by Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia and Leroy Moore, Po Poets and Poverty Skolaz, Poor News Network

Well, I went down to the rich man’s house/ to take back what he stole from me/ take back my dignity/ take back my humanity …

These photos of one leg of the Poor People’s March on Washington were taken by Poor News Network.

There we were – the unhoused, the evicted, the displaced, the disabled, Black, Brown, Indigenous, poor white, youth and elders on one accord, all colors, all nations, all cultures, all ages, all abilities – ‘cause that’s what poverty looks like in this stolen Indigenous territory the colonizers called the U.S.

“We poor mamas are marching on Washington, D.C., because poverty is violence against our babies, our elders, our families – and if you stay silent, you are part of the problem,” said Tara Colon, Puerto Rican-Mexican mama of five from Philadelphia and co-founder of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC).

The 2018 Poor Peoples March on Washington was originally launched by impacted poor, houseless and formerly unhoused people from the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign 15 years ago. Poor folks walked from Mississippi to Washington in honor of the 35th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor Peoples March on Washington in 1968.

The Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign is a truly poor people-led movement, which, like POOR Magazine, is walking for our own criminalized lives, our struggles and our own self-determined solutions.

The War on the Poor is in full effect from Frisco to Oakland to the Philippines and Iraq – but now the soldiers are social workers, police and politricksters creating deadly legislation and contracts, says Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, Po Poet, houseless mama and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America.”

“In St. Petersburg, Florida, the palm trees have more rights than homeless people,” noted Shay, an unhoused resident of Florida and a poverty skola (scholar), as we say at POOR Magazine, meaning someone who has struggled with poverty and/or homelessness, as she reported on the extreme criminalization of unhoused people in her town. “It’s illegal to lean against a building while homeless. Basically, it’s illegal to be alive in our town if you are homeless.”

Shay and Tara, along with over 100 unhoused and formerly unhoused poverty skolaz from Florida to California, all experiencing different forms of deep criminalization of our lives, began walking on June 2 from the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Philly, where rates of homelessness, evictions and police harassment are on the rise.

“We poor mamas are marching on Washington, D.C., because poverty is violence against our babies, our elders, our families – and if you stay silent, you are part of the problem,” said Tara Colon.

We are the poor people, walking for ourselves, ‘cause we don’t need corporations or non-profiteers to speak for us. We can speak, teach and build for ourselves; we just need people to stop pimping us.

The march through occupied Lenape territory (aka Philly) and later on to Maryland was a metaphor for our struggle as poor folks. We would depart poor people of color neighborhoods – intentionally blighted – like Kensington and gentrified North Philly, where my Afro-Boricua, disabled and later houseless mama was born, a neighborhood that is now literally being seized by Temple University for student housing and a new corporate sports stadium.

Then we move on to wealth-hoarding neighborhoods with huge swaths of mama earth used for lawns that don’t grow food or house people, but just sit there as a testament to the sickness of wealth-hoarding and land-stealing. This is something POOR Magazine has been highlighting in our Stolen Land/Hoarded Resources Tours Across Turtle Island.

“Maryland is the second wealthiest state in the U.S. We rate No. 2 in the most homeless people in the country and we are the oldest state in the U.S.,” said Rev Annie Chambers, Black Panther elder revolutionary from the Spiritual Love Ministry. I had the blessing of sitting with her as she described another problem that plagues poor folks: the intense poverty pimping and non-profiteering of poor people that happens in Baltimore, where she is based doing liberation advocacy and truly poor people-led organizing.

From Oakland to Oklahoma, poor, disabled elders, children and families are in an emergency. In Oakland, San Francisco and Berkeley, where myself, Leroy Moore, Bilal Mafundi Ali and Youth Skola Tiburcio from POOR Magazine are based, there are a series of Po’Groms on poor people, as Bilal calls them.

“Maryland is the second wealthiest state in the U.S. We rate No. 2 in the most homeless people in the country and we are the oldest state in the U.S.,” said Rev Annie Chambers, Black Panther elder revolutionary from the Spiritual Love Ministry.

Our homeless, disabled bodies are being violently “swept” by mayors from San Francisco to Santa Monica, like we are trash. Our elders and children are being evicted by speculators and we refuse to continue being criminalized, displaced and terrorized.

We poor people have innovative solutions, like First They Came for the Homeless in Berkeley and Homefulness in Deep East Oakland. People need to hear our own poor people-led solutions, “which is also why all of us unhoused and formerly unhoused mamaz and uncles at POOR Magazine founded Homefulness, a homeless peoples solution to homelessness, which is one of the poor people-led solutions we are lifting up in this march.

