I’m working. I am a working poor with
a bachelor’s degree. I’m doing the best I
can with what I have.>>Unidentified Speaker: I’m a second-generation
fast-food worker and I’ve experienced the
cycle of poverty firsthand. Growing up, I watched my
mother endure long hours of back-breaking labor
doing everything she could to feed me and my sisters. My employer barely pays
me enough to pay rent and utilities, let alone the
medical expenses with my mother.>>Unidentified Speaker: I worked 41 years
in the coal mines. I have black lung and it’s just
unfathomable what these poor coal miners have to
go through in order to get what they have
worked for and deserve.>>Unidentified Speaker:
I’m a Vietnam veteran. My only chance of going to
college was joining the army.>>Unidentified Speaker:
It was one thing to know that you didn’t have water and
you couldn’t afford your water. It’s a whole ‘nother to find out that they shut off
your entire community and none of you matter.>>Unidentified Speaker:
Being poor is not a sin. Poverty is a sin. Being homeless is not a sin. Homelessness is a sin.>>Unidentified Speaker:
That’s right.>>Unidentified Speaker: This
is the largest encampment in Aberdeen. There’s about 1,000 people in a
town of 16,000 who are homeless.>>Unidentified Speaker: In
my community, we were all shut out for the day because none of
us could afford our water bills. In the past, my family
wasn’t able to afford electricity
in the winter. It was very hard on all of us.>>Unidentified Speaker: When there are 38
million poor children, when 60% of African
Americans are poor, when 65% of Latinx are poor,
when 40% of Asians are poor, when there are 67
million poor white people, we must say this is not right.>>Unidentified Speaker:
Our brothers and sisters are sleeping
on the street. For a country that’s rich
to have so many people poor, it’s immoral and it’s wrong.>>Unidentified Speaker: Our
backs are against the wall and we’ve got no
choice but to push. [ Applause and Cheering ]>>Unidentified Speaker:
Followed that breaking news in Albany where a large group of protesters have
moved into the street.>>Unidentified Speaker:
Washington Avenue between City Hall and
March Street flows down.>>Unidentified Speaker: Protesters with the Poor
People’s Campaign of Indiana.>>Unidentified Speaker: Two
o’clock on the east coast, two o’clock in the middle, two
o’clock on the w est coast. A wave of the historians tell
us it’s never happened before.>>Unidentified Speaker: Our
communities, Muslim communities who have joined the
Poor People’s Campaigns, you can count on us.>>Unidentified Speaker:
Our democracy is in trouble.>>Unidentified Speaker:
Our democracy is in trouble.>>Unidentified Speaker:
And we come to demand.>>Unidentified Speaker:
And we come to demand.>>Unidentified Speaker:
Second warning. [ Music ]>>Unidentified Speaker:
We are demanding that we stop the
war on our poor.>>Unidentified Speaker:
This wall is wrong. It is sinful. 40 billion dollars going into
this wall, not into health care.>>Unidentified Speaker:
What we’re trying to preserve and what we’re trying to
do is to protect the water, it’s to protect the lands,
protect the environment. I’m trying to get my
generation involved.>>Unidentified Speaker: We
are in a fight for our lives. Our march, protests. I will plant my seeds
in good ground.>>Unidentified Speaker:
Good ground.>>Unidentified Speaker:
I will vote.>>Unidentified Speaker: Yeah.>>Unidentified Speaker: Yeah,
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.>>Unidentified Speaker: It’s
not about the democratic party or the republican party. It’s about the very soul
and heart of this nation. [ Applause and Cheering ]>>John Fenn: Good morning and
welcome to Before and After ’68, the Poor People’s
Campaign Then and Now. my name is John Fenn and
I am the head of research and programs for the
American Folklife Center here at the Library of Congress. On behalf of the entire
staff, as well as staff at the Smithsonian Center for
Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the DC Public Library who
have assisted in planning this. I invite you to enjoy and
engage the dynamic set of panel discussions today. As with the rest
of our programming at the American Folklife Center, these sessions are
being captured on video by the library’s multimedia
team for two purposes. To enrich our permanent
collections and to serve patrons
of far as webcasts. Once they are posted, the
videos will be accessible to audiences beyond
the walls of this room. As such, I ask you to
please turn off or put on airplane mode your cellular
device because they do interfere with the wireless microphones. Through these panels, we
will be exploring the concept of documenting the now,
with now oscillating between two poles,
1968 and 2018. Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. and a cohort of collaborators launched
an ambitious effort to bring attention to the
plate of under-resourced and underrepresented
communities across the country, the Poor People’s Campaign. Social justice and
advocacy intertwined with cultural programming
and documentation during that campaign, especially
here on the mall in DC, resulting in rich collections
held in the Library of Congress as well as its sister
institutions, such as the Smithsonian
Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage,
and the DC Public Library Special Collections. What do these collections
let us understand? What can we do with these
materials and what does it mean to steward them at
public institutions? What do the materials tell us
about the then and the now? In 1968, the PPC was
part of a worldwide surge in social justice movements
demanding human rights and focused on disrupting
the normalization of poverty, racism or other systems
of exclusion that have shaped the middle
of the 20th century on. Roughly a generation-and-a-half
later, today, we find ourselves in parallel environment wherein
communities are coming together to raise visibility, resist
exclusion, and demand change. Again, we see the
intersection of social justice and cultural activity,
of art in action. And the roles the cultural
documentation holds in an era of social media and what
scholar Richard Coyne refers to as the ubiquity
of digital devices. As with the historical
collections, we might ponder what the
contemporaneous collections of documentation
enable us to understand, illustrate, and narrate. In other words, what
can we do as curators, reference specialists,
academics, activists or citizen scholars, with the
rich documentation being created in the moment? We designed this symposium as an
opportunity for a cross-section of those involved in
cultural movements and the resultant collections,
to engage in conversations with each other and with us. There will be two panels with
a short break between them, and each participant on the
panels will give remarks related to their own experience
or engagement with 1968 and/or 2018,
before the panel moves into conversation mode. I’ll briefly introduce
the first panel of guests. More robust bios are on
the handouts in front of you and/or the
website for this program. And I guess as — after I
introduce you all, you can come up and take your
labeled positions. Gordon Mantler is Associate
Professor of Writing and of History and Director
of Writing in the Disciplines at George Washington University. He specializes in the
history and rhetoric of 20th century social
justice movements as well as oral history and
the history of film. Dr. Lenneal J. Henderson
is Assistant Dean for Civic Engagement in
International Affairs, Distinguished Professor
of Public and International
Affairs, and Senior Fellow with the William Donald Schaefer
Center for Public Policy at the University of Baltimore. Marc Steiner is host of the Marc
Steiner, show currently airing on the Real News Network. He has spent his life working
on issues of social justice, beginning as a civil
rights organizer at age 14, and being becoming a Maryland
freedom writer at age 16. Maggie Gilmore is a librarian
for DC Public Library and a 2018 MICA fellow. This partnership
between DC Public Library and Baltimore’s Maryland
Institute of College of Art teaches library staff
about curatorial practice and connecting with communities through intentional
arts programming. And finally Nick Petr is the
community organizer and curator with an MFA in Curatorial
Practice. He is currently the DC Public
Library Foundation curatorial fellow and coordinates the
partnership between DCPL and the Maryland
Institute College of Art. So please join me in welcoming
our panelists to the stage and be ready to ask
questions and engage. Thank you very much.>>Unidentified Speaker: Should
we sit — should we — no? Okay. We’re good? Okay.>>Unidentified Speaker: You
going to throw something at us?>>Gordon Mantler: Okay. I guess I’m supposed to start
here, so good morning everyone. Thank you for being here. Thank you, Guha, for organizing
this important symposium to think about the campaign
50 years ago and, of course, the impact — initial impact,
I guess, in the late ’60s and early ’70s and then of course what we’re
doing 50 years ago, or 50 years later here in 2018 with the new Poor
People’s Campaign and other actions, right? So I think that’s
important to think about. All the activism
that has occurred over the last few years,
whether it’s Black Lives Matter, Occupy or Standing Iraq
or other places like, that the Women’s March. So Guha asked me to do some
framing, I guess, initially, of just some larger
questions and I — some threads that both
my book addresses as well as just thinking about
social justice organizing and coalition building
more generally. He also asked us
to think of what — to address why we care
about this, right? Why do we care about
this 50 years later, especially as a scholar
who wasn’t born when the Poor People’s
Campaign was going on initially.>>Unidentified Speaker:
Don’t rub it in.>>Gordon Mantler: So sorry. Just — I missed it by
a few years, all right? I was basically training as a traditional civil rights
historian at Duke University. I wrote a master’s thesis on
school desegregation in Florida, and I — that’s kind of
where I thought I would go. I would tell stories about
African American activism and the coalition with whites around making a more
just society. But what was interesting to
me and what intrigued me by — soon after I moved to
Durham, North Carolina, was the great unease
that several generations of African American
activists in this — in that city, which had a
rich tradition of activism, both working-class through labor
organizing as well as a more of a late middle-class activism,
in Durham, that unease they had with the changing political
dynamics in this city because of an influx of Latinos. And this is something that — of course, a phenomenon that
happened in the ’80s and ’90s in the south in particular. And so I started thinking,
well, what are the intersections between Latino activism and African American
activism in the ’60s? This is not something
we’re usually told. They’re stories that are siloed
in many ways, narratives that — we talk about the Chicano
Movement or the war — the anti-war movement
or the women’s movement or civil rights, but what
are the intersections between all of these things? And so that’s how I got to the
book that I ended up writing that focuses not just on
the Poor People’s Campaign, although that’s the core of it, black brown coalition
building more generally. And the — yeah. The opportunities
there, the potential, but also the obstacles to
that kind of organizing, Caesar Chavez and Martin
Luther King Jr. often talked about in the same breath,
but they never met. They interacted a couple times
through telegram and support of each other but they were
supposed to meet in March of 1968, which was cancelled
because of the fast — the famous fast, of course,
that Caesar Chavez had and he was recovering in March,
as well as a cancellation by Dr. King, who ended up going to Memphis instead
in mid-march in ’68. So that’s how I came
to the campaign first, and because the campaign was
not just black and white, it was Mexican American
and Puerto Rican and Native American,
even Asian American. And so — and that was not how
the story had often been told. It really was a story
that had been told really as a black civil rights
campaign and something that didn’t really work
partially because — mostly because Dr. King
had been assassinated. So there are several
arguments I make in the book. I’ll just go through them very
quickly as part of the framing. One was that the campaign
is worth exploring. This is something that’s worth
rehabilitating to talk about. It may not have been
some grand success. Those who do write about it
and talk about it in terms of failure, and I’ll
get to that in a moment, because it didn’t
achieve its main goal, which is a rededication
to the war on poverty by the federal government,
which was declared in ’64 but never really fought, never really funded the
way it was supposed to be. Most of those resources,
of course, so many resources were devoted
instead to the Vietnam War, which was, of course, part
of, you know, linking poverty and war, that you can’t
fight the war on poverty if you’re fighting
this war overseas. And some of those
goals that were part of that rededication the war
on poverty that were called for was a large-scale
jobs program, investing income maintenance
for those who didn’t have jobs but were working perhaps for
something other than wages, and other kinds of
solutions to poverty. There were a few policy
wins, small policy wins that I’ll address briefly. Another argument that I make,
and it’s important to recall, is that economic
justice is always central to the civil rights movement
and to the freedom struggle. It wasn’t just about
voting rights, as important as that was. It wasn’t just about desegregating
public accommodations like lunch counters. As Ella Baker says, and
I’ll paraphrase her. You can’t — you
know, what’s the point of desegregating a lunch
counter to be able to sit there if you can’t afford the
coke or the hamburger that you can get there. It was really about
expanding educational and economic opportunity
and being able to, you know, the chance to make a living
and take care of your family and be respected in
the work that you do. That’s why King goes to
Memphis in the first place. The sanitation strike that’s — that, you know, started
in early February of ’68 epitomized the Poor
People’s Campaign and everything that he was trying
to do with it. His aide said, don’t go,
don’t go, it’s a distraction, and he insisted on
going because it was — how could he turn his back
on that and on these men? So as I said, the — one of
the primary sort of goals of the campaign was
jobs or income. That was the slogan,
the federal jobs program or income maintenance,
but, you know, Chicano activists there had
other solutions to poverty that were around land, control
of land culture and respect for their culture
and integration of that culture in
school curriculum. The Native Americans were
interested in the land as well and having autonomy
from then that — from the federal
government, but also having — being respected and having their
fishing rights, for instance, respected, which is interesting. The Supreme Court just had
a ruling earlier this week about fishing rights again. This is — continues to
be an issue about whether or not Natives can do what
treaties that they agreed to in the middle of the 19th
century are they allowed to do that or state authorities
and federal authorities going to violate those treaties? Native — as Appalachian whites
also emphasized land often around environmental
degradation. Before we think about an
environmental movement being as robust as it is
today, that was something that they were talking about. So it wasn’t just jobs
or income, but you ended up having a wide range of
demands and solutions to poverty that people brought
to Washington. Another argument is just
about the nature of coalition and its relation to identity. We often use the term
identity politics and it’s used in the public sort of
lexicon in the negative way. And I would argue that, no,
I mean you pretty much have to identify with a group or be
part of a group to be able to go into coalition in
the first place. So perhaps this is mutually and
these are not opposing ideas of identity and coalition, but they actually
support each other. And so, for example, the
Chicano activists who come from Los Angeles and Albuquerque
and Denver in 1968 come to Washington and they
meet other Chicanos but they also interact
with Native Americans, African Americans and whites
from the west and elsewhere. And what they realize is that
it helps them sort of grow in sophistication and the
analysis that they bring to their own lives, whether
it’s — it’s not just about race and ethnicity but also
class and gender and region and generation and age. And so many of those
folks go back and it ends up that the effort — the
opportunity to go and coalesce and work with other
people, okay, ended up strengthening
their own movement. All the Chicano activists
that I did oral histories with for my book,
they all pointed to the Poor People’s
Campaign and said that was an important
instrumental moment for them to work with — you know, to — when they went home and
continued organizing at home. The last argument I would
say is just to suggest that social movements
— we need to think about social justice movements
in a slightly different way. The success and failure is
not a great way to think about them in the first place. That if we’re checking, and
I read the Post every day. I live here and they always
have these winners and losers. You know, articles
about who won, who lost in a particular
political moment. And I read it and I — but I always think that’s just
not a productive way to think about life probably, but
certainly social movements, because just because the policy
goal hasn’t been achieved doesn’t mean something
hasn’t been achieved in the process, right? So for many folks who
went to Washington in ’68, they may not have been able —
Chicanos didn’t get the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which
ended the Mexican War, reopened and renegotiated. That didn’t happen. What did happen is
that they had — they built relationships
with people that they didn’t otherwise
know, they found common cause and commonalities with
white Appalachian activists and disabled coal miners
who were interested in some of the same issues that they did
and Native Americans, as well, from other parts of the west. So they built relationships
with each other that they wouldn’t
otherwise have. There were some small policy
wins mostly around hunger. Greater food distribution
of surplus commodities in the hundred poorest
counties in the country. Food stamps became cheaper. Income maintenance or a guaranteed annual
income becomes more of an issue that’s on the table. Even the Nixon administration
in ’69 and ’70 seriously considers
whether or not that is an option and that’s a way to
address the loss of jobs because of automation. And so there are some
things that are — that do occur on the policy
side, but I would argue that it’s not just about policy
and wins and losses but there’s about some other
things going on. I will also say that that
many people that went to Washington were
inspired by what — by their experience and then
came home and ran for office. Ray Estiorina [assumed spelling]
runs for governor New Mexico. Many other people,
Peggy Terry in Chicago, Flo Er [assumed spelling]
in Seattle go home and run for office, become —
you know, say, well, maybe electoral politics
has to be part of this. It shouldn’t be all
of it and I make — that’s my argument
in my second book is that electoral politics it’s
not a silver bullet either, but that maybe both things
are actually part of the mix. So I’ll end with just a few sort
of broader questions, I guess, and things to think about. And the biggest one
to me, again, is why should we care, right? I mean, I’m a historian. I write about things that
I think are important to not just understand in the
past but understand today. That’s why historians
do what we do. That’s why we do what we do. So, you know, why should
we care about this moment? What are the lessons that we can
learn from ’68 and ’69 and ’70 and onward for organizing today? We are not — this is not 1968. We don’t have the same kind of
administration, the same kind of Congress, even the same
kinds of ways of communicating with each other, right? Social media is both a
blessing and a curse. And so what’s — what
can we make of — what sense can we make of that? Another important one, and
one I wish I dealt with more in my book, and I think a lot
of the folks on the panel here and the next panel will
talk about a lot more, is this role of culture. I dabble with culture and
talk about it a little bit, but I think a more robust
discussion of, is it a barrier? A bridge? Both? What role does culture play
in bringing people together and how do we translate
that into politics? Culture is politics but into
the policy-making sort of realm. And, lastly, what do we
make of the relationship between coalition and identity? You know, is it — is identity
politics like a negative thing? I don’t think it is. I think it’s actually very
healthy because I think it leads to other — eventually it
leads to coalition inherently. So thank you so much. [ Applause ]>>Lenneal Henderson:
Thank you, Gordon. Lenneal Henderson, and I think
I had a PowerPoint somewhere, but didn’t come up. Okay. All right. So I’ll wing it. Okay. Thank you. Thank you very much. I think the inspiration
for our participation in the Poor People’s
Campaign came from Martin Luther King himself
who came to the University of California at
Berkeley where I was in school as an undergraduate. And he came specifically to recruit some people
for this campaign. And we were impressed by the
fact that he was so short. We expected a James
Earl Jones sized guy and that he was a brilliant
theologian and tactician, but he also was a
brilliant pool player and he beat us to
death and pool. And he used that to recruit
young men from — to his church. He said, “If I beat you at
pool, you got to come to church and we’re going to put a suit
on you and put you up front.” So he was the — a stimulus,
and this is October of 1967. And several months earlier, he
had given his famous address at the Riverside
Church opposing the war, an address that was actually
written by Vincent Harding. But he too — just to underscore
what Gordon mentioned, mentioned his connection between
our protests against the war, specifically the Vietnam War,
and conscription and poverty. He also pointed out that
the poverty program, which had been enacted
in 1964, under the mantle of Economic Opportunity
Act, actually was opposed by most mayors, white mayors in
particular, around the country, and they got it amended in 1967 so that it actually weakened the
maximum feasible participation provision which required
one-third of the poor to be on the boards of these
community action agencies. And it was underfunded, of
course, and so he wanted to bring to America’s
attention the fact that they had a choice
going into 1968 and a presidential election
to choose a different path for America than they
had been choosing before. He also was concerned
about the lack of focus and the black power
movement on poverty. It was on power but not
necessarily on poverty and that was kind of ironic
because part of his reason for coming to Berkeley was
to recruit young people who he felt had to replenish
