To commemorate Martin Luther King Jr’s 1968 Poor People’s Campaign (PPC), grassroots groups are taking actions in Washington DC and several US cities, Ireland and England the week of July 14 to Stop the War on the Poor. This is the first of what organizers plan as an annual action. They aim to expose – and change – that while one in two people in the US lives at or near poverty and the planet is on the brink, the US spends $682 billion on the military, nearly half the world’s total. Women and children are the majority of the poor. Women do 2/3 of the worlds work for 5% of the Income (ILO), yet the fundamental work of mothers and other primary caregivers is unvalued and unsupported.
In addition to a pots and pans rally outside the White House, campaigners will be meeting with religious organizations and members of Congress.
Demands include: passage and implementation of the RISE Out of Poverty Act (H.R. 814, Rep Gwen Moore, D-WI) that makes the elimination of child poverty central to welfare legislation; passage of the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act (H.R. 5024, Rep Nita Lowey, D-NY), another step in the direction of valuing caregiving; child welfare agencies to stop removing children from families because of poverty, racism, sexism; and a living wage for mothers and other caregivers.
“Just prior to his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr condemned the Vietnam War and called for the PPC culminating in a Poor People’s March in DC in June, demanding a living wage and a guaranteed income,” said Pat Gowens whose organization Welfare Warriors initiated the Stop the War on the Poor actions. Little has changed since King noted that Congress had shown ‘hostility to the poor’ by spending ‘military funds with alacrity and generosity’. We are asking the President and Congress to act.”
Coretta Scott King spoke out in support of impoverished mothers. She railed against welfare cuts which she said “forces mothers to leave their children and accept work or training, leaving their children to grow up in the streets” and urged others “to join welfare mothers and call upon Congress to establish a guaranteed annual income.”
Dr. King learnt from welfare mothers. They had been calling for a poor people’s campaign and urging his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), to oppose “anti-welfare” legislation and support their right to welfare. Michael Eric Dyson
Pat Albright, a domestic worker and former welfare recipient with the Every Mother is a Working Mother Network says: “The history of MLK and Coretta Scott King’s support for impoverished mothers has been lost in the rush from both the right and left to condemn mothers on welfare, to press only for jobs outside the home and to deny that raising children and caring for those who are ill, disabled or older is the hard work that it is entitling mothers to welfare and other resources.”
“They cut my food stamps from $80 to $15 last month. Now I have to pay all my bills and buy food with just $300 left after paying rent. It is almost impossible to make it now. What can I do?” E.P., an elder with a disability.
“I am raising two kids on my own and only got $23 last month after welfare cut off my childcare so I couldn’t do the welfare work. Now I’m facing eviction and just don’t know what to do. They say I can’t get any more help because I met my time limits this month.” C.S, a young mom.
“Globally 1 in 3 people live on less than $2 a day, and in the US it is mainly women and children of color, Black, Latino/Hispanic and Native American who are the most impoverished,” “says Margaret Prescod of Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike, one of the sponsoring groups. “Poverty is at the heart of it all”
Co-sponsors to date include: Alexandria House, LA; Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin; California Families Against Solitary Confinement; Dallas 6 Campaign, Pennsylvania; DHS/DCFS Give Us Back Our Children, Philadelphia and LA; Fight for Lifers West; F*WORD, Santa Cruz, CA; Human Rights Coalition-Fed Up, Pittsburgh; LA No More Jails; Martin Luther King Coalition of Greater LA; Military Families Speak Out – Orange County, CA; 9 to 5 Wisconsin; Parents Organizing For Welfare and Economic Rights (POWER), Olympia, WA; Payday Men’s Network; Queer Strike; RAC-LA; KidVillage@OccupyLA; Sin Barras, Santa Cruz, CA; Women and Trans Prisoner Defense Committee, Pittsburgh; USPROStitutes Collective; Veterans for Peace, LA Chapter; Voces de la Frontera, Milwaukee, WI