Across the nation, unhoused and poor folks have minimal or no healthcare, with hospitals like Georgetown Hospital, which are mandated to treat us dumping our houseless and disabled bodies out of the back doors of ambulances and leaving us to die in parks.

“This is where all pastors and congregations should be, in the streets with the lost, the last and the least,” said revolutionary Pastor Keith Collins from the Overcomer Church in Philadelphia.

Migrante Raza families who cross these false borders aren’t being seen at all, incarcerated in detention centers and shot for crossing colonizer borders, not to mention their numbers the highest rising group, next to elders, in the homeless population across the U.S. They face increased multi-layered racist profiling resulting in death – like Mayan, indigenous father Luis Demetrio Gongora Pat, who was killed in San Francisco for being houseless in amerikkka, because a resident got scared of a peaceful houseless recycler who did nothing but be Brown and Unhoused in these stolen streets.

“We are the new and unsettling force that King spoke of in 1968,” said Galen Tyler, PPEHRC member.

“Yes, we the poor are marching, speaking for ourselves: the homeless, residents of Puerto Rico robbed of their land and culture, people in recovery, the disability community, the ‘welfare queens,’ the ‘deadbeat dads,’ homeless veterans, the hustlers, young and old, immigrants, the criminals, the ‘undeserving’ poor, Black, white and Brown. We will march for our lives and when we arrive in Washington, D.C. we will construct Resurrection City and reclaim our future for generations to come,” said Cheri Honkala, PPEHRC founder.

Side by Side

chair frames and baby toys,

jackets, toothbrushes, coffee cans and pillows

wrapped up in paper made of memories … – Tiny, Po’ Poet

“We are marching to Washington to get our Reparations,” said youth skola Tiburcio, 14-year-old formerly homeless youth poverty skola from Deecolonize Academy and Homefulness, built with Community Reparations from wealth-hoarders redistributing their stolen and hoarded or inherited wealth.

“This is where all pastors and congregations should be, in the streets with the lost, the last and the least,” said revolutionary Pastor Keith Collins from the Overcomer Church in Philadelphia.

From Sacramento to San Jose to San Juan, Puerto Rico, public housing units which housed literally thousands of people are being destroyed by neoliberal and now racist Trump policies, doing things like tripling the rent on poor folks who already barely have enough to pay for our lives and our rents. These anti-poor people policies are being implemented by Trump directly following the selling of public housing leases to for-profit housing developers under Obama with a program benignly called RAD.

[According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, more than 250,000 homes in public housing have been demolished since the mid-1990s, with only a small fraction rebuilt. Since 2013, another 60,000 homes in public housing have been privatized under Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), with another 185,000 on the chopping block. “An interim evaluation estimated that conversion of the first 112,000 RAD units will leverage as much as $8 billion in private and public investment.” – ed.]

The SF Bay View newspaper and POOR Magazine reported on it, but it’s barely even mentioned by mainstream or independent media, resulting in the evictions and relocations of thousands of elders and families to nowhere and, as reported by comrades at Western Regional Advocacy Project (wraphome.org), this is the just the icing on the scarcity model cake, for us perceived as the undeserving poor.

“Us poor folks are going to HUD on Monday to meet with (HUD Secretary) Ben Carson, to prevent widespread homelessness,” said PPEHRC founder Cheri Honkala.

“The cycle goes around/ But the kids of Poverty and Disability/ organized without foundations/ who have roots in the cycle of abuse/ The children of Poverty and Disability/ Marching to D.C./ hand and hand with their knowledge, art and music/ Proud and loud.” – Leroy F. Moore Jr.’s poem “Poverty and Disability”

“Took back what he stole from me/ took back my dignity/ took back my humanity/ under my thumb/ under my thumb/ ain’t nobody gonna walk all over me …”

Rebel Diaz, Infinite Skillz and the Po Poets Project will be part of the line-up of hip hop artists and cultural workers performing in Washington, D.C., at Resurrection City from June 9 through 12. POOR Magazine’s poor people-led media project Roofless Radio will also be broadcasting from the march. For more information, go to economichumanarights.org or the PPEHRC Facebook page.

Tiny – or Lisa Gray-Garcia – is co-founder with her Mama Dee of POOR Magazine and its many projects and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America,” published by City Lights. She can be reached at deeandtiny@poormagazine.org. Visit POOR at www.poormagazine.org. Leroy F. Moore Jr., poet, researcher, journalist and activist, founder of Krip-Hop Nation and founding member of the National Black Disability Coalition, can be reached at Kriphopnation@gmail.com.

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