the aging generation, the previous generation in
the civil rights movement and the Poor People’s Campaign. And so part of his purpose was
to bring some young souls there, and through the auspices
of a professor on the Berkeley campus,
we got some money from the university
itself to send 34 of us to the Poor People’s Campaign. We went by Greyhound bus. We decided that we
would go two months or three months before the
campaign actually started to see how these
things come together. So we actually started traveling
in March of ’68 and I diverted to New Orleans to see my
relatives where I was born. And, of course, on April 4th, Martin Luther King
was assassinated. So my next act was to
get on the Greyhound bus and to proceed to
Washington, DC. And when I got there, you could
see the flames and the smoke from all of the activity
and the rioting that was taking place
in the city. We should also remember and
then this year, in 1968, as Gordon has pointed out, we had two Civil Rights acts
enacted, one immediately after King’s assassination, and
that was the Fair Housing Act, and the other was the
Indian Civil Rights Act, which covered the rights
of indigenous people when they were not
on reservations. And those were —
those two were enacted. We also had a major Supreme
Court decision in the case of Green versus the New
Kent County, Virginia Board of Education, which rejected
the Freedom of Choice plan of the Board of Education. We just had a seminar on that
recently, and I mention it because King always made
the connection in policies and strategies between poverty,
housing, education, health care. He said, you couldn’t
just look at the one lens. You have to look at the — how these multiple
lenses produce poverty. And he also emphasized that the
federal government was complicit in a lot of the racial
segregation and poverty that we were witnessing because
all of the housing laws up to that point, especially
public housing laws, had allowed local communities through their housing
authorities to enforce racial
segregation in housing. And then when we developed the
FHA program, it was mostly, you know, blue-collar and middle-class white people
fleeing to the perimeter of the city or the suburbs, and very few black people
actually participated in the FHA program
in its early stages, which reinforced this city
suburban racial segregation. The other thing about 1968
that I want to emphasize that my colleague Marya
will probably deal with in her presentation
is the role of Washington, DC itself in the Poor
People’s Campaign. This is five years
before home rule and so — and yet the faith
community in Washington, DC, the educational community
in Washington, DC, Howard University and a number of other key black
institutions are very active in supporting the Poor
People’s Campaign. They have students going there, as my brother Marc
will talk about. There was actually a University
Center there which was to coordinate the activities
of HBCUs who said, you know, hundreds of students to
the Poor People’s Campaign. And majority institutions
like the one I attended. They weren’t just
there to be interns. They actually did work and they
had to have badges and they had to have identification. So this was important as a part
of our socialization experience, as important as any course
we took at the university. And combined with my
mother and father’s activism in San Francisco against
segregation and against poverty, it was part of our
inspiration to get to people who were younger than we were
to get involved in the issues of eradication of
poverty, etcetera. King was very astute. He said, “Look, some of the
worst segregation I’ve seen, some of the worst poverty
I’ve seen is down the street or around the corner from
major university campuses in university towns
like Berkeley.” And he was absolutely right. Two blocks from the campus
was McKinley High School where they dumped all of
the undesirable, you know, students at the high
school level and they were mostly black. And so — [ Inaudible Comment ] No. I went there — I went
there to teach actually. I went there to teach.>>Unidentified Speaker:
Just teasing.>>Lenneal Henderson:
When we came back from the Poor People’s
Campaign, we decided that one of our legacies would be to work on something called the McKinley
Project, which is to work with those students
at that school. And so there are many,
many multiple legacies, as Gordon has pointed out here, and one of them is not only
policy, but all the movements that were spawned by the
Poor People’s Campaign. I remember a very young
Marian Wright Edelman, just out of Yale Law
School, just passed the bar, Lawyers Committee on Civil
Rights, right over there on Jefferson Place, and
she was getting involved in the Poor People’s Campaign,
supporting their work. And, of course, now she
is the iconic leader of the Children’s Defense Fund. And I can name about 15 or
20 different organizations that grow — grew directly
out of the involvement of those individuals in
the Poor People’s Campaign. So the links between 1968
and now are tangible, they’re strong, and
they’re continuing, and I’m really delighted to
see under the new leadership of our two reverends here,
the new Poor People’s Campaign and I urge all of
us the support this. [ Applause ]>>Marc Steiner: I’m Marc
Steiner it’s a pleasure to be here, and I’ll
make this brief as well. And I was asked to talk about
how I got involved and what that moment was like so
maybe hit those two things. So in 1968, I had
already been involved in civil rights movement
for nine years, in the movement for nine years. I walked my first picket
line when I was 13. At 15, I was arrested and beaten
really badly by the police in Cambridge, Maryland
when I was working with Gloria Richardson
in [inaudible]. And so I joined the anti-war
movement, was a big part of that, was part of the
underground that movement, making false identities
for people to get them out of the country to Canada
and Sweden who were GIs or people dodging the
draft — not dodging. Refusing to serve in Vietnam. I was drafted in ’67 so there
was this sort of that — at any rate, that was my
background immediately, and so I was in the movement. In ’68, January ’68 I was
in Cuba, and when I got back from Cuba, I was
with the students from Democratic Society. I got back from Cuba. I kind of broke with a lot of
my brothers and sisters at SDS at that point because
they wanted to overthrow the government,
which we all wanted to do back then, and
blow up buildings. I said, no, we need to
organize among the poor. Then we can blow up buildings
and overthrow the government. And so because we, at
that moment, in 1968, if you were in the middle
of things, we had a sense that a revolution was going on, and we actually thought
revolution was going to happen. Here, when you saw
what’s happening in West Africa was happening
in — all through Latin America and Cuba, the Vietnamese
resistance, the Americans, all that combined,
people really thought that we were in this moment. And so that was very
real for people. So but I left because I also
had relations with the folks who became the young
Patriots in Chicago. And the young Patriots were
an Appalachian white group of people, Peggy
Terry, Doug Youngblood and others, in Chicago. They came mostly from
Appalachian, northern Alabama, northern Georgia, the southern
parts the Appalachian Mountains, and lived in Chicago and
in the uptown neighborhood. And they were the — what
they organized was tantamount to the white version of
the Black Panther Party, which was the Young
Patriot Party. And so when I came back from
Cuba, and I already been hanging out with these guys a lot,
and I loved Peggy Terry and she was like a mother to me. And so and Doug — and her son,
Doug, who had been in the Klan, as was Peggy’s father,
and he had done six years in Alabama state
prison for manslaughter and was what we called
back in the day one of the great hillbilly poets
and was until he passed away. And we said about working with
the Poor People’s Campaign to organize poor
white communities to join the Poor
People’s Campaign. And so we lived in the city. I lived in Washington
at that time. I had an apartment on
P Street, as I said, somebody earlier,
was $90 a month. It became one of the rest
centers for the people in the movement with the
Poor People’s Campaign. But so we organized all through
Chicago, Ohio, Appalachia, getting people to
come in to be part of the Poor People’s Campaign. And think about this. Given what we’re doing
with monuments now, which I don’t disagree with, Confederate monuments I’m
talking about, that the patch that the young patriots wore
was a Dixie flag with a fist on the dungaree jackets
and leather jackets. We flew the Dixie flag
in resurrection city in our encampment, and it
was very complex but we did. And so that movement continued
after we left in ’68 and kept on organizing in Chicago and
kept on organizing around. And one of the things
I think is — well, I’ll get to this
— that in a minute. But so the place itself, let
me give it a little piece of history I think is important
that I didn’t learn until later because when King died, we
were all deeply affected. Though I was part of the
movement with Gloria Richardson in Cambridge and later in other
places that didn’t want King to come, we said, “We got this. We don’t need you here.” There was a real
split in many ways. And it wasn’t until after he
was assassinated and I began to realize his speech at
Riverside that took place that I had read and knew
about and all the other things that were going on
connected anti-war movement, King began to change
and evolve as well. And so when King’s
assassination — well, maybe I’ll
step back first. So you mentioned Marian
Wright, then Marian Wright, now Marian Wright Edelman. So when Peter Edelman and Bobby
Kennedy went to Mississippi and all through the
poor areas of America, they met Marian Wright. And Marian Wright and Peter —
that’s where they fell in love and then they — and they went to visit Bobby Kennedy
one day in Washington, DC. And he was swimming in a
swimming pool apparently after they had breakfast,
and he stopped and said, “What we need is a poor
people is moving in America to take over Washington.” And Marion Wright said,
“That’s a brilliant idea.” The next day, she was
supposed to have a meeting with Martin Luther King. She did and she said, “King, this is what Bobby
Kennedy said.” And King went, “That’s
what we’re going to do. That’s where it started.” Most people don’t realize that. And I’ve been thinking a lot
about what it would have meant if Bobby Kennedy was
not assassinated. Even though he was not my
favorite person at the time, I’ve come to respect him
since to understand his — also how he evolved and
who he became before he was assassinated and taken from us. And King and Bobby Kennedy
started becoming close before King was assassinated. Just imagine if Kennedy
was elected president of the United States and his
closest confidant was Martin Luther King. So, for me, that’s a lesson about what we should be
thinking about today. Not what could have been, but
what we can build now, right? So going — so going
back to the camp. So I lived in Resurrection City and Resurrection
City was a mess. It was disorganized and chaotic. There’s no question about it. And I didn’t think about this
until I interviewed Maria Varela for the African American Museum in for the poor people’s
exhibit here. And Maria was a Latina
woman, a Chicano who — from Chicago, who was in the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee in the south for like six years. She lived in the
midst of that — the war in the south
because it was a war. And she said to me that
when you think about it, the men around King
were suffering from post-traumatic stress. We all were in the
civil rights movement. Anybody who walked within the
civil rights movement suffered from that because, you know, you
didn’t know if you were going to live or die every day and you
were beaten severely by police. It was not a joke. And so they saw the man
who was their leader gunned down in front of them,
beaten to death on a balcony, and then they took
up the mantle to try to create Resurrection City
and the Poor People’s Campaign. King’s idea for that campaign
was there should be massive civil disobedience all
through Washington. Take over the city
and shut it down, which is what —
that was his idea. So it was a very chaotic time. So the camp itself was a mess. I mean, to live in and the
mud and everything else. But it’s like Jean T. O’Hara
[assumed spelling] said — I love the type something
[inaudible] for a book, which is — it was — let
me get this right because. It was terrible and beautiful,
the civil rights movement, because it was terrible
and beautiful, as a movement always is. And so like when the —
when the Latinos arrived from the West Coast, there
was no place for them in Resurrection City, so they
moved to Hawthorne School, which is where they lived. Now, Latinos and some black
folks, some white folks, and some Native folks live there
and the Native contingents came, they ended up in
Episcopal housing and did not really live — most of them did not live
in Resurrection City, which is mostly blacks
and whites. And some — and Puerto Ricans. It was — so it was a very –>>Gordon Mantler:
Some Native Americans.>>Marc Steiner: Some Native
Americans but most of them were in the Episcopal house. And so I’m just saying
this so there was — there was real separate
things were going on and it wasn’t coordinated
well at all. As a matter of fact, there was
a time when we actually stormed into the hotel where Abernathy and those folks were
staying — you were there. So we stormed into the hotel.>>Lenneal Henderson:
Good steak.>>Marc Steiner: Right, exactly. So we’re eating —
you know, in the — we’re in the mud
eating beans and they’re up there eating stake and
so we surrounded Abernathy and those guys saying,
what the hell are you — what is this, man? You’re eating steak
in here in the mud? You need to get the hell out of
here and come back in the mud.>>Lenneal Henderson:
That’s right.>>Marc Steiner: So we were
pissed and so there was — there were all kinds of
divides taking place. So having shared that, though,
there was a beauty in the spot. The beauty had to do with
the people themselves, the interaction between the
organizers and poor people, the interactions and the music. I mean, whether your
soundtrack was soul music, whether your soundtrack
was country music, whether your soundtrack
was rock, whatever your soundtrack was,
there was a power and beauty to what that was and we
played it and we danced and we ate together and we hung
out together and there was — and there was a real
communion going on. There’s power and beauty
in what was going on. And when people left
Resurrection City, almost everybody, as
Gordon was alluding to, ended up going back
home to organize. So even if they didn’t have —
even if the goals were not met, half-a-million new houses to be
built until poverty was ended, 35 million dollars to be
invested in ending poverty in America every year until it
was ended, guaranteed income or a job will guarantee
the income. Those are some the demands
that came out of King, that came out of
Resurrection City and the Poor People’s Campaign. Even though they were
met, people went home and they organized
and began to organize in their communities
building a movement. And people came back and became
Panthers and they came back and they became organizers
in Chicago and San Francisco, in Mississippi, everywhere. So there was a power
in that, as well, and I think there are lessons. Now, I’ll quote thirty
seconds here, that there’s lesson
for us now in 2018. What the new Poor People’s
Campaign is doing is really important. The difference between today and then is what made the
Poor People’s Campaign work, what made Resurrection City
happened, was because it came out of people who are actually
organizing in communities. So we were organizing in poor
white communities, we were — people were organizing on
the res, people organizing in the barrio, people were
organizing in the ghetto, as we call our places back then. And that’s what it came
— and that’s how that — and that has to happen now
if there’s real change, because when we see these
numbers that came up earlier in this film about how many
poor people in America, close to double that number. We use numbers to define
poverty that we created, that were created in the 1960s
to define what poverty means. Poverty means something
much different now. There are more people
in poverty now than those numbers that we saw. America is on the edge. People are on the edge. It’s going to take organizing
to pull people together to make that change and that’s — we can learn that from
our experiences back then. That’s what young
people are doing. So thank you.>>Nick Petr: This — okay. So I’m going to try and give
a broad but brief overview of what — how we’ve
approached this history at the public library
this past year. I want to start by just
saying that I’m a co-founder of Oak Hill Center for Education
and Culture in Baltimore. We’re located in East Baltimore. it’s a cultural center and
social movement school and most of what we — our work is
focused on is the role of arts and culture and political
education in movement organizing. So we’ve been — myself and my collaborators there have
been involved in conversations around relaunching the
Poor People’s Campaign for a number of years. So coming to the DC Public
Library this past year and being presented
with the question of how the library could
celebrate the 50th anniversary of 1968 was kind of a
unique opportunity, right? So one of the first
questions that kind of popped up in my mind was, what are
the public library’s values and how can it contribute to
a national dialogue and debate around what our values
are as a nation, right? So the People’s University
Project is — it came out of a conversations
with the library foundation and we set out to accomplish
a few things initially. The Martin Luther King
Jr. Library is closed for renovations until 2020,
so we wanted to uplift and increase visibility of
programming and services of smaller [inaudible] branches,
utilize library collections and complementary collections
of partner institutions to connect this history to
the context of today, right? Emphasize the library’s
commitment to the legacy of Dr. King and his work
and put the library forward as not solely a repository for
information but a potential site for cultural production as well. So the focus on the Poor
People’s Campaign became kind of an obvious direction to go, but then the big question was
how do we — how do we do that? I mean, this history is so big of just listening
to the stories here. I mean, there’s so much to it. So we looked a lot at this this
idea of cultural production and thought, well, how about
we focus on cultural aspects of the campaign and
Resurrection City? The three that we
identified to work with were Poor People’s
University, which was a political
education university project that Resurrection City adopted,
the Many Races Soul Center, which I’m going to
explain more here shortly, and the Hunger Wall Mural. And the Hunger Wall Mural was a
large mural in Resurrection City where it kind of became like
a visual kind of soapbox where people could
share their experiences of poverty and oppression. And it was a — sort of a cultural activity
to build solidarity. So as we thought about how
these three things might be represented, it became
really apparent quickly that the library itself is
really a people’s university of its own. So we’ve really made — we made that the overarching
theme for the year. I want to mention actually
that the more we — I think about this, I think
it’s important to mention. Public libraries are a
really interesting space. Their relationship to
poverty is very unique, so as we see other
public institutions kind of collapsing before us, public
school systems, for example, the library often
picks up the slack. And working with
public librarians around these themes has really
revealed that they do a lot more than just how people
check out books. I mean, these are essentially
social workers, right? So the second cultural aspect of Resurrection City
was the Soul Tent, the Many Races Soul
Center or Soul Tent. We had a sweet scale — had a fabricated version
of a scaled-down replica of a Resurrection
City tent outfitted with audio and video components. Maggie’s going to talk more
about this in a second. But it’s currently touring
library branches and sort of acting as a representation, a way of celebrating the
Many Races Soul Center. So before I start this, the hunger wall we approached
a little differently. Rather than a mural, we were
inspired by a poster project by the Just Seeds
Art Collective. And they had created
a portfolio of posters for the new Poor
People’s Campaign, so we assembled a group of
artists, a local artist in DC, and using those posters,
items from Special Collections at the DC Public Library,
Library of Congress, and educational materials from
the Poor People’s Campaign, we held a all-day workshop. And we worked with those artists
to kind of like, you know, explore the history and
think about, you know, what could we — how could
we create a DC portfolio of Poor People’s
Campaign posters today? So they created the — a new portfolio and there’s a
little video show on it here and then — well, we’ll
see how this goes. The Hunger Wall Poster
Project commemorates the 50th anniversary of 1968 and the Poor
People’s Campaign, which brought over 50,000 protesters to DC
to demand an end to poverty. The original hunger wall, the
inspiration for this project, was a mural on a plywood wall in the encampment known
as Resurrection City. We wanted to challenge artists to reimagine this
artwork for 2018. The artists saw the
importance of speaking to the local perspective of what
Dr. King called The Triplets of Evil — poverty, war
and militarism, and racism. They made posters on
these topics and the topic of ecological destruction,
which is a focus of the campaign today. A second phase of the project
was inviting the community to respond to the issues of the Poor People’s
Campaign at poster workshops.>>Unidentified Speaker: People who visited neighborhood
libraries, who participated in programming were invited
to create posters of their own that address social and
political and cultural issues that affected them directly. And like 50 years before,
they were [inaudible]>>Nick Petr: Sorry.>>Unidentified Speaker: On a wall that collectively
says something about our community today. I think it’s direct
engagement, it is story sharing, it’s getting people from
different generations to look at a moment in history
with new eyes. It gets them to tell
their own stories. I think it’s an excellent
way for us to connect communities
to our collections.>>Nick Petr: So out
of that, actually, eventually a mural didn’t
come out of the project. But what’s important really for,
you know, my two roles is one is as an organizer and the
other others as a curator. And so it’s been great
to have the library space to educate people
about the campaign and to really activate these
collections in creative ways. But what’s really amazing
and rewarding for me is that this image is —
you’ll see, one side, it’s a wheat pasted wall. That’s a library project, right? The other image is an
electrical box that we didn’t — we didn’t put posters on it and that’s the Poor People’s
Campaign using these posters for their own purposes, right? And so that’s — that
idea that the work that we’re creating is
