Rev. Abhi Janamanchi Attends Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

December 22, 2017
  • Rev. Abhi Janamanchi

Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, I joined UUA President Susan Frederick-Gray and other interfaith leaders at a press conference in Washington DC for the launch of the new Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Led by the Rev. Dr. William Barber, former president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the Moral Mondays Movement, the campaign seeks to unite tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation, and the nation’s distorted morality.

At the press conference, Rev. Barber was joined by the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis from the Kairos Center and religious leaders from many different faith traditions including, the United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian Church (USA), Union for Reform Judaism, and the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Fifty years ago, in December 1967, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. held a similar press conference in Atlanta to launch the Poor People’s Campaign to amplify the urgent needs and oppressive conditions that weighed on black and white people living in poverty, particularly in the Deep South.

While rallying support for the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, Dr. King made it plain:

“We will go there, we will demand to be heard, and we will stay until America responds. If this means forcible repression of our movement, we will confront it, for we have done this before. If this means scorn or ridicule, we embrace it because that is what America’s poor now receive. If it means jail, we accept it willingly, for the millions of poor are already imprisoned by exploitation and discrimination.”

The New Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is driven by the same kind of moral clarity. The campaign is co-organized by Repairers of the Breach, the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary, and scores of local and national grassroots groups across the country with a longstanding commitment to confronting poverty and inequality.

Speaking at the press conference, UUA President Susan Frederick Gray said, ““What we are witnessing right in this moment is an all-out violent assault on our nation’s poor, on its working families, and what remains of the disappearing middle class. What we are witnessing is an all-out assault on Mother Earth and on the gift of life that sustains us all. . . . . . proud to stand with the Poor People’s Campaign . . . on behalf of Unitarian Universalists.”

Much of the action will happen next year, when the campaign plans to stage nonviolent civil disobedience in 25 state capitols and Washington, DC starting in May 2018. The chosen states represent the worst of the nation’s current political climate: refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, passing of voter-suppression laws in recent years, a lack of lack living-wage laws, and lack of employment and housing protections for LGBTQ people.

Rev. Barber roots his agitation in moral rather than political terms. “We must transform the moral narrative in this country,” he declared. “We went through the most expensive presidential campaign in U.S. history in 2016 without a single serious discussion of poverty and systemic racism. Now, we are witnessing an emboldened attack on the poor and an exacerbation of systemic racism that demands a response. This is not about saving any one party or policy agenda, but about saving the soul of America.”

In faith and solidarity,