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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. 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 in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor Peoples March on Washington in 1968.
Aug. 19 at 11:00 a.m., courageous and loving folks in San Jose, Calif., joined with sister marches and rallies throughout the country in support of prisoners’ human rights and amending the 13th. Their courage is found in the rejection of an institution so prevalent and insidious that any criticism can bring a mountain of ridicule and judgment. It is an institution shielded by a centuries old narrative that tells people, “They are not like us,” and consequently, “they” are undeserving of our humanity.
Booms and bangs shatter eardrums, and the shuffling of many feet sparks fear among neighbors. A young mother, Paula Clarke, and her two daughters, are rudely awakened by these early morning sounds and noises. “I thought that [it was] terrorism, nothing else,” Clarke later told a reporter. In a way, it was. But it was state terrorism, where dozens of cops invaded public housing projects – as if it was a foreign country. Why? They were searching for members of gangs, they said.
Dr. King led a movement that issued a stirring call for justice. Lyndon Johnson used his remarkable skills to drive an unprecedented response to that call. The prophet and the president were both remarkable leaders. We may not look on their like again. But even so, one thing is still clear: When we build the demand for change, leaders will arise to offer the response.
We’re entering into our hunger strike on Sept. 26 because our suffering must be exposed to the world. We will not stop under any circumstances until we’re liberated from these gulags.