actually then being taken out into the world
and actually used in movement organizing is really
important to me personally, and it’s been great to build,
you know, through the project and educating people
about this history. Some of the artists who have
gotten involved are now working directly with the campaign. And that’s just — it’s
just an incredible outcome. So I’m going to let Maggie
talk more about this.>>Maggie Gilmore: Hi. My name is Maggie
Gilmore so I’m going to bring the librarian
perspective here. And it is an honor to be here. Thank you for inviting
me to be participant. I worked as a music librarian
at the MLK Jr. Memorial Library, which is now closed
for modernization, and I booked shows for
the DC Punk Archive. We did punk shows in the
basement and as well as carrying on traditions of chamber
music and jazz series. So with the closure of MLK,
I have a unique opportunity to participate in this
project and was selected to be a MICA Fellow,
which is a really exciting and unique direction that
the library has taken in allowing library staff who,
you know, we work day to day at a reference desk
and do various tasks, but to give us this opportunity to explore curatorial
practice is incredibly valuable moving forward. And you were talking a little
bit about identity politics and, you know, the public library
space is definitely evaluating our identity. We have a new — we are going
to have a new central library in 2020, so we are looking at
how we display our collections, how they are accessible to the
public and all of the services that we provide, like,
what is the core? What is the root of
what we are doing? So in looking at the
collections that we have at the DC Public Library
and being a music librarian and interested in the
music at Resurrection City, these were two of my favorites. So we have the Poor People’s
Campaign collection of our own at DC Public Library in
our special collections. And let me just take one moment
to introduce Carrie Williams, the director of Special
Collections at DC Public Library. Want to give us a little wave. You’ll see her face
in a video also soon. So we digitized this
collection this year, so it’s now accessible
to the public online. In addition to these two
song books that you see, we also have papers, documents
from the activism and the work that they were doing with
the Poor People’s Campaign. There are newsletters that were
published in Resurrection City with wonderful poetry
and dialogue about what was going
on and who was there. This particular one
on your left is from Edward Haycraft who’s
credited with a Chi-Lites song from the early ’70s
but that’s about it. And so this is a book that
has just wonderful lyrics that he wrote in
Resurrection City presumably. So we actually have duplicated
it and we give out copies. I’ve handed out, I don’t
know, way over 100 of these through the project, so allowing
the public to see, you know, and handle ephemera is a little
bit new for our library system. And how do we actually put these
collections out into the world? And how will people
utilize them? Was an important question
that we have been asking. The core songbook actually is
from like 1963 or ’64, but, you know, it was
utilized for years and still being circulated
at Resurrection City. So that’s interesting. And then through
the MICA Project, we were given the opportunity
to come here to the Library of Congress, connect
with Guha and John Fenn, and we met about what the
Library of Congress is doing at the American Folklife Center
and had a wonderful workshop with them and also learned about
the Bruce Jackson collections. So Bruce Jackson, also in
the audience here today, has donated photographs and
a collection of recordings to the Library of
Congress Folklife Center. And so this was another
unique opportunity for the DC Public Library
and the Library of Congress to begin a partnership and look at how we can support
each other moving forward. So looking at —
these are just images from Bruce Jackson’s tapes,
and he had a collection of dubs from the Ralph Rinzler
recordings that were done at Resurrection City
in the Soul Tent, or the Many Races Soul Center
as it was originally called. So we — in conceptualizing,
okay, so we have these physical
pieces, song books, papers, photographs, and then we
have audio, and what do we do to put these things together
and how do we present this to the public and conceptualized
the structure of the Soul Tent. But first we’re going
to listen a little bit to some of the recordings. I just pieced together a
short clip to give you a sense of the variety of
what’s in the recordings, because not only are
there wonderful songs from like Elizabeth Cotton, who
lived here in Washington, DC, but also just kind
of social banter. And you catch a lot of how
people were interacting with each other from
what they say. Comedy routines, just —
and just wonderful speeches and a diversity of
performers at the Soul Tent. It was kind of like an
open mic session often. There were all kinds of
people just stepping up and making their voice heard, which they probably
didn’t have an opportunity to do all that often.>>Unidentified Speaker:
We already noticed about this program is that what
you’re seeing are living pages of history right here
before your eyes, right here before your ears,
and right here in your nostrils, just like the mud that
switches up around your feet. [ Music ]>>Unidentified Speaker:
Brothers and sisters, we are all gathered here tonight
for the same cause and it’s nice to see each and every
one of you happy tonight. And we are glad to be
here with all of you. I am from South Dakota,
from the Black Hills of South Dakota and
the Badlands. And — [ Applause ]>>Unidentified Speaker:
I’m from Detroit. That’s another Badland.>>Unidentified Speaker: And I went up to the interior
department to speak my piece in behalf of my badlands,
which was taken away from us during the World
War, number two that is. And, no, not number three. So I guess we are all here for
the same cause and we hope. [ Applause ] [ Music ] [ Applause ] And then we have 45
minutes of the thunderstorm.>>Lenneal Henderson:
I remember that one. [ Laughter ]>>Maggie Gilmore: So that
gives you a little bit of sense of the recordings that we have
the privilege to work with and present to the public. And now in the DC
Public Library, you know, we interact with the poor
and the low-income residents of Washington, DC
every single day. And we do provide a gamut
of services in order to support our local
population here. So I think it was
really important for me to bring this history into
the public libraries space and then this is kind of get
a sense of what it looks like. The structure that we built
based on the [inaudible] and Howard University
students designs, is kind of like an
open A frame structure and there is a listening
station, there is photographs on display from Bruce
Jackson as well as the Washington Evening
Star photograph collection that we have at the DC Public
Library, also digitized, 1968 photos this year. And then, you know,
handouts, giveaways, and we’ve wheat pasted
posters, some of the posters that Nick had shown you
earlier as well as like pieces from our collections and
copies from our collection. And we have a collection of
actual books people can check out also, including, I think,
Power to the Poor was one of the first to be checked out. We do have books still. And it’s opportunity to engage with people who have
the stories. So we have collections that
tell a story but the residents of Washington, DC also
have stories and that’s — was another goal of the project
was to bring those people to us and use photographs
to jog the memory and get their stories started. So this has been a
wonderful opportunity. We have all kinds of people
talking to us about their gamut of experiences, the woman who
made sandwiches and brought them to Resurrection City, a
woman who brought blankets to Resurrection City,
again, speaks to the support that Washington, DC gave
to Resurrection City. And there’s a video but we are
not going to play it because –>>Unidentified Speaker:
We’re here at the Anacostia.>>Maggie Gilmore:
We are out of time.>>Marc Steiner: Let’s
watch it [inaudible] [ Laughter ]>>Maggie Gilmore: Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Guha Shankar: So we
have time for questions and we also have some question and answers [inaudible]
panelists if you like. So we have some mics here
and are there anything else that maybe you all would like
to take on board and discuss or something [inaudible].>>Lenneal Henderson: One quick
thing that we don’t really focus on I think Gordon alluded to. There were members of Congress
who were responsive to the folks at the Poor People’s
Campaign, like John Conyers and Adam Clayton Powell,
who was, at that time, the chair of the House,
Education and Labor Committee. And had it not been for
Adam Clayton Powell, Johnson would not have
gotten through most of the Great Society
programming. And I mention it because
one of the legacies at the Poor People’s Campaign
left was those legislative concepts that we should
pick up and run with today, like the full Employment
Opportunity Act, the Randolph budget. There were about five
or six of them that — so and this was three
years prior to the founding of the Congressional
Black Caucus.>>Gordon Mantler: Yeah. That’s right. The Solidarity Day march and
rally, which was on June 19th, in ’68, attracted, oh, conservative estimates
were 50,000. Probably, may have been
well over 75,000 or 100,000 but there were several
presidential candidates that showed up, including Hubert
Humphrey and gene McCarthy, mostly from the Democratic
side of things. But you’re right. I mean, there were certainly
members of Congress that were — that visited Resurrection
City, were very sympathetic, and introduced legislation
in Congress, of course, as one of them. So yeah. There was definitely
— people were paying attention. I mean, it’s something else to
think about perhaps going back to Resurrection City
briefly is that to be able to pitch a tent city
on the mall, you have to get the
Department of Interior’s okay. So they had permits
to do this, right? And so you might ask, well,
why would the Department of Interior actually okay this? But the Johnson administration,
you know, I spent a lot of time in the Johnson Library
in Austin. All of his aides — Johnson
was very much opposed to this, did not want to — did not
want this on his doorstep, but his aides said, you know,
look back at other moments when people have marched on
Washington and pitched tents and lived in Washington
and lobbied for things, like the 1932 Bonus Army, which
were World War I vets looking for their bonuses early. They were — basically, they
were burned out of their tents and sent back over the
bridges by no — someone — the army led by Douglas
MacArthur. And so they’re like, “We don’t
want that to happen again.” So they looked back
at the history — we’re actually reading
the Age of Roosevelt by Arthur Schlesinger. And saying, “We don’t want
the same thing to happen that happened with
the Bonus Army. So we’re going to
let this happen, let folks have their peace,
you know, say their piece, and but we can pull the
permit eventually if we want.”>>Nick Petr: And they did.>>Gordon Mantler:
They did on June 23rd.>>Nick Petr: And then
they arrested everybody.>>Gordon Mantler: Exactly.>>Marc Steiner: Let me just
tag onto what you’re saying. First of all, I want to
say thank you to you all. What you’re getting, I
think, is just incredible. I just — it just
really blew me away. I can’t wait until the
whole thing is amazing. But so part of the reason we
have the permit was Kennedy’s office, is why we got — Bobby Kennedy’s office is why
the permit was granted, A. B, they — I was there
the last day. They did attack. They came in with bulldozers
and police and they came in because someone had said
someone had thrown some things at a police car, other police
cars, which was complete B.S. because there was a point
where a bunch of people in the camp were actually sent
back to Chicago, put on busses, they were members of gangs
who we knew had been paid by the police to [inaudible]
trouble inside the camp and create problems. They were identified
and put back on the bus. So that was real. So there was a lot of
[inaudible] from FBI and the others trying to
destroy what was going on inside the camp that was
already self-destructing in its own ways, but the FBI
came in and added to that, as did the government. And then they came
in the last day — I remember having this
conversation with people, some older people who had — my age now, but they
were older then. Really old people. They — and who had been gone
— who had gone through the ’30s and more and talking
about the Bonus March that had happened before that. And it felt like that. I mean, they came in
lobbed in tear gas, came in with bulldozers,
began tearing things up, arresting people, and I’m — it’s a moment I will
never forget just because there was this young
woman with two little kids, didn’t know where to go, what
to do, tear gas was everywhere. And I remember grabbing
one of her kids and putting a mud-soaked cloth
on her kids face and said, “Put this on your
other kid’s face, put this on your face
and grab my belt. We’re going to get
the hell out of here.” And we got out. And we were able
not to be arrested. And but that was the scene
going on all over the camp for the few people
who were left. So it was the —
they did attack. And so you remember, this
is on the heels of the — what people would want to call a
riot, a rebellion that happened in ’68, when King
was assassinated. I was living in the
middle of DC at that time, and so this was a part of that. I mean, it was a — there was a
continuum in the minds of people in the government
about what happened after King was assassinated,
what took place because of the assassination
and what this movement meant. And remember Bobby Kennedy was
killed while we were in the camp and they brought — and
his — what do you call it? What’s the word I’m looking for? When they stopped with
his Hearst and stuff. They stopped outside the –>>Lenneal Henderson:
The motorcade.>>Marc Steiner: The
motorcade stopped. Thank you.>>Lenneal Henderson:
The funeral procession.>>Marc Steiner: And they
— so when they stopped, that was a moment that I think
that is important for people to remember in history just because I had never experienced
anything like that in my life at that moment when
that happened. And it stopped — everybody who
was in the camp and even some of the folks who were outside of
the camp from Hawthorne School and some other places all
stopped and lined the place. There was dead silence and everybody began singing John
Brown’s Body at that moment. And it was just this powerful
moment that took place. And there were people inside
the government who didn’t want that stuff to happen so
the permit was denied. I mean, the permit was stopped. They wouldn’t let us
stay and they came in. There was symbolic arrests but there was also a little
terror at the end as well. I just want to throw that
out there, that this be — wasn’t all hunky dory with the
U.S. government at that moment.>>Lenneal Henderson: The
great irony of this, of course, was that we had the Democratic
Party convention quote riots that took place later
that summer. And we also had the My Lai
Massacre and the Tet Offensive in the same year, which emphasized the
desperation of the Vietnam War. So all those things
were happening in the same sort
of temporal space. And I think the other piece
of this, I think Gordon and Marc mentioned, the
folks who went back, think of the number of
poverty program directors who ran for elected office. I was thinking of
Parren Mitchell who had run the poverty
program in Baltimore, became our first black
congressman from Baltimore. So this spawned a whole lot of
activity in the electoral realm that is still with us today. By the way, they the new
mayor of San Francisco, who’s an African-American
woman, London Breed. She had been confirmed
as the new mayor.>>Marc Steiner: I think by
some people who’s not one of –>>Lenneal Henderson:
Its by — absolutely.>>Gordon Mantler:
I know we want to open it up for questions. One quick thing. I mean, this conversation
has reminded me of is that if there is anything that
folks agreed upon that came to Washington, was an opposition
to state violence, right. And what that — and state
violence could be both overseas and in Southeast Asia but
also here at home, right. And so that was the moment when,
you know, folks from across — in sort of a pretty wide
ideological spectrum even among those who came who were
part of the campaign. This was the number one
issue that everyone agreed on that needed to stop, right. We needed to end the war and we
need to end police suppression in poor communities, right. Whether it was white,
brown, or black.>>Lenneal Henderson: And we had
the current commission report also that had come
out the previous year.>>Gordon Mantler: Yeah.>>Nick Petr: And just a thought
on the, you know, this narrative of success versus failure of the original campaign
is really interesting. It’s something that, you know,
the day you’re describing, Marc, is like, you know, you look back at what the newspapers
were saying at that time and it says, this is the end. The Resurrection City
falls, the campaign fails. But that’s not really
— when you — it’s not really what
happened, right. And I think the Poor People’s
Campaign today and maybe some of the people here who are
from the campaign might speak to this a little bit, you
know, is evidence of the fact that that work continued
and really changed the way that a lot of people would
approach that kind of organizing for the rest of their lives.>>Marc Steiner:
You can’t — see. I think that one of the things
that people make a mistake, talk about winning and
losing, It — I mean, to me — and I don’t want to get
too philosophic about this, but to me, just existence
and living in a society is, the struggle as part of it. And so you know, in existence
is struggle no matter of what that made — wherever you are. And so, you know,
people say that like, let’s say that reconstruction
people say reconstruction was a failure. Reconstruction wasn’t a failure. It was one of beautiful
moments in American history. They killed reconstruction because they didn’t want
it to happen in 1877. They made sure it didn’t happen. And so the same thing
with what happened in ’68 but we build on those things. That’s not the end. It keeps moving. Who knows what it
means ultimately but it just means
that, you know, as long as we have a nation
where there’s poverty, a nation where the racism is
at the root of our country. That kind of exploitation
is the root of things for many people this country. That struggle’s going
to continue. So it’s, you know, it’s
— I’m 72 years old so — and people your age, your
generation are carrying it on. It’s not done. We just keep walking on
the shoulders of the folks who came before us
and keep pushing. And when we push, we get
pushed back and you got to keep pushing forward,
you know. So it never stops. You can’t let it stop. So I don’t get into
failures and successes.>>Maggie Gilmore: And on
that note, I love the example of the song, Everybody’s
Got a Right to Live because it’s a song
that Jimmy Claire and Reverend Frederick Douglas
Kirkpatrick wrote back in 1968. And they put together —
they have a whole album. You can talk to me at how
you can listen to it online.>>Nick Petr: Cool.>>Maggie Gilmore:
But today they’re — the new Poor People’s Campaign
is using Everybody’s Got a Right to Live but they’ve
added a little element of hip-hop in that song. And teaching people how to
sing it and so it’s just, I love this example of
the old and the new today.>>Gordon Mantler: Yeah.>>Unidentified Speaker: I would
like to hear a little bit more about lessons learned
that are relevant for what’s going on right.>>Lenneal Henderson: Well, I think one obvious lesson
is persistence, tenacity, true press the earth’s
going to rise again. So it’s not over. We have to write
the next chapters. I think that’s what
we’ve learned. We’ve learned — I’m
coming back with something that Gordon mentioned. Policy is one piece of it but it’s really the
grassroots community organizing that makes the change. And once the changes are
made you have to keep adding because there’s always a chance
people dismantle those changes as we’re seeing in
the court decisions. So we’re learning these lessons. And we’re also learning that if
you don’t socialize your young people at the very early age
to get involved in these kinds of activities, they will
be indifferent and inactive when they become adults. And those are some things that
just sort of stood out for me about this experience.>>Marc Steiner: And to
add onto that I would say that a similar system
[inaudible] to my 22-year-old self. But you know, I would just
say it played right out here. Capitalism it, to
me is the problem. But we’re not going overthrow it like we thought we were
going to do when I was 22. But we need to organize
and fight to contain it before it destroys
us and the rest of the planet. And I think that for me, one
of the things that’s missing at this moment and maybe it’s
because I’m not aware of it and maybe things are happening
that I’m not aware of, which is very, very true,
but it’s organizing. By that I mean the hard
work of organizing. One of the things that came
out of our conversations in doing the tapes for the
African-American Museum on the Poor People’s Campaign
interviewing a lot of folks who I know and didn’t know
from back in the 60’s. Was [inaudible] to organize. You know, when you have
people in Mississippi like Fannie Lou Hamer. For those who don’t know, Fannie Lou was an
incredible human being. She was a sharecropper who
became a leader of the — the movement of Mississippi out of the student
[inaudible] committee. And was — and so she organized
the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which demanded
a seat in the 1964 convention. I was there at that point
in Atlantic City with MFDP. And she was this
force of nature. But it wasn’t her, it
was the fact that she and the people she worked with
were organizing cooperatives, organizing resistance
in Mississippi, and organizing things that learn to the Mississippi
Freedom Democratic Party, and led to black political
power in Mississippi. And they had a co-opsy
organized. In the 60’s and early
70’s in Baltimore, we were organizing co-ops
in people’s neighborhoods. Food co-ops, tenants unions,
striking against landlords, people actually actively
building things. That’s what it takes to
build a movement that ties into electoral politics as well. You know, they’re not separate. You have a base to work from. And I think that —
and you’re seeing — there’s an energy
out of here now as I’ve not seen
before in a long time. The Poor People’s
Campaign is taking place. All the young progressive
politicians of America being
elected across America. They’re coming from a base of work they’re doing
in communities. So there is something. We’re just not — we have to
be aware that it’s happening. But I think that, you
know — so it’s — we have lessons from
[inaudible] — people say learn
from our mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. Young people are going
to make mistakes. Now we made mistakes. What does that mean? It just means you
keep on rolling, you just don’t stop, you know. So I mean, so I don’t like
to dwell on mistakes so much, as learning from what you
do and just keep on pushing. As the song says.>>Nick Petr: And
how about leadership. I mean, that’s a lesson I think that the new campaign really
emphasizes this is, you know, we have to develop leaders. What happens when
the leader falls? Who picks up the torch? So it’s, you know, leadership
development has to be at the forefront of
that kind of organizing.>>Marc Steiner: And
when leaders come up they will — they. Who’s they? They can be whatever they — that means particular
historical moment. But the most effective
people often were taken out in the ’60s. I mean, I don’t just mean
— I mean killed, murdered. Fred Hampton. I mean, when we talk about
the young patriots in Chicago, at that moment when Fred Hampton
was assassinated by the police in Chicago, what was being
organized was the young patriots, the young lords, the brown berets,
the black panthers. Organizations — he
was organizing — it wasn’t really his idea but
he latched onto another panther that came up with
the idea actually. But anyway, they were building
was multiracial coalition in Chicago and they
couldn’t have that. So Fred Hampton was
assassinated. And those things happen. And those were real
and we have to realize that those things were real and
not shy away from our history. And whenever you have a social
movement, once it begins to threaten structures
and threaten real change.>>Lenneal Henderson: Backlash.>>Marc Steiner: There’s going
to be a push back, you know. So there was a quiescence
in some senses, I think, in our country. I mean, people got
elected to Congress, [inaudible] black caucus was
founded, you know, and — but now we’re in a new
stage I think you’re going to see more young
people being elected, more young people
organizing and doing stuff. And I just think that’s — I think we’re in an
interesting place, you know. I’m not that pessimistic.>>Maggie Gilmore: And I think
I’ve learned that the amount of courage that it took to
actually reach across the lines of identity to bring
people together from such varied backgrounds
and create such a strong force. I think we have to be careful
today not to be isolating in some of our movements. I think, you know,
as a woman I will say that the Woman’s March
is incredibly powerful but it is also isolating
to some. So the Poor People’s Campaign
is such a good example of piecing all of our work
together into one stronger idea.>>Nick Petr: A new and
unsettling force, right?>>Marc Steiner: And
Gordon’s idea of coalition. And one part of that was
reaching across class lines. Because there are a lot of,
quote, middle class people who were supporting the
Poor People’s Campaign. And some of them were
black and some of them — many of them were white
as those 54 families who accommodated folks who weren’t living
in Resurrection City. Who nobody mentions. I think we’re going to
find some research on them. And today the oppression of the middle class
threatens that resource. Just as Marc was saying, people
are beginning to organize from the grassroots up. We’re now assassinating
the middle class, which has been a historical
resource for a lot of change. So that’s a lesson that we’ve
got to pick up and run with.>>Nick Petr: Yeah I think we
have to remember certain things. The things that were in my head
the other day watching these children being separated
from their families, all I could think about was a
take on the poem from the ’30s in Germany, first they
came for the immigrants. What did you do? What we do? And so we — and we talk
about identity politics. Sometimes that word is used in a
negative vain but the reality is that movements come out of
people, whatever they are, who are oppressed as their own
natural movements of survival. That’s where they come from. And they’re not to be
condemned, I think. This is just — it’s a
reality it’s just is reality and you’ve got to
address that reality but that doesn’t mean
bridges can’t built. It doesn’t mean coalitions
can’t be built. It doesn’t mean people
can’t work together to make something happen. You know, I think that’s
something we have to remember. I mean, every movement in
the world started that way.>>Gordon Mantler: I definitely
think one of the lessons from the campaign and
one of the things I like about the new Poor
People’s Campaign as well is that it’s not just
about Washington. It’s not just about coming to D.C. That’s important
symbolically. It’s important for, you know,
for bringing people together from around the country
for purposes of the media. But going to state capitals and
organizing in more local places. I mean, I live in Virginia and,
you know, we’ve seen — we — you know, more progressive
people. I’m trying not to get partisan
here but more progressive people on this took over the
House of Delegates. There’s been Medicaid
expansion in that state as a result of that, right. And so it’s not just about what
the federal government is doing, right, and I think
increasing increasingly so. But what are state
government’s doing? What our county councils
and the school boards doing and courthouses and so. So it goes back to this idea
of local organizing, right,. So you can come to D.C. You can
be engaged with federal politics but you have to also be engaged with local politics
as much as possible. Electoral and otherwise, right. And so I think that
that’s one of the things that the ’68 campaign
didn’t do as much. It was part of the long
term plan but that got — that was something
that King talked about. Well we’ll go to
Washington and then we’ll go to the 50 biggest
cities in the country and continue to organize. Well they went to the
conventions, the Democratic and Republican conventions
in Chicago and Miami Beach. But that was really —
and there was a few places where you see organizing
around the campaign per se, many people went back and
did their own organizing, not necessarily under
the umbrella of the Poor People’s Campaign. So in a sense it did happen
but not just through SCLC but I think that that’s an
important point that it’s — you don’t have to come here. You don’t have to be in
D.C. to bring change. In some ways the change really
happens in Lansing and Jackson and Albuquerque and so
that’s — and Richmond. Those are the places
that are just as important if not more so. So.>>Unidentified Speaker: I
wanted to ask you, Maggie, how the materials digitized by the D.C. Public Library are
available to the broad public.>>Maggie Gilmore: Sure. Digdc.dclibrary.org and you
don’t need a library card to log in.>>Marc Steiner:
That’s important.>>Maggie Gilmore:
And there is — you’ll see there is a Poor
People’s Campaign collection where, you know,
again or another point to what we have learned. You can actually look
at some of the documents and see the language that
was used in lobbying Congress and the different locations that
they were going to and targeting and some of the requests
and the demands that were being made
at that time.>>Anna Yaga: Does this work? Oh here we go. My name is Anna Yaga [assumed
spelling] I’m an artist in residence with the
D.C. Public Library so I’m working closely
with Maggie and Nick. And also with the Poor
People’s Campaign. And you know, one of the things
that strikes me now, I mean, you speak about this
attempt, you know, this attempted assassination
of the middle class. And I just want to share
something that’s been tumbling and like this foundation or
these identities of around class that have really been
smashed and disrupted. And you know, for me —
and I ended up speaking. I ended up testifying last
couple weeks ago on the right to health care and
a healthy planet. And you know, I just want
to put out there that I came to this movement work
thinking of myself as an ally. And I feel like this idea of
the middle class is such a lie and an illusion because,
you know, you’re just a few
more paychecks away from being out on the street. And you know, when I was
organizing in public housing, Miss Mary, who was
like the local profit, she would say that same thing. That if you make
$60,000, you know. And I understand that — I
understood it intellectually, right, but it wasn’t until I had
lost my housing, my health care, my income all in
one month, right. And that the kind of pinnacle
of a number of experiences like even before that. Finding a letter on the house
that I lived in that said that the police are
coming to get your things, you have 30 days to get out
it was an illegal eviction. It didn’t make, you
know — and that was — the landlord basically
had been going through foreclosure
and didn’t tell us. And so all of these different
experiences culminating in me coming to the very people
that I was, had been organizing within public housing
saying what do I do because it had happened
to them first. And so I feel like in this
attempted assassination where it’s also an opportunity,
it’s an invitation for people to really like, let
the lies shed so that we can actually
come together. And I just want to share that
as a way to kind of offer, you know, it’s one thing
to speak about something as disconnected or like
someone else, it’s another to recognize how like we
are part of this tapestry and connected together.>>Marc Steiner: As we used
to say in the 60’s, right on. I can dig it.>>Unidentified Speaker:
So — here? Is this on? I would like to suggest
that, you know, popping back to the question of leadership and lessons learned
from 50 years ago. That I think we have
begun to understand that organizations need to
be people led and rather than led by specific leaders. And I think that that
is a major, a major, major a contribution
from that era.>>Marc Steiner: Yeah. That’s right.>>Guha Shankar: That actually
leads me to the observation. I was working in Jamaica. One of the great sort of
legends about Michael Manley, who was the, trying to run
for office in the 1960s was, he was trying to gain the
support of Rastafarians and he went to a delegation
of elders and he said — and he was trying to
figure out who to talk to and he said kept asking,
“Well who’s your leader of your organization?” And an old elder man sort of
pipes up finally and says, “Rasta is not an organization. It’s an organism.” So it was a kind of a, you know,
a kind of a movement from below which is part of the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and all of that
I think it’s also resonant in this particular setting. And I’m going to
have the last word because we are approaching
the time. And Gordon Mantler has very
kindly consented to sign copies of his book, Power to the Poor. They’re right out there. We’re going to give
you about 10 minutes to take care of business. Go buy several copies
of Gordon’s book. There’s wife — there’s
wives and — wife and children to support. Not wives, sorry.>>Gordon Mantler:
Yeah, not wives.>>Guha Shankar: And
it’s a brilliant book and I think it sets the
foundation for all the kind of work that we’re doing today. Which is one of the reasons
we’re honored to have Gordon, Dr. Lenneal Henderson, Marc
Steiner, Maggie Gilmore, Nick Petr, more to come. These questions about
what we’re going to do and how the lessons learned
in the past will be taken up in the next panel by
another able set of folks. So thank you and a hand
for our guests please. [ Applause ] [ Background Conversation ] [ Background Conversation ]>>Guha Shankar: All right. [ Background Conversation ] All right. Thank you all. Welcome back. And we’re going to get
started with session two here of the symposium
before and after ’68, the Poor People’s
Campaign, not then and now. It was a brilliant
session this morning. It would be a promises uniquely
brilliant one this afternoon. I’m going to, again,
as John did earlier, to briefly introduce
our distinguished panel and then go on from there. So starting immediately
to my left. You have Dr. Reginald Jackson
who is visual artist and scholar and the founder and president
of [inaudible] Communications in Boston, Massachusetts. It’s a nonprofit organization
he formed in 1988 to document and form and provide
consultative research about the visual and
cultural dimensions of the global African diaspora. He’s a professor
[inaudible] of communications of Simmons College in Boston and
a whole host of other degrees which you can read
about on the website. We’d be here all
afternoon just trying to get through that twice. Similarly next to him,
Dr. Bruce Jackson is also equally distinguished. Another brilliant scholar
from American Folklore. Documentary filmmaker,
writer, photographer. And distinguished professor
James Agee professor of American Culture at
the University of Buffalo. He’s the author of
over 40 books. A point of pride for us the
American Folklife Center is that he was chair of our
board of trustees way back in the 1980’s, if I can
say way back in 1980’s. Dr. Jackson continues
to do amazing work. Continues to work his recordings of Commons [inaudible] has
now been adapted into a play, a touring play by
the Wooster Group. And you can catch that
on of, off, off Broadway, I think, if I’m not mistaken. Next to that is another
terrific colleague and a person who’s been
at the fulcrum of a lot of activities here in Washington
D.C. to commemorate events of 1968 in Washington. Marya McQuirter is a
curator of D.C. 1968, a project commemorating the
50th anniversary of 1968 and D.C., I just said. And every day throughout 2018
she will tell us how she’s been producing and share original
stories and photographs on her website
DC.1968project.com which will be the topic
of her presentation today. And on to her left is Charon
Hribar, who’s a director of cultural strategies
at the Carroll Center for religion rights
and social justice. She also serves as a
co-director of theomusicology and movement arts for the
new Poor People’s Campaign. And she along with her partner
Yara Allen have joined us from an exhausting
schedule of actions across the southeast
and nationally. Yara Allen, a native
of Rocky Mountain, North Carolina is
director of cultural arts for the [inaudible] of the
breach and co-director of arts and culture of the Poor People’s
Campaign a national call for moral revival. Yara Joina — is a singer-songwriter poet
musician whose love for music, especially jazz, gospel,
and blues, helps to create and deliver soulful
movement songs, some of which you heard
this morning that. That continues a kind of efforts
that previous generations of singers have produced
in aid in the assistance of social justice campaigns. And with having said all of
that, at the very last person who will come up
here at the very end of this presentation
is the Reverend — Dr. Reverend Liz Theoharis,
who is a co-director of the Carroll Center and
the founder and coordinator of the poverty initiative, which has been spearheading
the Poor People’s Campaign. And you’ll hear from her at the
very end after the panel goes through and we have
another fulling discussion as we did this morning. So I’m going to start a little
bit, interestingly enough, with Dr. Bruce Jackson who will
tell us about what happened in 1968 and afterwards. Thank you, Bruce.>>Bruce Jackson: And
afterwards [inaudible]. First I want to say to the panel
this morning, the first part of this session,
thank you very much. I feel much more optimistic
about the world than I was. You’ve given me the feeling
that Trump is an opportunity and not a — so thank you. And the others, I hadn’t
realized how much had come out of Resurrection City one. How many people had gone
on to so many things and I’m very heartened by that and I hope similar thing has
happen with this one as well. I want to begin with
just a word of context because Resurrection
City didn’t just happen on it’s own it didn’t
just happen because Bobby Kennedy
made a suggestion. The older people in
the room know this, what I’m about to say. In 1960 there were sit
in at lunch counters. In 1961 white and black people
rode buses into the south. The buses who burned. They were beaten in jailed. In 1963 a church in
Birmingham was blown up. I Have a Dream speech happened. 1965 was Selma. There was violence. There was risk. There was danger and it
was work over many years. The people who put
together Resurrection City, they had been through much that. They had seen their
friends, as you said, killed. Many of them had been beaten. We had [inaudible] — We all had these little badges and on the badges it
had our blood type. Now I’ve been involved
in a lot of things but I’ve never been
involved in a thing where they put your
blood type on it. The reason they put your
blood type on it was because the people who organized
it had been in things were a lot of them had been carted off
to the hospital [inaudible]. And — is that me?>>Unidentified Speaker:
I think so.>>Bruce Jackson:
And at the beginning of Resurrection City
there’s a lot of optimism but nobody knew what
was going happen. There was a permit but
nobody knew how long that was going to stand. There had been many other things
for which there been permits and things had been
disrupted violently. So there was optimism, joy, and
a great feeling of cooperation but there was also an awareness
of the world who were living in. And that was a part of
what it was all about. I got involved in it because
of a guy named Ralph Rinzler who some of you who
worked with the library or the Smithsonian may know. Ralph eventually became deputy
director of the Smithsonian or something like that. He’s responsible
for the Festival — Smithsonian Festival
on the mall every year. I got to know him through
the Newport Folk Foundation. I was the director of
the Newport Folk Festival and Ralph worked for us. He would scout talent and
he would, occasionally when we had projects, he would
run the — not run the projects. Ralph wasn’t kind of
guy who’d run things. He was the kind of
guy who would go in and say, “How can I help you?” or “I have access
to these resources. Is there a way I can
help you use them?” And that will figure in the
story I’m about to tell you. And he came to us one day,
one of our board meetings and he’d been in
touch with SCLC. And he said, “One of the
things they could use is a music program.” Because they realized there’s
a lot of adults who are going to be there who aren’t going
to have a lot to do at night. And they’re are going to
be a lot of kids there who aren’t going to
have a lot to do at all. So could we set something up? And so Frederick Douglass — Reverend Frederick
Douglas Kirkpatrick, who was mentioned
a little while ago. Kirk had been part
of an organization in Louisiana called the
Deacons for Defense. They banded together and routed
a group of white nationalists, much to the chagrin of
the white nationalists. He was a lovely guy. I liked him a lot. And he was a Newport
board too by then. So Kirk came down, Georgia
Sea Islands singers came and we all came down. Ralph and I came and we met
with the SCLC leadership. When the Newport board decided
to do this, it was a meeting at which Alan Lomax, the
folklorist was not present. And we were all really happy
about that, because Alan is — Alan had a good heart but he
was a pushy son of a bitch. And so, so we didn’t tell him
we were doing it, and everybody, and everybody told
everybody, do not tell Alan, you know do not issue
the minutes of this meeting, nothing. So Ralph and I are meeting
and you’ll see some pictures in a moment, Washington
is burned out, during, it’s just desolation, road
to [inaudible] to that, that’s the LC office was just,
it, it was — it was like being, it was a bombed out city. And so we’re meeting
with everybody, and Ralph is saying how can I
help you if we have this money, and we have connections to
these [inaudible], these people. And Alan burst into the room
and proceeds to lecture them on the importance
of black music, on the character of black music. And tells them what they
should do with black music. And as Alan spoke, his Texas
accent got thicker and thicker, which is something he
tended to do I noticed when he’s with black people. And it would start out,
sort of talking like this and by the end he’s
talking like that. And so the room is
getting colder and colder. Ralph and I want to
slide under the table. We just think we are
dead, the project is dead. And it was such a sweet
project, you know doing things for your kids is so nice. And so Jim Bevel says to
Ralph and me, you guys got to do something about that boy. [ Laughter ] Ralph says, well he means well. Bill, Bevel says, yeah. So anyhow it all came together. It, it, it got fixed,
it, it came together. And a while later. And I — after this time, I don’t remember how many days
later, we went down to set up the, for the program. And I, I was just there for
the first few days of it. So what I’m going to show
you, just some pictures from those first few days. And then I came back
for the solidarity date. And I wanted to say something
about that though, I’m, I’m going to hold
that off a little bit. That’s Ralph. And that is a, a
Newport Folk Festival. I didn’t have any
pictures of him thee. And he’s the sweetest
guy as, as he looks like. This is the photograph
out of the — out of the cab window
on the way. And that’s another
photograph that some of you remember walking
and looking at that. And this was when
I first got there. And those were the first
times anybody ever said to me, a guy came over and he said I
keep looking at that and I think of a Klansman looking
down at me all the time. And I had never looked at the
Washington monument since, and not thought of this Klansman
looking down at me all the time. And now, you know, it towers
all over that part of the city. And there’s some
significance in that. So it, oh and, and the
first few days it was almost entirely black. The, the buses hadn’t come yet. One of the things we decided to
do by the way in addition to, it says this music program, was
to document what we were doing. So those recordings that
are in the library would, we recorded the performances. You’ll see some newsmen in
a moment, I got one of them to give me a copy of all his
tapes of the first meeting of Resurrection City,
which was really fiery, it was really great. Kirk performed, other
people performed afterwards. And another folk who was hired
by Newport, Henry Glassy, road with one of the bus
trains coming from California. And he did interviews
on the way. So we had some documentation
to stuff that would not, not
otherwise exist. And to get another
thing that’s pleased me about being here today is seeing
how you guys have been able to use that material around,
you know, everybody else who was on that board with me would
be absolutely delighted. Those are the A framed ends
arriving that you can see a lot of local volunteers were
involved in that work. There were a lot of
people in Washington who were helping set
up Resurrection City. And you can see its
setting them up. And a lot of the A frames had
graffiti on it, but not the kind of graffiti you see nowadays. It, graffiti, I’ve
been to the mountain. People’s names, quotes, there
are a number of quotations from Dr. King you would
see, you’d see on houses. And I think the names
of some of the people in CLC are on that building. I always loved this picture,
this guy with his kid just with, they just look so happy I guess. And I, I said there’s a feeling of people just feeling
optimistic and good, and this is one of
those pictures there that is like that. This was in the tent. And this is in the tent
of the first town meeting. I don’t think it was
called the Soul Tent yet. That may have arrived after a
lot of music was performed there and people said that’s
Soul Town. But this point it was just it. That guy in the poncho
you’ll see a moment, there he’s, he’s on the right. His name is Sweet Willy. Sweet Willy had lost an arm in
Vietnam, and he’s on the tape. He was an incredible speaker. You can see that guy with
him, just adoring people. And I, I was [inaudible]
Sweet Willy. I think the, the
only white guys I saw in the tent were the newsmen
and Alan Lomax and, and me, there may have been others,
but I didn’t notice them. But I said other people started
coming and this is Kirk paying. Again he was so neat. And these are kids who were just
digging it, they just liked it. There were a lot of kids. And this is the, the gondola
of the news guy sitting there in the center of it during it. Over the telephone wire in there
you see a slightly oblong object over the guide. By the way, it was a
little mud there already, I don’t remember it
raining but it looks like it was anticipating
what was going to happen. And there is the object, it’s some kids playing
with a football. And that’s Alan Lomax and
Kirk carrying the song sheets which had been prepared
by people at a publication
called Broadside. They put together
a number of songs. And the library has some now,
I’ve written them down with me. And they contain some
traditional songs and adaptations to
some traditional songs and a number of songs by Kirk. And that’s Kirk again. And he would — he would
do this all day long. That’s Bessie Jones and
Georgia C. Highland. And that’s at Ralph
Winkler’s house. We heard Libya Cotton
before singing, oh Libya worked for Ralph. Libya played guitar left
handed, used to drive me crazy. I had [inaudible]. [ Laughter ] He was one of the, Georgia
C. Highland singers, and what he sang to me there, that afternoon they had taken
him over to the rotunda. They’d been — they’d
been on the capital and he’d been in the rotunda. And he said, I know why these
people are so screwed up, they got their big round room. You can’t get your head
right in a big round room. You need to know
where the corners are. [ Laughter ] And this was in the tent. And this is the kind of thing that you just saw
there all the time. People just playing in the pool. People being by a pool. This was some tourist kid, and
this was a kid out of the camp. And they were wondering —
By the why where camp was, where Resurrection City was if you didn’t know the
site, reflecting pool. And this is a stand of trees. And Resurrection City
is the other side of the stand of trees. You could walk around the pool and not see it if
you didn’t look. If you didn’t want to know it
was there you could pretend it wasn’t there. So there would be
tourists around there, they just drove around,
having no idea that there was 3,000 people
you know 15 yards away. This is the beginning —
this is Solidarity Day. And I was always really happy
they called it Solidarity Day rather than [inaudible] Day
because that’s what it was. Resurrection City, as you
heard before, was a — it involved black people, it
involved Native Americans, it involved Hispanics,
it involved white people. And what brought people
together was poverty. And I think it’s the first major
event of that kind that brought so many people together
and made them aware that they shared
things in common that might be working
along in common. Solidarity Day went
one step further, because the union showed up. And the unions had been
notably absent from much of the civil rights stuff. And I mentioned several of
them before, there’s one more that I forgot to mention, and
that was October 22, 1963. And October 22, 1963 was the day of the first six digit antiwar
demonstration in Washington. There had been antiwar
movements, I think it’s going on for the last year and a half. But that was a big one. And one of the things that was
in the air, part of the spirit of all of us I think,
was that what was going on with the antiwar
movement, what was going on with the voting rights
movement, what was going on with poverty movement,
we had things in common with each other. And it wasn’t all, you
know, use your, you here, you here and you there. That, the — some
of the things wrong in the world we didn’t have
to change too many nouns. It just kind of filled
the energy. And so this crowd reminded me of that crowd only
seven months earlier, in exactly the same place. And this crowd, as you’ll
notice, everybody’s there. All kinds of people. And at this one I was not
a participant, I was a — demonstrations like this unless,
unless you happened to luck out with I’d been to
the mountain and one of those which is very rare. You don’t listen
to the speeches, you can’t hear them
most of the time. What you’re doing is you’re
bearing witness with your body to say this matters I want to
be here with these other people, count us you son of a
bitch, we’re watching you. And that’s what was
going on there. There’s that Klansman again. That, now that’s Abernathy’s at
the microphone and [inaudible] and Coretta Scott King. I only realized when I
was making these prints, she there she is,
I only realized — I never realized
before she was in there. I knew she must have
been there and I, and I had never looked
until last week, I — [ Inaudible ] Yeah right. Oh I’m sure if I blew up that
across the, there would be a lot of people you could name it. And there’s the press again. Some guys got into trouble
after this happened. Oh and this picture
I really liked. This could have been a 1930’s
WPA picture with those hats. And again, people
of all ages at it. And labor people, people from
just all kinds of things. This guy, a lot of white
guys with crossed arms. And, and she, she looks so cool. I love her body language. And, and his. And you see — you see those
guys down by the street, those, those two guys in the left
with their crossed arms? They work for somebody. You know you, they, they weren’t
there enjoying the venue. [ Laughter ] And, and again, while this is
going on, the kids being kids. So those are the
pictures I took. Okay. Thank you. [ Applause ] Which one do I push? Oh push it to the right
it will make a phone call. Yeah. [ Inaudible ] A little technical.>>Reginald Jackson: I don’t
trust myself these days to remember everything. So I’ve, I’ve brought
along my notes. I’m Reginald Jackson and I’m
really pleased to be here.>>Bruce Jackson: We’re related?>>Reginald Jackson: I don’t
know if we’re related or not, but we definitely — we’re definitely bonding
in DC these two days. I, I was not familiar with
your work in this way. And so it’s, it’s been great.>>Bruce Jackson: Thanks.>>Reginald Jackson: And I’m
really pleased to be here with a number of the really
renowned folk who have been able to impart a lot of information that I heretofore hadn’t really
had access to in this manner. So I’m really pleased and
honored to be on this panel. And I’d like to thank the
Library for, you know, pulling this together. This is — this has been
a great opportunity. [ Applause ] This work I’ve been
told I should try to give you the context and
what I was doing prior to going to the, the Poor
People’s Campaign. And you know what I saw
obviously, as well as how that affected and
influenced the work that I have been doing since. And so I’m going to give
you sort of the nature of a visual tour through
my work and that is pre — predominately documentary
in, in nature. And at this event was really the
first attempt that I had made to go to, as a graduate
student in New Haven, was a graduate student in the
School of Art and Architecture. Studying graphic design. And I happen to have been in, in
a documentary photography class with Walker Evans who I later
discovered was the father of documentary photography. And, and being the kind of
upstart rebellious type, I had gotten involved in,
in the organization of, and I’m steering away from my
notes here, of an institution within the institution at Yale,
called the Black Workshop. Yale had, had the
foresight to understand that cities were being
reconfigured, and I’m talking like the, the mid ’60s. And the School of Architecture, Charles Moore was the
head of that school. And they were sort of building
monuments to themselves, in terms of some of the
architectural designs that were being executed
during those days. And so a group of us
sort of connected, formed what we called the
Black Workshop, and were able to get the university to
find us a space outside of the school house, and we
were able to bring in people who we thought were experts. And we spent a lot of
time in the street. We were in Newark, New
Jersey, helping to develop one of the first daycare complexes. We were in Boston and Chinatown. We’re predominately city
planners and architects. And I was the, sort of
the lone visual guy. I was learning graphic
design, but I was headed into photography and film. And so I became the one who
documented what every — everything that was going on. And so these images
really were the — that was really the foundation
for, for the work that I, that I moved on to do. This one, okay. I got to, to, to
here, Washington DC because as I had said
earlier, I, I, I’d really felt that I needed to
be actively doing. And I left the class, got
on a plane, came down here, checked into the Holiday
Inn and, and spent a couple of days making images and, and
that was really my first attempt to use the camera to, to — in a
serious way cover a march and a, and a situation like this. So I, nevertheless I made my way
through the city engaging folks, making portrait’s, looking
for images supporting, supporting activities going
on including a baptism, food preparation, a barbershop. I really, I recall generally
trying to capture images that would attempt to tell a
story of life in the village as well as during the march. The theme of the march and
encampment, as we all know, came from Dr. King’s vision
to create a broad coalition of workers to highlight the
gross inequities our system of democracy fosters. His assassination just months
before had, had made — had been tied directly
to his emphasis on the economic injustice
I felt. Today the question can be asked, has the situation gotten any
better, or is it worse in terms of economic divide that exists between the haves
and the have nots. And this, this graphic
speaks to a recent survey that was done in, in
Boston by the Boston Globe. And really is, is,
is startling to — when we understand that
in a city like Boston, that the net worth of, of a,
of a black family is, is $8. And that we really
have to push, push on. We really have to, to address
and, and many of the ways that were discussed
earlier this vast dichotomy. As I mentioned, I’m on the
right there, and I’m — this is our, part of our
black workshop in New Haven which was in it’s infancy. And it was really, as I’ve
mentioned, my launching pad into coming down
here to do this work. And as a graduate student, I
was learning the discipline of graphic design but
was also shooting a film on my experiences, which I later
used to get my certificate, my degree to get out of Yale. And, and which served, you know, that Black Workshop continued
ten years after we left. So we were actually involved
in recruiting students. We were involved in
shaping the curriculum. Where up and down on a book
that we’re writing at the moment from ’68 to ’70, which talks
about how we had some impact on an institution like
Yale and other institutions in the country, teach
architecture. The, the notion that you learn
a discipline and then you go to the client and give the
client what you think the client should have was the way
architecture had been taught for many, many years. And so our group began
to make major adjustments to that practice and, and
we’re beginning to understand, you know, what our role was
during that time in New Haven. We, we, we thought
everything kind of centered in, in New Haven. We, we had — we had the,
the Panther trial was going on with Bobby Seale,
the Alex Rackley case that sprung up out of that. The Panther office was maybe
two or three doors down from where we resided as
the Black Workshop. And this is an image of, of,
of one of the many gatherings in front of the office there. Getting back to Resurrection
City, we can see here the attempt
to, to mark space as well as to indicate the, the nature
of the climatic conditions which means that the sneakers
being hung for dry on the line. And but this is just a, a view
of as far as one could see. And, and I’m going to look at
that to the end of that image.>>Unidentified Speaker: To see
if you can find [inaudible].>>Reginald Jackson:
A different, a different way from now. I’m talking about –>>Unidentified Speaker:
Oh into the [inaudible].>>Reginald Jackson:
I’m talking about the, the yeah the monument. And you know once again
signage means a lot. And, and that spoke to
the, the need for security, which I hadn’t really thought
about or anticipated and, and the repetition of the
feed, of ending hunger. This image speaks to the
ability of families to, to hang in there, to, to
persevere during that time. And the press oddly enough
didn’t really say a whole lot, I thought, about white
involvement in the, in the, in the encampment. And so I think, you know,
more and more efforts need to show the diversity
that existed there. And — So we begin to see, you
know a much broader view of, of what was going on. And finally, the intergenerational
nature of folk. And a view from, from
within I call this. And as far as the eye could see. And this image takes us beyond
the march and immediately after graduation in 1970, I and some colleagues raised a
little bit of money and went off to West Africa, Ghana and
Liberia in particular. And when I saw the conditions,
particularly in, in Liberia and Ghana, I began to
think about my experiences that I had just encountered here and my experiences
here in the US. And I found this, this woman
who, and you know I’m speaking about how that impacted
what I later, what my vision became later. Talks about the, the exploited
nature of the multinationals and how corporations and
how they had been able to without too much
interruption continue to exploit the raw materials
that exists and are extracted out of those countries
in West Africa. And so this woman’s stance to me
speaks of, you know, that, that, the courage that’s necessary
to try to break that, that stronghold, the strangulation of,
of these countries. Saying enough is enough. Like your grandmother
or your mom or you aunt, when they put the
hands on their hips, you know, enough is enough. This is a, you know, as a, as
a visual artist one of the hats that I wear, the — as a
photo collage which I made into a poster which reflects
my feelings after leaving Ghana and I think I did this in 1972. And it, it shows
the trains moving out of the country,
going one way. It, it shows a man in the bush
with a chicken in one hand, and an attaché case
in the other. It shows another man with a
child emblazoned on his heart. And then you see this young
person, piercing eyes, through this tire representing
the, the rubber plantations, and various other plantations
that existed and still exist in, in parts of West Africa. I call it the last frontier. This image is part
of a network of ports and castles along
the Ghana coast that were used during the
Transatlantic slave trade. This is Fort Amsterdam built
in the 1600’s by the Dutch. And consequently over the
years it’s been switched back and forth, one country would,
would come and capture the fort and they’d name it something
else and then they would be, it would, would go
back and forth. And so this image I feel is
important to, to show that many of the, the ancestors of
African Americans passed through these forts
along the Ghana coast. And the, that is an important
connector to this image. This is an image of the
African meeting house in Boston. It’s a photo serigraph that
I was commissioned to do for the Bicentennial in Boston. And it’s, it employs the sort
of iconographic ivory pendant that was sacked from
the City of Bennie at the turn of the last century. And I’m superimposed this image
over the African Meeting House, which is the oldest church
built by all black labor in the United States,
still standing, 1806. And another part
of my journey is, has been dealing
with the homeless. And this is an image that shows
a connection to institutions that were, were formed
to, to help the needy. I began to do work in the
community on homelessness and produced this book along
with a Mass Association for Mental Health as an
integrated approach to, to dealing with services
surrounding the homeless. This would have been
the early ’80s. This is one of the images that
I made on the street of a woman, Inez, who was homeless
and who, who lived once — who actually had
property on Beacon Hill at one point, who is homeless. And this is a current photograph
of the Poor People’s Campaign in Boston at the state house
on Monday, this, this week. Another view. And finally, this is a
poster that I created for an antiracism organization
that I’ve been working for as I left Simmons
back in the ’90s. And it, it says, I don’t know
if you can make it out, it says, we don’t want our chains
made more bearable, we want them removed. And that has been an image that
has been used throughout the, the course of this
community change organization. So this is an example of how I,
how I have traversed this course since my days in the ’60s. That’s it. [ Applause ]>>Bruce Jackson: Hello. The right hand button, F.>>Marya McQuirter:
Hello everyone. Good morning or good
afternoon, I don’t have a clock.>>Bruce Jackson:
Good afternoon.>>Marya McQuirter:
Good afternoon. It’s just, it’s been
wonderful seeing both Bruce’s and Reginald’s images
because it just, it shows me as I’ve been going
through archives it’s just, and some ways the visual
literacy that we have about the Poor People’s Campaign
and Resurrection City is, is narrow, and so it’s wonderful
to see these images to, to show us that there’s
so much more that we can learn
through, through images. Okay. Thank you. So I have approached
the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary
of 1960 as well as the historian and,
and as a curator. Back in 2016, I decided that DC,
which is where I’m from needed to have a yearlong commemoration
of the entire year of 1968. And you get to have
a commemoration that would highlight
activism, art, architecture, and everyday life,
all of which made 1968 such an incredible
year here in DC. And of course these
are all elements of the Poor People’s Campaign
and the Resurrection City, as panelists have been sharing. The Commemoration had
to be public facing, had to be committed to
providing the public with a full and complex exploration
of the city in 1968. And it had to be a commemoration
in which Washingtonians who were here in 1968,
were actually recognized. And finally, it had
to be a commemoration that would show others
that DC, as a capital city, and as an international capital,
like Kingston, like Mexico, like Paris, like Prague also
had much to teach the world. And so I approached
this commemorative goal as three different ways. The first was by convening
a group of culture producers from monthly meetings so that
we could meet each other, learn about events that
were being planned and also to collaborate on events. And some of those
culture producers are here in the audience. And I’m happy, really, really
happy to say that we began 2018 with a daylong kick off even at
the National Building Museum, was a daylong event
where we had symposium. There was artists, there
were people sharing objects. And there was also the national
symphony orchestra quartet actually did an hour long
concert sharing songs about human rights. It was an amazing,
an amazing event. And also really powerful
because as, as I’ll talk about a little later, that
generally when you think about DC in 1968, people
aren’t thinking about January through December,
particularly the media. They’re thinking about DC in ’68 is really April
4th through April 8th. So the fact that cultural
producers were able to get together and actually
start an event in January, I think was really important. The second thing
that I’ve done is to, to bring about this
commemorative goal was also doing extensive research in
archives and libraries here in this city, doing extensive
research here at the Library of Congress, at the
DC Public Library, Howard University
[inaudible] Research Center, George Washington University
and a whole host of places. And one of the things that
I’ve also learned as well is that there are a range of
Washingtonians individuals but also organizations that
also have archives, largely, that have not been tapped. And so that’s one of the things that I’ve been invested
in doing. And so I’ve been reaching
out to native Washingtonians for their stories and for their
photographs, because I wanted to show how engaged
Washingtonians were with their city and
the world around them. And of course has been
stated before that none of the national events, including the Poor People’s
Campaign, and Resurrection City, could have been executed without
the help of Washingtonians. And the third way of course is
by curating the DC 1968 project which Guha alerted,
alluded to earlier. And which I developed in part to create a visually
compelling counter narrative to the hybrid focus on the
uprising after the assassination of Reverend, of Reverend
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And I’m not going
to do that today, and I know you have your phones
off, but if you haven’t already, all you can do is do a browser
search for Washington DC 1968 and see what comes up, see
the images that come up. Here’s the slides. In honor of Father’s Day,
this is an image of my father, Bobby Hale, who was a native
Washingtonian, a Korean War vet, and also a lifelong
photographer. And I believe this is a selfie
that he took of himself in 1970 with his beloved Nikon camera. So after I told him about
my desire to curate 1968 for this city, he’s very
nonchalant, he’s like, yeah that’s interesting. And two weeks later, he brings
me a plain white envelope. And inside are more than
a dozen color photographs that he had taken of DC in
1968, DC in April and May. And the thing that’s
interesting is that they were all color images. And I think that’s important. His photographs offer an
important visual counter narrative to a, what I’m calling
a problematic visual trop. I know this academia, but
you have to bear with me. A problematic visual
trop often promulgated by local media outlets
like the Washington Post, a Washingtonian magazine. For them, too often DC in 1968
exists in black and white. The black and white have
destroyed buildings, smoke, the national guard, which
enveloped the city immediately after the assassination of
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And obviously black
and white images existed, the uprising did exist, but
again what I’m arguing is that what they show in a
sense is that that’s all that existed in DC in 1968. That’s the only story that
we need to know about 1968. And as we’ve been hearing
there’s so, so much more. Okay. And so what
they do usually, and I haven’t actually
put the images up again because I think they’re, this — that’s all that you see that
I don’t want to participate in that perpetuation
of this visual trop, so you get this little
fancy design that I’ve done. Maybe Reginald you’ll
appreciate this design. But anyways, so generally,
general, you too Bruce, I apologize. So generally what you get is,
is a black and white image, again of, of sadness and
bad, and things that are bad. And it’s contrasted on the
other side with, you know, a 2018 color image, usually,
you know a, a property, something that’s beautiful, you
know something that represents, you know, this kind of moment of hyper development
and capitalism. So again 1968 bad,
