By Luke Weir
The Poor People’s Campaign of Watauga County will host its third town hall meeting at the Harvest House in Boone on Monday, Feb. 26 at 5:30 p.m. The campaign describes itself as a national call for moral revival.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. initiated the original Poor People’s Campaign prior to his untimely murder 50 years ago. Today, Rev. Dr. William Barber II, former president of the North Carolina NAACP has revitalized the movement and is pushing it nationally.
Co-chair of the Watauga Poor People’s Campaign, Cathy Williamson, told High Country Press that the movement cuts at root causes of poverty.
“The premise of the campaign is to draw attention to the systems that make people poor and keep people living in poverty,” Williamson said. “We want to bring together poor white, brown and black people and change the narrative so poor people understand they have a common enemy, which is the powers that be, rather than each other.”
Williamson said politics, prisons, militarism and ecological devastation in disadvantaged areas are some of the systems contributing to cycles of poverty.
“For example, education beyond high school is expensive,” Williamson said. “If you can’t afford to pay for college, you won’t have the same opportunities to succeed and are more likely to stay poor.”
The meeting Monday evening will focus on allowing poverty-stricken local residents to tell their stories.
“I don’t like to be statistic-heavy at these meetings,” Williamson said. “We’ve got people from all over the community who are truly impacted by the economy and oppressive systems of society—we want to let them tell their stories.”
Monday’s meeting will be the final town-hall style forum for the Poor People’s Campaign before they meet in April to prepare for their “40 days of action” movement beginning in May, Williamson said.
Additionally, the Poor People’s Campaign is working nationally with the progressive Institute for Policy Studies think tank to help “ban the box” and raise minimum wage via “fight for $15,” among other causes.
The 12 fundamental principles listed on the campaign’s website call for promoting the constitutional value of justice for all, debunking false and distorted narratives about poverty, building unity across lines of division and dismantling perceived systems of economic oppression, including racism and criminalization.
To learn more about the Poor People’s Campaign, attend the third local meeting at Harvest House Monday at 5:30 p.m., or visit their website via poorpeoplescampaign.org.