Organizers led those gathered Monday in song at Cherokee Place United Methodist Church
The Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival's National We Must Do MORE Tour finished up a three-day stop in Charleston on Mon. Jan. 13. The tour, which is stopping in 25 states, aims to raise awareness of the issues facing struggling low-income people in the U.S.
On Monday, after canvassing and making other stops in the area over the weekend, community members, advocates, and faith leaders were among those who organized a Moral Monday March from Fresh Future Farm up Rivers Avenue to Cherokee Place United Methodist Church for a mass meeting and rally.
The tour's stop in Charleston is part of a road trip leading up to the Mass Poor People's Assembly and Moral March on Washington slated for June 20.
There, thousands more will gather in the nation's capital to "demonstrate their power" and call for the implementation of the campaign's Moral Agenda.
Theoharis is the co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign
Drawing inspiration from social justice leaders of the past who persevered in the face of adversity, the group's agenda lists the demands of low-income people of their leaders in the federal government.
"These prophetic justice leaders remind us that movements don't just curse the darkness," says campaign co-chair Rev. Liz Theoharis. "We don't just awake the nation with what is wrong, but we come together in power with demands. We are rising up to demand justice."
The list of demands given by the Poor People's Campaign breaks down just some of the issues facing marginalized populations in the U.S. Priorities range from ending systemic racism and ecological devastation, to valuing peace over war and a national morality.
The Moral Monday event in North Charleston served as a platform for residents to speak about firsthand experiences to rally support for the march in Washington. After speeches, applause was punctuated with words by Rev. William J. Barber II, who leads the group with Theoharis.
"When we get to D.C., we don't want people clapping at people's stories — we want them crying," he tells the crowd. "We want to break this nation's heart. We want to say, 'Don't be acting like they're so heroic.' We say, 'Somebody's hurting our brothers and our sisters, and it's gone on far too long, and we won't be silent anymore.'"
Barber speaks at the American Federation of Government Employees convention in 2015
Barber has served as one of the South's most prominent activists over the past decade, organizing Moral Monday protests in his home state of North Carolina. The Poor People's Campaign, founded in 2017, takes its name from the 1960s-era civil rights group that rallied for overlooked communities as the nation grappled with the impact of generations of segregation.
This summer's march in Washington will be an even-larger platform to address national leaders, but the event will serve as a call to action for people to take part in moral civic engagement that cares about poor and low-wealth people, the sick, immigrants, workers, the environment, and peace over war.
"This event is so important because people need to know what it's like to not have a home and the simple things — like a place to take a shower, a bathroom, and a place to sit down and rest," said Christine Riccio, a member of the Poor People's Campaign in S.C., in a press release before the event last week. "They need to know the taste of peanut butter and bread and water when that's your only dinner option. This Poor People's Campaign is long overdue in South Carolina."
Learn more about the campaign and the June 2020 march at poorpeoplescampaign.org