Kentucky is important to making a change nationally, and giving a voice to the poor, said the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II as part of a national Poor People’s Campaign, which held a protest at Georgetown College Monday.
A “Moral Monday March” was held followed by a mass meeting in John L. Hill Chapel. The Poor People’s Campaign is a ‘National Call for Moral Revival,’ Barber said. Its goal is to unite people from across the country to challenge the evils of systematic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality, he said.
“We were invited by the Poor People’s Campaign here in Kentucky,” said Barber, who is the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church. “We’re doing a 25-state tour called we must do M.O.R.E. Mobilizing, Organizing, Registering, Educating people for the movement to vote. We’re concluding on June 2020 with a mass poor people’s assembly in Washington.
“Kentucky is critical because there are over 2.3 million poor and low income people in Kentucky. That’s over 40% of the people of Kentucky. We can no longer have a political discourse where people talk about everything but the poor and low income. We cannot have a Senate race where people say the moral issue is where you stand against gay people and where you stand against a woman’s right to choose, and not deal with the fact that 1.3 million of that 2.3 are white. Nine hundred thousand some people without a living wage. Hundreds of thousands of people without healthcare in Kentucky and those are issues that we must lift…”
The campaign addresses five interlocking injustices, Barber said.
“Systemic racism — like voter suppression — systemic poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and religious nationalism.”
A “moral budget” has been created to address these issues going forward, Barber said.
“We’ve put together a moral budget to say it’s not about scarcity it’s about the will to do this,” he said. “We’re pushing that budget. We’re turning it into legislation. We’ve put it before Republicans, Democrats in the House. We’re doing massive voter registration across the country.
“There’s a stat that says if 2 percent of the poor, low income people would register and vote we could fundamentally change the political calculus in this country. We’re having this mass, mass, mass gathering in D.C. March on Washington if you will, Poor People’s Assembly, that is designed to change the narrative and put a face on the injustices. Too often in politics all we’re hearing about is middle class and the wealthy. Tax cuts or no tax cuts, the issue we gotta deal with is what is the cost of poverty? What is it costing this nation to have this many people languish in poverty and not be addressing it.”
The Rev. Donald K. Jillet, with the East Second Street Christian Church in Lexington, addressed the crowd on poverty as well, but also spoke on the disenfranchisement of voters in Kentucky. In Kentucky, those who have a felony cannot vote. One must be cleared by the governor to have voting rights restored.
“That’s one of the basics of citizenship being able to choose how our democracy runs,” Jillet said.
The campaign seeks change, Barber said.
“Kentucky is key,” the pastor said. “The Senate race here is key. Kentucky is really in some ways the center of the political universe, but what we’re saying is this is not about Democrat or Republican, it’s about right versus wrong. We are calling on both sides of the aisle for change. Whether they do or not we are going to change this narrative and say you will not any longer ignore the poor and low income people of this country.”
Sam Steiert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.