In 1968, Martin Luther King watched as a teacher in Marks, Mississippi cut an apple in four to feed four hungry students. That sight moved him to tears and inspired him to join with others to launch the first Poor People’s Campaign.
That same year, Dr. King traveled to Memphis to support Black sanitation workers who went on strike to demand respect and a living wage. They declared their humanity to the world with signs that read, “I AM MAN,” and their struggle helped fuel the Poor People’s Campaign.
It’s as true today as in 1968: rampant poverty in the richest country on earth is an intolerable sin.
We can’t just remember. We must also fight. On Monday, I joined thousands of fast-food workers in Memphis striking for $15/hour and union rights. We marched the same route sanitation workers marched a half century ago.
And today I’m in Marks, which, 50 years after Dr. King visited, is still one of the poorest counties in the United States. Memphis and Marks were the first stops on a tour spotlighting the harshest poverty in the nation.
Over the next two months, we will travel coast to coast, from immigrant farming communities in California’s Central Valley to Alabama’s Lowndes County, where families are suffering from inadequate wastewater treatment.
We won’t just highlight poverty, but the inspiring organizing that is changing lives. On every stop, we will meet local organizers to elevate their leadership and invite them into our campaign.
Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis Campaign Co-Chair, Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival