Dr. King led an organizing session for his last campaign--the Poor People’s Campaign, demanding a job, income and health care for every American. He felt strongly about building this multi-cultural, multi-racial coalition; no one side of town would diminish another. People would come by train and plane, bus and walk to engage, if necessary, in civil disobedience, to get the attention of Congress. He was determined to put a focus on gripping poverty.
Sharing a birthday cake brought him by Xernona Clayton, we all laughed and talked through lunch, and then returned to work. Al Lowenstein led a workshop on strategies and plans to end the war in Vietnam, on linking the civil rights movement at home, to ending the war abroad.
Today we’ve come full circle. There are five terms you rarely hear in Washington--poverty; racial equality; economic justice; reconstruction; peace budget.
Today, more than 50 million Americans have no health insurance. Insurance premiums continue to rise. Nearly 47 million are still in poverty. Unemployment continues and these numbers will rise. 41 million are on food stamps. Nearly 30 million are unemployed and underemployed. Foreclosures continue to rise, outstripping loan modifications. Student loan debts are now greater than credit card debt, endangering a whole generation of our youth.
Were he alive today, he would be organizing a Poor People’s Campaign to redirect our nation’s priorities to providing jobs, health care and economic justice at home. He never wavered in his passion to end poverty, to achieve economic justice and racial equality. This was his vision, not limited to Harlem or Memphis in the United States, but a global view aligned with the desires of the world’s people.