2018 color good. But you know as I’m suggesting that this narrative
is very narrow, it’s a historical
and problematic. We only have to look
at the visual narrative of the Poor People’s
Campaign and Resurrection City to educate the public about
the danger of that visual trop. And this danger of this single
story, I’m actually borrowing from Chimamanda and Ngozi
Adichie’s work who talks about the danger of
the single story. And so here is a recent
story from my DC 1968 project that beautifully, I think,
links the past and the present. This is a 2018 photograph
of a 1968 door insert from the Southern Christian
Leadership Campaign, Conferences, Poor People’s
Campaign Headquarters that was at the corner of 14th
and U Streets, Northwest. Does anybody who remembers ’68, does anybody remember
that door insert? Okay beautiful. So Carmen Gilmore and
Carole Green who were in their early 20’s in 1968,
on their very first day of volunteering at the Poor
People’s Campaign Headquarters, they met each other. They — Carmen Gilmore was
a switchboard operator, and Carole Green was a drive. Does anyone remember
Carole Green as a driver? You think you remember it okay. So on that day, they
became friend, fast friends and a friendship that’s
lasted for more than 50 years. And on that day was the
beginning of a commitment to activism that also lasted,
has lasted for 50 years. So after the Poor
People’s Campaign ended, and the headquarters closed,
Green drove by the building in his red VW Beetle, and for
some reason he didn’t just pass by going to his Adams Morgan
apartment and just stay home, he actually drove home,
went and grabbed his tools, and drove back to
the building to, what I’m calling
liberate the door. The door insert. For some reason decided not
to take the door, but he, he somehow was able to, to
take the insert out of the door and he drove it back
home in his Beetle. And he’s kept it for 50 years. I mean it’s, it’s unbelievable. And actually just a few
months ago he donated it to the Smithsonian at the
Smithsonian Institution. So I think it’s a
wonderful story. And so here is my project. This is a screenshot of my
project and featuring images that I used and stories that
I wrote about from the 11th through the 14th of May. So the first story, I
think that’s on your right, is a photo of a car with
a sign on it that reads, People Power Equals Black Power. And this photograph was
taken in front of the 12th and U Street office of SNCC, the Student Non Violent
Coordinating Committee which was just two blocks from the Poor People’s
Campaign Headquarters. The second image is Poor
People’s Campaign participants walking toward the
official opening of Resurrection City
on the 13th. And the third is
actually a speaker, And I’m hopefully
maybe someone here in the audience might
recognize who this speaker is because I haven’t been
able to do so yet. But this is someone who
is one of the speakers at the Mother’s Day Rally
that took place at the — on the 12th of May at
Cardoza High School. And I don’t know how
well you can see it, but Harry Belafonte’s spouse
is there at the rally, Coretta Scott King is
there at the rally. I believe Johnny Tillman of, of the National Welfare
Rights Organization a, a whole range of
people were there. It was an amazing event
with thousands of people. Again taking place at a
public high school here in DC. And the rally was hosted by the National Welfare
Rights Organization. And the final photo
is a car emblazoned with the Poor People’s
Campaign poster. Any of you veterans have
a copy of the poster? Of that original poster? You think you do? Okay. I’ll talk to you later. You have one too? Oh perfect. And here are, here are
a couple more images. As I said, that my project
as a whole is really trying to highlight DC as a city and
the native Washingtonians were, who were here at that time. So on the left, is the
cover of the 1968 yearbook from McKinley High School. Carmen Gilmore was a graduate of
McKinley High School from 1966. And I think yearbooks are
important because they are, they’re actually, they’re
product of, of student work. They’re a piece of,
of [inaudible] and even inside the photographs
that the students decide to take what they
decide to focus on, really gives you insight
into what was happening at that year, in that year. And also what’s important about
McKinley High School as well is that they had a chapter of
the Black Student Union, the DC Public School System
actually had a Black Student Union at a time when the public
school system was 90% black. Which I think is telling. You know that this was
a moment, you know, in black power civil rights and
a whole range of things going on and that even in a, in a
school, I mean in a city where the Mayor Commissioner
was black, many of the teachers were black,
and the students still felt that their — it
wasn’t black enough. I mean that they’re
needed, in the sense that it wasn’t black focused,
it wasn’t black centered, they weren’t learning
necessarily black history and, and African history and
culture, African languages. And so this is what
they were pushing for. At the same time, the students at McKinley Tech also
started a freedom school at the nearby Langley
Junior High School. Okay and then the second
one is the Bell Vocats, Bell Vocational High
School yearbook and unfortunately I don’t
know that much about Bell but it was one of the technical, another technical high
school in, in the city. And then the final
two images are images that took place both
inside and outside of the Justice Building
in, in early June. And I’m not sure if you can see
but the, someone wrote graffiti on the Justice Building
that says, No Justice Here. And so I’m going to leave
you with an upcoming story that I’ll be doing about
Solidarity Day, and I, I love this theme that we’ve
been having about Solidarity Day because this fits in perfectly
that I’ll be featuring on my site on the 19th of June. It is a story inspired by the
Boston Family, which is a, a local family of
native Washingtonians. Ms. Boston, the mother,
is in the back with the green dress on. And then next to her
is her oldest daughter, Taquiena Boston. And up in the front with
the beautiful hair bowties and the flower dress
is Mashawn Boston, who actually wrote
a wonderful article for the Washington City
paper about DC in 1968, and this is her at
a birthday party. And Taquiena, the 14 year
old, wrote in her red diary, a Christmas present
from her mother, she wrote in this diary
every single day in 1968. And she generously agreed to
share several of her daily, her diary entries with
the project, with me. In fact the very first
story and photograph for my project features
Taquiena reading from her very first diary
entry on New Year’s Day. And so what I’m going to share
with you is a very short clip of a recording of her
reading from her diary entry on 19 June on Solidarity Day.>>Taquiena Boston:
June 19, 1968. Today my sister and
I bought ice cream. I didn’t go out today, I
watched the Solidarity march on television, 75,000 people
were gathered, as the beginning of the war on poverty. Mrs. King’s saying politicians,
union men, made speeches, and there was entertainment. I wish I’d gone but my
mother wouldn’t let me. I jumped rope with my sister. Liz Taylor paid for
an ad for gun control, and 4,000 celebrities
signed a petition. In the ad, Bobby
Kennedy is walking in the fields with his dog. I’m reading more of the Bible,
and Profiles in Courage. I marked up Travels
with Charlie.>>Marya McQuirter: Thank you.>>Taquiena Boston: June 19 — [ Applause ]>>Marya McQuirter: She was 14. Yeah. [ Applause ]>>Charon Hribar: Thank you
all and it’s wonderful to be on this panel with you. And again, my name
is Charon Hribar. And I am, work at the Kairos
Center for Religion Rights and Social Justice
which is housed at the Union Theological
Seminary in New York City. And, and kind of
the cornerstone of, of our work has been the Poverty
Initiative, which was kind of the precursor of
the Kairos Center. And when asked to be part
of this discussion today, of why the Poor People’s
Campaign, both of 1968 and now, is important to me, it’s, it’s
hard to narrow that answer, for me, because it’s something
that I’ve been really working on for the last 15
years of my life. That’s a lot shorter for some
of that have, were at ’68. But you know, I think that
this is a very important moment in our country to remember
that moment as well as what is happening now. And you know, I think
over the years, the Poverty Initiative we had
— we’ve had a mission that was to unite, to develop and unite
religious and community leaders to build a broad social movement
to end poverty led by the poor. And with that mission, the role
of the Poor People’s Campaign and the history of, of that
’68 campaign has been a history that we’ve, in detail
studied over the years. And, and really have been a
continuation of that work. As I came into, into the
organization, in 2004, I was met by a movement
that had formed out of the Welfare Rights
work that had formed out of homeless organizing
in this country. And that had, you know, that
was still not, you know, haven’t lost that spirit
of the 1968 campaign, and, and was one of those
continuing aspects. And you know, over the, it’s
interesting in this moment as we’ve been working
to build this campaign over these last 15 years, and 20
years, and 40 years, you know, that this has been
a continuation. And you know, going
around the country and asking people
have their heard of the Poor People’s
Campaign before, and how many people
had not, right. We’ve, we’ve learned
the, like lessons from the Civil Rights
Movement and from Dr. King. But those last years
especially and, and his role, and in bringing folks
together across racial lines, and being able to make
these deep connections between the role of racism,
seismic racism and poverty and militarism at that
moment, had been, you know, largely not discussed. And as, you know, as we were
talking about that among folks that are in poor
communities, and recognizing as, as folks have said, that more
and more of us are falling into poverty, you know and, and that’s the reality
that we’re in. And it’s how essential it is
to understand our history. And to know what we
can learn from that. And, and that we know
that time and time again, movements that have been trying
to bring people together, across racial geography,
religious lines, you know, have tried to be
suppressed in this country, and, and around the world. And so you know to have this
opportunity to think about why that movement was so important
and why we’re taking it up again today, you know, is,
I’m, I’m glad to be able to do that in this space, because
I think it’s something that we need to both
be doing in the streets and in our communities. But also in the major
institutions of our country, because that’s, you
know, across the board, we need to be having
these conversations. So I just appreciate
being able to be here. And so, yeah I, I really
wanted to just you know, be able to talk about the
relationship that we’ve had with this history and what
we’re trying to do now, and, and building a poor people’s
campaign and a national call for more revival today. And you know, one of the
things I think was mentioned in this morning’s panel,
you know and something that we’ve really
learned from the history of the campaign you know
it wasn’t just about coming to Washington, right, it
was, you know, about the, the next step of
that work continuing to build the organizing work
out there, around the country. And I think Dr. King reflecting
in his, where do we go from here speech, had
talked about, you know, reflecting on what the successes of the Civil Rights Movement
have been up, up to that point. And really seeing how, you
know, some of the efforts to organize have been able to,
to take advantage of, you know, key moments and to dramatize the
conditions that were happening, and the contradictions
that were happening. But he also said what was the
next step needed was to be able to build a, a systemic organized
structure across the country that could hold that continued
organizing, and continue to connect the work
that was going on. And I think that’s what, you
know, we’re picking that up now. And, and seeing, you know, that
in this Poor People’s Campaign, the National Call
for more Revival, the video that you all got to
see this morning, we just a few of the powerful voices and a
few of the stories that are out there of people in this
struggle organizing right now. And how do we take this
moment to really start to bring those efforts together
is something that we are trying to do, and that we know there
is a need for right now. We’re, we’re thinking of how
are we building a movement of movements, and not
just a moment, right. We talked this morning, you
know, that it’s not just, you know, it’s not a failure of, of you don’t accomplish
something and then we’ve lost, you know the, the goal. But that there is this
continuation that is happening, and we are right now in a moment where something really powerful
is this coming together. And we see movements wanting
to build on one another. And so I, you know, I say this
and, and want to again lift up this idea that I think Guha
you mentioned earlier too, you know that there are
140 million poor folks in this country, and those
numbers as Marc you said, are just, you know, the
tip of the iceberg, right. There are so many more that
are actually not recognized by the current ways
that we are able to define poverty right
now in this country. And that, you know, and that,
you know, one in, that means one in two Americans right now, even by those standards are
experiencing these conditions. And we know how much
those are connected to what we’re lifting up,
as King did, the connections of racism, militarism
and poverty. And also, what we’ve continued
to recognize is the role in so many of the
communities out there of ethological devastation
and how much impact that is having on people. But, you know the, I think
the one thing, you know that, think about that monument,
the image of that staring down at us, is also this piece
of it’s not an issue of scarcity in the, scarcity for
the sake of scarcity that we don’t have enough. But what this is
recognizing, and what, you know, King was recognizing then,
is that it’s scarcity in the midst of abundance. We have the ability
to end poverty. King said, do we have the
will to do that, right. And that’s really what we’re
suggesting is that, you know, that we have the ability
to actually end poverty and to end seismic racism and to reexamine how we are
using our military budget and, and all of these things for
what we need is the role of, and the rights, and the dignity of people all across
this country. And so really what, you know,
in this current campaign, how do we start to shift
people’s understanding of that, to shift the narrative. And, and one of the expressions
we’ve used over the years in our work is that movements
begin with the telling of untold stories, and
how powerful, you know, seeing that video this morning, of hearing those
stories that were told. And it’s not just
about the story, but it’s also someone else
that like sitting and listening to that story, recognizes I’m
experiencing that too, right. And that this isn’t just
about me coming as an ally, it’s not just about me
supporting this movement, but that we all have a role
and that we are impacted in some way by these things. And so kind of segueing
into the, one of the roles that I’m playing currently in
the campaign and, and the work that we’re trying
to do in thinking about how culture
also holds this. How are we telling these
stories, and the importance of the, the other panelists
and talking about, you know, the role of documentation,
the role of the images, the role of how we even
shape these stories, is something I just wanted
to share a little bit about what we’ve tried to
do with the current campaign and the context of,
of this movement. And so, just a few clips here. Images to share, and, and then
actually the first video is also kind of a continuation of,
of how do we, you know, continue to document these
stories and share them out. But in February kind of leading
up to this current 40 days. Sorry I’m actually going to
back track for one second. So just to say that kind of
before coming to right now, as, as folks may know that we’re
in this 40 days of action. You know, and I’ve said that this has been a
continuation of years of work. But even within that
continuation over the last two years has
really been an effort, you know, do a series of tours, a series
of training, a series of, you know, getting people ready to be taking part
in these 40 days. And so starting last August we
had actually launched a series of organizing trainings to start
to actually build, how do we, how are we going to
continue to sustain this, to bring organizations together,
to bring religious leaders with impacted people,
with students, with all of these groups so that
we could actually come together and build this movement. And so we had gone to 15 cities
from August through November. And not just major cities
but also small cities, bringing together rural
and urban, you know, thinking about the
role of states in this, that it’s not just,
you know, not just DC but also how do you think
of not just being in Chicago or in New York City, but also
that we’re going to be going to our state capitals
and needing to reach across the, the geography scope. And so in that process, you
know, really having, great, really having a chance to
start to sit and listen to what was happening all across
this country, to hear people’s, the impact that, of what
these conditions are having. And so as a continuation
for the cultural role, in February we had actually
convened as people had come in through that process, now over 40 states are
involved in this campaign. And, and in February in
Raleigh, North Carolina, we convened artists, cultural
workers, cultural organizers, documentarians, to start to
seed, you know, the, the — how we were going to be able to communicate what
was actually happening. That it wasn’t just one spot, that this movement was
happening, but it was all over the country, that there are so many leaders that
are raising up. And so we had musicians,
we had documentarians, photographers, and
videographers. We had visual artists that
came together from each of those states to be
able to start to think about during this 40 days, how
would we carry out the message? How would we help
amplify our voices? And as artists knowing that
we weren’t just, again, supporters of this movement, but
that we were telling our stories and that these things
were impacting us too. And so, you know, these are
just a few of the images of, of that convening of, of
the broad group of ages, of, of different cultures,
of different places, you know of people coming
together from across the country that were starting to, you know,
as we talked about what happened in that Soul Tent in 1968
to share some of our stories and cultures to be
able to be what is, is uniting us in this movement. And so we did several things of,
of being able to create songs for this movement as, as
Maggie had mentioned earlier that we’ve taken one of the
old songs, and Yara will talk about this shortly, of
everybody’s got a right to live and making that relevant
for today, but also you know
continuing to learn some of the old movement
songs as well as create new songs
for this moment. You know able to create
some of the, you know, the visual messages of that
can really resonate with people and how that, are we able to, as we start to build
across the country. When you’re out there organizing
and then being able to reflect, especially with having
social media today. You start to identify right
what is the visual identity of a movement and what are
the messages that speak to our hearts and move peoples’
minds in this, in this society. And then again with
the documentarians, how is not just the one
image that the, that, that major media is
going to show you, but knowing that these
actions, these activities, the organizing that’s
happening all over the country is actually
documented so that we know that the multiplicity of
stories that are out there. And then, and then just even
looking at these images, these are some of the images
that have emerged as part of this movement
to see you know, even in Brandon’s face here,
like that, that urgency and passion that is in that,
like that we know the role of culture not only today
in bringing us together and grounding us right now,
but in 50 years from now, what people will remember
and see that we see that through these
living images. And so, right here, and
you know, and in being able to great, even we, we actually
made music videos for folks to be able to learn the songs of
the movement around the country. I think, you know, it’s one of, Yara will talk more
about the music. But I think it’s one of
pieces that, in some ways, we’ve lost over the years of you
know, how do we sing together, how do we actually hold each
other in community in that way, and to be able to lift, you
know, lift our voices in a, in one voice, one band,
one song as we say. And again, just how are
we getting our messages out when we know that mass
media is not going to continue to put our, what we’re
trying to do out there. So I’m wrapping up here and
going to turn it over to Yara to keep going with how we’re
working through the culture. But you can kind of see how
these, these pieces have started to emerge in different actions
across the country and having a, you know, a very living
movement and being able to express the stories of, of those most impacted
in, in this work. And to call others
to be part of it. So I’ll stop there for now. [ Applause ]>>Yara Allen: Thank you all,
good evening, or good afternoon. And I am very honored as
well just to be in this place with so many wonderful
people, everybody included. I would have to say that when
I think about the 1968 Campaign and how it moved me to do what
I’m doing, I have to go back to a snapshot of the day that I
heard the announcement on the TV that Dr. King was killed. And the reaction
that my mother had, as she was ironing my
father’s white shirt. She dropped the iron
and screamed. And I just remember staring at
the TV and looking back at her. She ran out into the street
and the neighbor met her from across the street. Did you hear? Did you hear? And I remember climbing
up on the bed and looking out the window as these
women wept in the street. And my father coming home and just being the strong
silent World War II Veteran who really didn’t show
a whole lot of emotions. He broke. You know, he broke. And this history wasn’t really
taught to us in schools. We didn’t hear much about
the Poor People’s Campaign. That was conveniently just kind of smoothed over,
it was glided over. But thankfully we had parents
who made sure that we read, and they taught us this history. And in teaching us this
history, the one thing that they made sure we
did was that we sang. And they were planting
something in us then that would manifest now. So imagine if you would, a young
child playing with her friends, and they’re singing Rock
‘n Robin by the Jackson 5. And we’re going around
taking turns singing songs. And it’s my turn. And I think all the good
songs have been taken. I know one. And as a kid I belt
out Soon we’ll be done. With the troubles of the world. The kids going what? Now this, that’s
not the good part. Then I get to the part, I’m
going home to live with God. And they’re going, and
