The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) today announced the rebirth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Poor People’s Campaign” to fight poverty in some of the poorest regions of America. Launched in 1968, the campaign’s first major initiative sought to win economic justice for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn. It was there on a motel balcony where King was assassinated April 4,1968.
In a press conference at the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C., SCLC General Counsel Dexter Wimbush said the campaign’s goal is to finish the unfinished business of Dr. King.
The new Poor People’s Campaign’s first major event is a June 20 march and rally in Jackson, Miss., where civil rights activists, community and union leaders, people of faith and other allies will march to the steps of the state capitol.
While the initial focus will be on Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Louisiana, SCLC Interim President and CEO Dr. Byron Clay says the campaign will pull back the veil of silence that prevents Americans from facing the reality that millions of American live in deplorable conditions of poverty. We should be clear that poverty is a national epidemic that must be addressed.
The SCLC also is urging President Obama to establish a presidential commission on poverty and is seeking congressional hearings to explore ways to combat poverty.
Wimbush said the fight against poverty will be a multipronged attack that includes living and family sustainable wages, quality education, health care reform and environmental justice because they are all intertwined in creating and perpetuating poverty.
Just yesterday, a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 40 percent of low-income Americans do not have health insurance. About one-third of the uninsured have a chronic disease and they are six times less likely to receive health care services than those with insurance. It also notes that:
Low-income Americans and racial and ethnic minorities experience disproportionately higher rates of disease, fewer treatment options and reduced access to care. With unemployment on the rise, the disparities already apparent among these groups will continue to increase. It is vital that health reform reduces costs to make health care affordable; protects a patient’s choice of doctors, hospitals, and insurance plans; invests in prevention and wellness; and assures quality, affordable health care for all Americans.
Read the full findings here.