that was the expression like that right there. But those were the songs
that we were taught to sing, and they were teaching us a
history while they were teaching those songs. And now I realize that they were
trying to preserve those songs, just like our ancestors have
preserved the songs before them. So I started singing
with my sister, I was five, she was eight. And I ended up singing
in the church. But what I heard in the messages
of Dr. King and what my mother and father taught me
didn’t really align with what I was hearing in
the church at that time. It didn’t have that
radical edge to it. So I became the radical
of the church. That didn’t last too long. And so I, I moved
from the church to actually doing
community organizing and that felt a little
more comfortable for me. I was like yeah I can be
a little bit more radical. I, I would be the one who
would lead a group of students out of the cafeteria because we
had corn instead of green beans. Let’s do this. So eventually, I’ll
fast forward. I began working with
Repairers of the Breach. After working with
several organizers and, organizations I’m sorry. And I, I began working with
Repairers of the Breach. And in 2015-16 we did what was
called the Moral Revival Tour. And we went to 27 states
and pretty much teaching through the component and poll. It’s more political organizing
leadership institute summit, which is the component that
lends support and tools to moral organizers and,
and this support helps them to do moral analysis,
moral articulation and then moral activism. We’re going to take a drop
box, and from that we’ll drop down to the cultural arts. And we used those
same strategies to engage artists
across the country. And we talked about
moral articulation where it involved music. We talked about how, how
do we implement this music? You know how do we
analyze the music? So using that strategy and
the Theo Musicology Strategy which is the study of
music informed by religion. And so when we talk
about the Theo part of the Musicology it is really
talking about what is the nature of the god of our understanding. What is the nature of goodness, if you don’t have
a particular faith? What is the nature
of our better angels? And now let’s take this music
and let’s weigh them to see, how can we pull the
goodness from this music? How can we serve humanity? How can we lift each
other through this music? So eventually we
joined with Kairos and we found ourselves
on tour again. Going back to some of the same
states, but then adding a few. And using this same component
to engage even more artists. We were very intentional
about the fusion part of this. Very intentional about
including the youth. Because we wanted to make
sure that that generation gap that everybody talks
about was closed. And that we would not be
guilty of having that breach when the generation
comes along to fight. So Dr. T.V. Reed said in his
book, The Art of Protests that there is a way
to bridge those gaps, and he gave the example
of taking the music from the ’50s and the ’60s. And implementing this music
into our current movement. And what that does is it gives
people like my grandmother, my mother, a sense of assurance that they still have a
place in this movement. And then by turning the music
over to the young people who, as Charon said, put
a little spin to it. It gave them a place and
an opportunity to talk with the older people,
and to learn that history, and to respect where
those songs came from. So what we ended up with at this
retreat were artists who came with all these brilliant ideas,
all these wonderful sounds and wonderful beats and,
and wonderful tones, and we put them all together. Now what you’re going
to see in this video, I didn’t show you the piece
that’s going to blow your mind, but I’m going to ask you
to go back and look at it. How many of you remember
the song, Fight the Power? So you are of a particular age. [ Laughter ] You are of a particular age, so
am I, if you remember that song. And so when we sing, let me back
up a minute because speaking of particular age, so
we know that that, and, and this is what we
teach across the nation. That we have to engage artists, because artists have
this wonderful ability to change the distorted moral
narrative that exists right now. Because people will
sometimes listen to music before they’ll
listen to the message, right. The music will draw them. I’ll give you an
example, Moral Mondays. I was walking onto the, the
grounds of Moral Mondays. And a lady came running
towards me. Yara, Yara, she fell
into my arms, literally fell into
my arms crying. I said what in the
world happened to her? And she’s saying, you
all saved my life. I said okay. She says, no you really,
really literally saved my life. She said I’m a battered woman. I’ve been hiding my
bruises under my clothes. She said, I wrote
my suicide note, and I was ready to
call it a day. And I was walking three
or four streets over, and I heard the music. And I followed the music here. And she said, and you
all were singing hold on just a little while longer. I broke with her of course because I’m just a
bag of water anyway. But to hear the power that
that music had in that moment that saved her life, knowing
that she would live another day to fight, and that she would
help save somebody’s life. So you see the power of
music, the power of the arts. We, we like to say that music
does what Dr. Wyatt T. Walker says, and it creates
collective effervescence. And Dr. T.V. Reed says
it creates a place for a collective identity. Now if you are of that
certain age you’ll know that the collective
effervescence is the fizz fizz to the plop plop. So if you laughed, right. So, so the other thing the thing
that happened that was magical at this retreat was that we
got to engage in moral, in, in activism more activism. Because after this retreat we
went out to the H.K. on J., the Moral March on Riley,
and we lifted our voices and we raised our banners and we pretty much
raised the roof that day. And to see all of these artists who had never sung together
ever come together and create that kind of energy that
moved so many people. Now in that song, fight
the power, there was, and those of you will know,
Charon’s laughing, because those of you who know that song,
know that it’s hip hop. What in the middle of that song
a young man from Kentucky broke out his banjo and did a solo. And it worked. It worked. So that’s the power of fusion,
that’s the power of, of music. Let’s look at this first clip. So the first clip is between
breaks, this is a clip of all the artists who came
together to sing this song that was written by
Louie of the Peace Boys, who will be performing
tonight at Bloom Bars.>>[ Singing ] I am not afraid, I will
die for liberation, cause I know why I was made. I am not afraid. I am not afraid. I will die for liberation,
cause I know why I was made. I am not afraid,
I am not afraid, I will die for liberation,
cause I know why I was made. I am not afraid,
I am not afraid, I will die for liberation,
cause I know why I was made. I am not afraid –>>Yara Allen: Okay. And, and so we, we encourage
artists that was a song that was created and so
many songs were born. So many songs were
born in that time. People went away
with inspirations that come back now
to us as songs. So this next clip is an example
of how we are very intentional about closing that gap,
and about the fusion that happens in the music. And that it echoes the movement. And we always say that
whatever we sing has to echo the message
of the movement. This is how we create
the one band, one sound. When across this whole country, we know that we’re singing
certain songs on this week. We know that for the
next action we have a, a song book that we can go to and that everybody is
singing those songs. And when the cameras pan in, they hear a North
Carolina, I am not afraid. Or they hear in California,
I am not afraid, afraid. And then they start
to understand, they really must not be
afraid, they really, yeah they, and they’re organized. So that’s the power of
organizing through music. Let’s take a look at that clip.>>Yara Allen: And this is
at the end of the rally.>>[ Singing ] Let the power, let the
power, let the power.>>Yara Allen: Do
you hear the banjo?>>[ Singing ] Let the power, let the power,
let the power, what, what, what, what, what, what, what, what,
what, what, what, what, what, what, what, what, what, fight,
fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, work,
work, work, work, work.>>[ Singing ] So this is [inaudible] televised but it is broadcasting
now to you guys. I’m going to tell the
[inaudible] we going to, we going to break it
down to you like that. What’s it going to take to dismantle the prejudices
of your [inaudible]. We’re talking racism, sexism,
[inaudible] sexism [inaudible]. And the [inaudible],
there’s a lot of isms, that we don’t need them,
there’s a lot of isms, that we don’t need to say, fight
the power, fight the power, say fight the power,
I say fight the power, I say fight the power. Fight the power. [ Applause ]>>Yara Allen: And so if
you are an artist out here and you have a voice, or
you’re, you’re a visual artist, you’re a song leader, you’re
a potential song leader, you’re a shower song leader,
it doesn’t matter, what I, the advice that I like to leave
the artists is for singers, the acoustics are
terrible in the grave. Leave it all here. The acoustics are
terrible, visual artists, the lighting is terrible
in the grave. Do what you have to do here,
to help change this narrative. [ Applause ]>>Unidentified Speaker: Thank
you that was, that was amazing, let me turn it back over
to the panel and see if you all have any thoughts
or questions for each other, then we’ll entertain one or two
questions from the audience. Yes, please.>>Reginald Jackson: Two things. Well three things. That was, I am suppressing
the words I want to use. It was really good. Yeah. What you said
about color, I, I want to defend
color a little bit, because in the 1960’s there
was no place to publish color. You couldn’t develop
color in your dark room. I have a book, color photographs
coming out this year, photographs I took 1964 to 1974. It’s the first time I’ve
found a publisher who is, these are photographs I
took in Texas prisons, which is what most
of my work is. And so it’s the first time. So it, people took
color, I took some. I didn’t know what I
was going to do with it. I took it just in case. And finally I got lucky. But a long time later. So I like what you did, but I want to defend the
guy who, the photographers. The, the other thing
is [inaudible], I’ve been listening
to all of this. And I think of a
very famous line of [inaudible] life is
understood backwards but it must be lived forwards. And I, I keep hearing about the
things that were done and things that came out of it, and
things that are happening now. And I must tell you I am very
excited and I want to thank you. All of you.>>Yara Allen: Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Marya McQuirter: And I, I
just want to defend myself. And the only thing
I was, I mean black and white photography
is fabulous, color photography is fabulous,
all I was, all I was attempting to say is that the ways
in which the, the media, some media can use that. And so what I was suggesting is that often times
what you find is that the media will
contrast black and white photography alongside
color photography as a way to say that again, that 1968
which was mostly in black and white meant bad, and that
color photography the future means good. And so I’m trying to say that
that’s a visual trop that’s used and thinking about how
do we learn our lessons. And so that’s what I’m
trying to push back against. But, but that means the
photography that you do is, is amazing, whether it’s
black and white or color. That’s all. [ Laughter ] A good save? All right. [ Laughter ]>>Unidentified Speaker: Do you think colorizing
those old 1968 photos or maybe presenting the
current photos in black and white together with
1968 and now is something to change that narrative?>>Marya McQuirter:
That’s, that’s a really, really great question. Probably as a historian
I probably would not. And maybe as a curator I
wouldn’t necessarily be in favor of it except maybe in a, in a, in a deliberate kind
of curatorial space. Like if there’s, if there’s
a way to, to kind of use it in a way that, that you’re
acknowledging to the public that you’re doing it, to try
to play with that visual trop. But one of the things that I am
interested in doing and hoping to work with some folks
here is to kind of play with this visual trop a
little bit, is to pair 1968, different kinds of 1968 with
different kinds of 2018. So for example, Taquiena Boston, you know how wonderful it would
be to have an image of her in 1968, you know, as a 14 year
old, and an image of her now in 2018, who actually works
for social justice and equity with the unitarian
universalist church. You know what I mean? So you can see that that the
way that she was impacted by the Poor People’s Campaign
in ’68 continues to today. So that would be kind of
what I would be interested in is pushing back
against the visual trop and just showing or, let’s see. Another example might be,
yes showing Carmen Gilmore and Carole Green
in 1968 as friends, and showing them today
still as friends. So the, that would be
the way that I’d play with that visual trop. But that’s, that’s
an interesting idea. Thank you.>>Unidentified Speaker:
Oh yeah, I wanted to ask, I was curious, this is to
both panelists, both panels.>>Reginald Jackson:
Both panelists.>>Unidentified Speaker:
Oh the panel earlier.>>Reginald Jackson: Oh yeah.>>Unidentified Speaker:
And you, and you as well. I know I was wondering
if the folks from the campaign today
could speak to some of the international
connections that are being made with movements worldwide. And also I was curious
what, if there’s lineage to or connections with the 1968
international solidarity or movements that were
connected to the campaign then.>>Charon Hribar: Would
you like then or now? Then, do you want
to do then, first? So I would, just
for the now I guess. You know I think we
are actually doing work with international folks, including that we actually had
a crew of international leaders that were with us this past week on this week on labor
and housing. And we had representatives from
five countries that joined us on Monday here in DC from
South Africa and Argentina, as well as Mexico and
where am I missing? Venezuela, Brazil, thank
you, from that [inaudible]. So the [inaudible]
workers movement. So other social movements
in other countries that we’ve been connecting
with and learning from and sharing lessons of the,
the work that’s happening here. And I think it’s really
important you know that we’ve learned
a ton of lessons from international movements. But also I think in
folks coming here to understand you know what
people every day people in the US are dealing with here,
because what’s put out in media around the world is,
is not that things are, that problems are
happening here. So the leaders like
in meeting with them, kind of after we had had
a, a session on Tuesday where folks testified, folks,
some of them that were featured in the video you saw testified
in front of Congress on Tuesday and the international leaders
that were here having a chance to meet other poor folks from
around this country, and, and just, you know, being
able to hear those stories and to be like, oh like we
can build solidarity on this. But that’s really
important to be able to have those connections.>>Yara Allen: And also a few
months ago we were in Rome, Italy with some international
leaders around labor. And they were very
interested in the campaign. And we were able to present
the campaign to them. And to have them really embrace
us was absolutely wonderful and in a couple of days
we’re off to England where they are very
much interested in hearing just how
the campaign works. And they’re in full
support as well.>>Unidentified Speaker:
[Inaudible] that existed I think in full force in
the late ’60s too. I mean I just had, we discovered
tapes I made in 1967 and ’68 with the [inaudible]
Freedom Fighters where we hear then,
then, from the MPLA. And but there was, there were
connections all the time. I mean that was part of the,
what was going on in that moment in ’68 while there was such a revolutionary fervor
was it was all over the world. It was western Europe, it was
liberation movements in Africa, it was what was happening in
South America, it was Cuba, it was meeting with
the Vietnamese. You know so yes,
nothing existed. I mean that’s part
of the movement was to connect those things
I think was important.>>Unidentified Speaker:
Yeah and also the Caribbean, you know [inaudible] from
Trinidad to [inaudible]. But I think, thank you for the, for the visuals and
also the music. But I think the other
thing that we saw at the Poor People’s Campaign
were performing artists from theater and
movies, you know. Robert Culp, Sydney Portier –>>Reginald Jackson: Harry.>>Unidentified Speaker:
Harry Belafonte, etcetera. And I’ll never forget Bill
Cosby most definitely, you know. Hey, hey, hey.>>Reginald Jackson: I couldn’t
resist leaving that one in.>>Unidentified Speaker: Yeah but the funniest
one was Dick Gregory because when Dick got there
he, he had been called by SELC to come and, you know, and
he got there and he said, man I got there and
it was riots going on, people with cars turned
over, flames and everything. And I saw the brothers,
quote, looting the store, carrying this big
couch out of the store. And I, I tried to do my
thing and say brothers where you going with that couch? And the biggest one
said, we psychiatrists and we going on the house call. [ Laughter ]>>Reginald Jackson:
Can I say something. I had to change the
subject that was so good. I mentioned a list of
things going on before, and there’s one I forgot
and it’s really important. In 1971, September,
the Attica uprising. Because the guys in
Attica who, who did that, who organized that, and, and
I knew them, they’re just like the guys who were doing
the stuff on the street. They’re the same age. Come as the same
class, same background, and have the same interests. They’re, if you look at
their demands basically, it’s the same thing
they’re after. More than one roll of toilet
paper a month, decent food, decent living conditions,
being treated fairly. That’s the part of
that whole thing too.>>Unidentified Speaker:
And also [inaudible] on a mom and pop [inaudible]. The last [inaudible] and they
were in room 306 [inaudible]. And you think of the maid
coming in and [inaudible]. So that young lady is
what in her 30’s now and during [inaudible] by
what we’re talking about.>>Unidentified Speaker: Okay. Yes.>>Unidentified Speaker: Hi. I’m curious and this might
be more of a discussion between the old and
the new organizers. Washington DC, I mean
the past and the present.>>Reginald Jackson:
That’s okay.>>Unidentified Speaker:
I apologize. And I’m, yeah. Oh Washington DC
provided a lot of support, materials, wood, right, food. And what are you seeing
today in the DC residents, and what are you experiencing,
are there gaps in that or in, and how, you know, how can we
assist further as residents, and then also maybe in 1968
beyond MLK’s assassination and the riots, like what
was moving the residents to actually participate so much?>>Reginald Jackson: Beats me. Do you know?>>Unidentified Speaker: Well I
mean [inaudible] I think they. Well there was a
movement happening. And people in DC were
part of the movement. I mean you know there was, there
was a lot of stuff going on. I mean U Street now
is not U Street then. Some of us who lived there
and what was going on. Snake Headquarters, Panther
Headquarters were on U Street. It was a, there was
a, there was a, we, we started the Liberation News
Service here, that was in DC at the time, Washington
Free Press. There were all these free
movement activities happening. So I mean people were involved
and they involved generations of different generations
and stuff. Crossing white and
black lines as well. DC was mostly white
or black back then. And yeah so I think there was,
it was, it was a movement. And so you always had this kind
of layers of stuff happening, no matter what city you were
in I think that, that was, that’s maybe the
different today than.>>Unidentified Speaker: You
know I, I agree with that, and I think that the
thing that may happen in today’s Washington is that
the metropolitan area is likely to be as involved as the city. Because we have in Arlington, you know we’ve got
little [inaudible], we’ve got Little Saigon, we’ve got all these quote
immigrant communities who have started to
organize themselves. And who recognize the legacy
of this for their future, especially in the current
political environment. So I think the metropolis is
different now than it was then. DC is more gentrified and, in
some places that’s a good thing, that could, that could be
potentially a good thing for the movement, but it also
can be a problematic thing because I think the connections
to faith and the connections to some of the cultural
institutions are not what they were in 1968. So yeses and nos.>>Yara Allen: In terms
of, of what DC is offering, and resources, you’ve offered
some amazing artists to us. And our base player every
Sunday night is in the building, you know for Max
meetings, he, he’s in there with his upright base guitar. And so we’ve been able to pull from those artistic
resources here. And that’s been,
that’s been major.>>Charon Hribar: Yeah and
I mean all of the events that we’ve had here
in DC are being housed by different churches
and communities, bases. And so I think that
is important. The one thing I, you know
I think that there’s, there’s also a local DC
metropolitan coordinating committee that is working
to do outreach in this area. And recognizing that, you
know, you know, there is a, a kind of different reality
here in DC that there’s part of a national but
also really wanting to have local organizing that’s
happening be foundational in the campaign. You know, as in the states. But the other piece,
just quickly in terms of Maggie your question. You know I also think
we’re at a different moment in the Poor People’s
Campaign than we were in ’68. In ’68 we were coming from years
of organizing like together and it was, you know, kind
of a not a combination because that organizing
still was going on. But I think we’re at a more
beginning stage right now. And so I think now is a great
time to ask that question because I think there’s,
there is like so much more than we can start doing
to organize together. And so just to notice that
it’s a different stage and so how we can take advantage
of that, like starting to seed, you know, how do we plant the
seeds now that can continue to grow, because we’re just
at the start of this campaign and this 40 days is a launch. And so looking to, to
be able to continue to build with folks here.>>Guha Shankar: I’m sorry I’m
going to have to stop right now because we’re coming up
on the end of our time. But I was hoping to get Yara and
Charon to take us out in a song, which would make
a great transition to our summary speaker, the
Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis. And while I’m at it, I
want to put in a plug for a wonderful exhibition. My colleague and
friend, Kelly [inaudible] from the National Museum
of African American History and Culture, who is right
there in the audience. Oral Historian. Is part of the wonderful
team of colleagues who have this exhibition of
the Poor People’s Campaign at the Museum of
American History. So all of you who
are here really need to go avail yourself
of doing that. NMHC has been, and here’s
a shameless political party political announcement. The NMHC has been our partners
at the Library of Congress with the Civil Rights History
Project and you can see some of the videos, including the
testimonials from members of the Poor People’s Camp,
people who came here in 1968 with the, the mostly
Latino contingent for the 1968 campaign. Those are available and on, on
our website, our joint website. And so that’s a part of what, I want to bring this back full
circle to what John Fenn started out the morning with today about
how to cultural institutions, institutions of cultural memory
if you will, sustain these kinds of memories, these
kinds of histories, for the benefit of
future audiences. And I think Nick and Maggie and
Marya and others have alluded to the fact that we are part
of that effort going forward to make sure that future
generations don’t forget what’s come before. So with that being said, as I said that’s my paid
political party announcement. Let me get, if I would, if
I would prevail upon Yara and Charon to take us out.>>Yara Allen: Oh well.>>Charon Hribar: Okay.>>Yara Allen: Well the first
thing we’re going to ask is, and we say this in the movement,
is that we stand together. And the reason that we do that
is because we stand together. All right. And we always have to
do a check of the room. That’s everywhere, we’re
not picking on you. Where are the altos? Altos? Where are the sopranos? Where are the tenors?>>Charon Hribar: All
the way in the back.>>Yara Allen: Base baritone? And the people we love so
dearly, I have no idea. Now it never fails that every
time we ask that question some of the same people who raised
their hands before go up again. So that was your
moment of confession. And, and I have to leave this
tip, if you’re a little shy about singing in public,
and you’re in the shower, especially if you have tile
on the floor, turn that shower on full force, and
listen to that applause.>>Charon Hribar: There you go.>>Yara Allen: And you
can sing as loud and wrong as you want to, it’s okay, because you have a
captive audience. Okay. We’re going to, Charon.>>Charon Hribar: Everybody’s
got a right to live, we were talking about you
know bridging then and now, so we’re going to take us out with everybody’s
got a right to live.>>Yara Allen: And be
careful that end, that, that little piece that the
young people tagged on. So when the call comes,
everybody’s got a right to live.>>Charon Hribar: To live.>>Yara Allen: Everybody’s
got a right to love. To love.>>Charon Hribar: To love.>>Yara Allen: Everybody’s
got a right to learn.>>Charon Hribar: To learn.>>Yara Allen: How loud can we
get before we get thrown out? Really? How, how –>>Charon Hribar: We’re about
to get a little loud in here.>>Yara Allen: A little. Okay. All right. He’s going to close the door. You want to start?>>Charon Hribar: Here we go.>>[ Singing ] Everybody’s got a right to live. Everybody’s got a right to live. And before this campaign fails
we’ll all go down to jail, because everybody’s
got a right to live. Everybody’s got a right to live. Everybody’s got a right to live. And before this campaign fails
we’ll all go down to jail, because everybody’s
got a right to live.>>Charon Hribar: Everybody’s
got a right to live.>>Yara Allen: To live.>>Charon Hribar: Everybody’s
got a right to love.>>Yara Allen: To love.>>Charon Hribar: Everybody’s
got a right to learn.>>Yara Allen: To learn.>>Charon Hribar: Everybody’s
got a right to dream.>>Yara Allen: To dream.>>Charon Hribar: Everybody’s
got a right to live.>>Yara Allen: To live.>>Charon Hribar: Everybody’s
got a right to love.>>Yara Allen: To love.>>Charon Hribar: Everybody’s
got a right to learn.>>Yara Allen: To learn.>>Charon Hribar:
Everybody’s got a right to –>>[ Singing ] Everybody’s got a right to live. Everybody’s got a
right a right to live. And before this campaign fails
we’ll all go down to jail, because everybody’s
got a right to live. [ Applause ]>>Guha Shankar: Thank you. Thank you if I could. Dr. Reverend Liz Theoharis
is coming up to the stage. [ Applause ]>>Liz Theoharis:
So good afternoon.>>Audience: Good afternoon.>>Liz Theoharis: So it’s really
good to be here with folks. I wanted to do one quick thing. So who here has some
personal connection to the 19648 Poor
People’s Campaign? So we just need to give those
folks a huge round of applause. We are standing on
great shoulders. So it is really humbling to be
here especially to be with folks that were a part of
such an important moment in this country’s history. So you know we, we give huge
thanks for the folks that were on the front lines
and for the folks that have documented
that history. And, and made it so that
we, we cannot forget it. So I am Reverend
Dr. Liz Theoharis. I am one of the co-chairs of
the Poor People’s Campaign, a National Call for
More Revival. The other co-chair of the campaign is
Reverend Dr. William Barber out of North Carolina and he is
in Michigan and Chicago today and sends his love and regards. He was in Kentucky yesterday,
and as Yara said will be heading to Liverpool, England tomorrow. So there’s a lot of moving around that’s going
on right now. But we are on week
five of six weeks of what we call nonviolent
moral fusion direct action. So the Poor People’s
Campaign, a national call for more revival comes out
of years of organizing, years of learning and studying, years of poor people
kind of rising up. And so the, from the
tens of thousands of families whose water have
been shut off in Detroit, Michigan, to the, the family
members of people who have died because of the lack of
healthcare in Alabama, and North Carolina, and
Vermont and all over this space to the thousands of immigrants on our nation’s border
crying for hugs, not walls. And actually going
into the Rio Grande and hugging their family
members in, in that water. To, to the families in
Mans County, Alabama right in between Selma and Montgomery, the home of the Black
Panther Party, but who in 2018 still do
not have sanitation services and there is raw sewage
in people’s yards. A third of the population
has parasites, parasites that people
thought were eradicated, but have reemerged
because of climate change. To homeless encampments in
Washington state and Oregon. Poor people across this
country have been crying out, are still crying out,
and are coming together that we want to be free. And that we need a
Poor People’s Campaign. We need a moral revival in this
land to make this country great for many that it
has never yet been. And so we see right now a moral
movement afoot in this country. And, and what we know from
history is when poor people, and other people impacted
by injustice ban together with clergy and religious
leaders, with activists and advocates, only
then can we kind of change the course of history. So you know what we
did before we started out with this campaign,
the Poor People’s Campaign and National Call for Moral
Revival was we commissioned an audit. It’s called the Souls of Poor
Folk, Auditing American 50 years since the 1968 Poor
People’s Campaign. And what we found in that, and
it was done by the Institute for Policy studies and
by the Urban Institute and By Economists and
Sociologists and impacted folks and policy makers is
that today, in 2018, there are 60% more poor
people than in 1968. That today, in 2018 we have,
we have fewer voting rights than we did 50 years ago. That today in, in 2018, we have
more deaths because of pollution and the, you know
the, the lead in water and other kinds of things. And, and so what, what
that compels us to do is to organize, organize, organize. So what we’ve been trying
to do in this campaign is, is raise awareness, that,
that 140 million people in this country are
poor and low income. That that is 43.5%
of the population. That 80% of people in the
United States at some point in our lives will
experience poverty. So this is not some small
problem for some group over here, this is a,
a major moral travesty. This is a major epidemic. And that, that 51%
of kids living in this country right today
didn’t have enough food this morning, they’re living
in food insecure homes. Half of the kids in our country. We spend $0.53 to every $1 on
the military and only $0.15 on, and those numbers
have also gotten worse in the past 50 years. You know when Dr. King and
others called for this kind of tri partied evils, and,
and taking on the militarism, racism, and poverty all
together, like that, that showed that we
could only get rid of one if we got rid of all of them. And, and what has happened over
the past 50 years is that all of those things have
gotten worse for people. And so we, we have been
traveling around the country, and right now we are
engaged in 40 days of, of nonviolent civil disobedience and organizing across
the country. We launched on May 14th, and
what historians have told us, this isn’t what we’ve
told ourselves, that we do announce it, like
I am now, that, that what, what has been going on over
the past five weeks is the most expansive, and the largest wave of nonviolent civil disobedience
in the 21st Century. So since already. So that is really
something, right. And, and, and that’s
happening in close to 40 states across the country and
here in Washington DC. So just to, to say a
little bit about what that has been is that, you know, for five consecutive weeks poor
people and clergy, activists and advocates have
marched on state capitals, have taken over state
capitals, have been locked out of state capitals,
have closed the streets around their capitals, you know,
singing songs like on that, that Ms. Yara Allen wrote,
somebody’s hurting our people and it’s gone on
for far too long, and we won’t be silent anymore. Sitting, you know,
sitting in the capital, being locked in all night. Singing we shall not be moved. Being out on the streets
in front of capitals, singing everybody’s
got a right to live, and before this campaign
fades, fails, we’ll all go down to jail, as being are
being carted off to, to jail. And still committing to, and,
and there’s been a response. So, so we can tell that
it’s being noticed. In Kentucky, two weeks ago, hundreds of people
were denied entrance to the state capital there. We found out, looking
at history, that the NRA did a really nice
rally in that state capital not so long ago, and they got to
bring their AK 47’s, but when, when peaceful poor
clergy protestors came into the state capital in
Kentucky a couple weeks ago, they were told that
they, they couldn’t come. In New Jersey, they’ve been
arrested before they can even get close to their capital. They’ve been trying
to cut people short, and that’s happened
three weeks in a row now. In Arkansas, they’ve
been getting threats that if they keep on
coming, they’ll be, you know, not just banned from
the capital but banned from the whole surrounding area. In Kansas, when folks got, the nonviolence civil
disobedience a couple of weeks ago, on
their citations, like on the violations, it, it called the capital
itself the victim. And it banned people from,
from going back to the, the — you know, and potentially
hurting that victim, that, that capital that is
actually passing policies where people’s lives are dying because of what’s
been happening there. In, in Massachusetts homeless
vets set up an encampment, right before Memorial Day, that
was taken down, dismantled, you know, just like homeless
encampments are being dismantled all across this country, just like Resurrection City
was dismantled at the, at the, you know, kind of conclusion
of or not the conclusion, that made for you
know, the dismantling. In, in New Hampshire, a bunch of white supremacists
organizations came and threatened the
campaign leaders there. In Mississippi, when they did
their first press conference, they brought dogs on folks. When they did their
third protest, someone with guns came
and threatened folks. I mean so, so this is,
this is 2018, right. This is folks trying
to organize in, in Alaska yes, Alaska
is involved. Who knew there were
people organizing in Alaska, it’s amazing. At, at their training for nonviolent civil
disobedience someone came and bear maced them. And people said, we’re
going to wash off, we’re going to go back, we’re
going to learn from history and we’re going to figure out
what it looks like for people to keep on organizing. And so there is, there
is something happening in this country. There is a powerful and
mighty grass roots movement that is, that is rising up. And, and I have been involved in grass roots antipoverty
organizing for 25 years. And I have never seen
anything like it. To see folks coming forward,
and committing their lives, especially folks that
don’t have homes, that do not have living wages,
that do not have healthcare, that votes have been suppressed,
that’s kids have died in their arms, just
because of poverty. You know, or because of the
poisoning of their water, or because of the
pollution in the air. And to see folks
saying, you know, at — in the words of Nick
Smith who was at one of our rallies a couple of weeks
ago from the Fight for Fifteen, our backs are against the wall,
and all we can do is push. And just to kind of see
that coming out of, and — and so, so we have learned
a bunch from history. And it’s part of the reason
we have to honor those that have come before us. You know so, so we started
with the triple evils that Dr. King was talking about, that the Poor People’s
Campaign was, was talking about, that poor people being the
Achilles heel of militarism, of racism, and of you know,
economic exploitation. But in our travels across
the country, as we were kind of calling for and
organizing this campaign, we found that in every
community that we went to that had poor folk,
there was some form of ecological devastation that was impacting those
people by far the most. And it became impossible
actually to talk about these issues without then
talking about the poisoning of water, the, the
extreme extraction, the fracking that’s going on. And you know, the gas
incinerators being in poor communities. And so, so we said okay,
well we’re going to learn from actually some of the
young people that were at Resurrection City in ’68 because there’s some
amazing quotes. You know people date the
environmental movement to wait after the last ’60s. But there are powerful
quotes from the ’68 campaign where young people
that are living at that Resurrection
City say, you know, in my lifetime this environment
is going to be a major issue. I mean because people could
see that the degrading of life and everything, like
what, you know, how, how important that was. And so, but then we’ve
also realized that, that what ties those
four evils together, what ties systemic racism,
systemic poverty, militarism and the war economy and ecological devastation
together is a distorted moral narrative. A moral narrative that blames
poor people for our problems, that tries to pit us against
each other, and that claims that there is scarcity when
we’re living in a society, in a world of abundance. And so, so we, we’ve said
that another one of the evils that we have to take on in this
day is this distorted moral narrative that is propagated by these religious
Christian nationalists. And, and that we have to,
we have to call that out, and we have to show that
something else is possible. And that a new narrative
is possible and, and coming through. So, so that’s one of the
lessons that we, we took. Another, another lesson
is, is the need to organize and unite the poor across
all the lines that divide us. And so what you see in some of
the photos, and some of the, the songs that, that Yara
and Charon were showing, I mean is a multiracial
intergenerational across geography, you know,
rural, urban, exurban, suburban. Like, you know, movement of
people, young, old, queer, straight, Muslim, Jewish,
Christian, Buddhists. Like I mean really like it’s not
that it’s like a cumbia moment where everyone just like
grabs hands together and says, can’t we all get along. But is just that people
out of suffering are seeing who else can we ban
together with. And, and it’s, it’s happening,
like you know just to, to be in a mass meeting in
Albuquerque, New Mexico, and have a Muslim woman doing a
call to prayer at the same time that an indigenous woman
is doing, you know, honoring a spirit
ceremony to have, you know, folks break into tongues in
the Pentecostal tradition and to have, you know, poor
white, poor black, poor Latino, poor Muslim, poor indigenous
folks all saying we’re in this together. I mean it’s, it’s, it’s a
powerful, it’s a powerful thing. And, and we have learned
that that isn’t easy. And we’ve learned that through
history and we’ve learned that through our
experience, right, where, but, but you know I was talking to,
you know — Then the another, a huge piece of history that is, is the power of the
people, right. The power of poor people
to be able to make change. So we’re not waiting for
those in power to, to save us. We’re not going to
the national leaders and the national organizations
to say, are you going to come together
around these issues. This has come from
the bottom up. And, and who has been
calling for this? Who are the leaders
in this campaign? Are just regular
people, are poor people that have been suffering
for a long time, organizing for a long time,
but now coming together. And, and so one of the things
that people really critiqued us for at the beginning
of this campaign was, well you don’t have all of the
national organizations on board. And we said, we’re
not going there, we’re going to the states. We’re going to the
grassroots leaders. And, and from there, 126 national organizations
have come on board. From there, nine or ten major
religious denominations have been on board. And, and with them
getting on board isn’t just like saying they’re going to pat
us on the back, what them being on board means is that
their, their top leaders are, are doing the civil
disobedience, arm and arm with a Five
for Fifteen Worker. What it means it is that
they’re, they’re having the, the people in their
organizations figure out what it looks like to
actually work on a regular basis to build from the bottom
up in all the states that they have national
membership. And so, and so like what, what
we’re seeing is, is you know, a flipping of the script,
where it’s not that you have, you know, you know, big
important politicians or elected, or candidates
or, or other kind of known national leaders,
you have, you have the people who are coming together. And, but, and — and then
another piece of, of history is that we are, are organizing
here in Washington DC. And it’s happening in almost
40 states across the country. And what that looks
like is that you know, there are state coordinating
committees made up of a read diversity of
folks all across the country. And that we got from leaders
from ’68, which was that, how do you build from the ground
up, how do you have an actual, you know, movement with
roots in the ground. Because where policies that
are being passed in particular that hurt people, that have
a long staying power is in people’s state capitals. And so what does it look
like for us to, to you know, not say it’s a national movement
because it has a P.O. Box in Washington DC, but
it’s a national movement because we’re nationalizing
state based and local based movements. And, and connecting them,
and, and building them out. And so, so you know
there’s something, there’s something going on and, and we want to invite folks
to, to be a part of that. Because what these 40
days have been is a launch of a first phase of a
Poor People’s Campaign, and a national call
for moral revival. And, and what we’ve, what
we’ve seen is that people all across the country are,
are ready for a long fight. The, the problems of 140
million people being poor didn’t happen overnight. The fact that there
are 37 million people without healthcare, that
didn’t happen overnight. The fact that there are
four million households, when they turned on their water
this morning, there was lead in their water, like that
didn’t happen overnight. So it’s not going to
be overnight that all of those things are
going to change. It’s going to need
a powerful movement, and I think we learned
this from history, and we learned this
from today, right. And so that, that
movement is happening. And so we, we’ve been traveling
around the country and kind of uniting and organizing folks. And, and I, I have been
particularly inspired by this, this one quote from Dr. King,
from the Massy Lectures in ’67 when he kind of was calling for
and putting out some of the, the ideas of the Poor
People’s Campaign. And he says, there is nothing
wrong with a traffic light which says that you have
to stop for a red light, but when a fire is raging,
the fire truck goes right through that red light, and normal traffic had
better get out of its way. Or when a man is bleeding
to death, the ambulance goes through those red
lights at top speed. There is a fire raging now
for the poor of this society. They are living in
tragic conditions because the terrible
economic injustices that keep them locked in. Disinherited people all over
the world are bleeding to death from deep social
and economic wounds. They need for gabs of
ambulance drivers who will have to ignore the red light
of the present system until the emergency is solved. Massive civil disobedience is
a strategy for social change, which is at least as
forceful as an ambulance with its sirens on full. And so what we have all across
the country is thousands of ambulance drivers, thousands
of people who have signed up to say that they will
ignore the red lights of racism and sexism and poverty
and militarism and ecological devastation
and that they will, they will continue to do this
until the emergency is solved. And that you know, to, to go
back and think about the role that nonviolent civil
disobedience has in history, the role of poor people
coming together and, and, and disrupting and calling
to account the structures that are impoverishing,
the structures that are killing people
and, and to say not today. Not on our watch. And in such a time as this
we are called indeed to, to organize, we are called
to mobilize, we are called to educate, we are called to
celebrate, and we are called to, to build a powerful movement. And so we invite everybody
to be a part of this. We need everyone. Especially the people that are. And all roads at this point,
because we’re on week five, lead to week six, and lead to
June 23rd where at 7th Street on the National Mall at
that pebble gravel area, you know where it is, we will
have an encampment that goes up on, on Sunday, and we
will have cultural events, educational events, rallies
and actions happening all week. And then on Saturday the
23rd we’ll have a mass call to action rally. And, and we — people from all across the country are
coming, and we need everyone. So, so please join us. [ Applause ]>>Guha Shankar: So that
concludes our program. And thank you all so much
for coming and for staying and for our participants for
sharing their experiences, their memories, and, and
enlightening us in so many ways. It’s a privilege for all of us
here at the Library to host you, and we look forward to seeing
you again at other programs, as you make your way
down the mall towards that wonderful day on June 23rd. You can come by and visit
us anytime you like. So thank you. Bye, bye.>>Unidentified Speaker:
This has been a presentation of the Library of Congress. Visit us at LOC.gov.

Comment here