Poor People’s Campaign in Massachusetts Strikes for Black Lives, Fights Covid, Plans for Fall

MAPA Newsletter Jul-Aug 2020

Savina Martin at Strike for Black Lives, July 20, 2020
Savina Martin at Strike for Black Lives, July 20, 2020

by Savina Martin

Ever since we participated in the historic, soul-lifting Moral March on Washington June 20th, organized by the national Poor People’s Campaign (see report below), our work has grown in Massachusetts.

We helped turn people out for the powerful Strike for Black Lives rally at the State House on July 20th, where I spoke on behalf of our campaign. Some 200 people turned out for the rally, which was organized by essential workers and members of four SEIU locals. (For a more detailed report on the rally, read here.)

We held a statewide digital meeting in July, attended by more than 80 people, to begin charting our course for the coming months. Many of us are already active on the front lines of the Covid crisis in our communities, fighting for improved conditions for our healthcare workers, better access to clinics, sick leave, hazard pay, and unemployment benefits. We will be working to promote voter registration and education in the coming period, and on ending police violence and militarization of police departments.

We are proud to welcome Vaughn Allen Goodwin as an additional Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign. Vaughn, who is a longtime union organizer with 1199SEIU as well as Core Group facilitator with the Mass. PPC over the past three years, will serve alongside myself, the Eastern Mass. Chair of the PPC, and Kirsten Levitt, the Western Mass. Chair of the PPC. Vaughn will be an important addition to our team, as we head into this election season and the struggles against workers’ unfair wages and other economic injustices, and our work in faith outreach, voting rights, and more. Vaughn is a very talented and richly versed soul among us. Welcome Vaughn!

Vaughn has responded: “I humbly and honorably accept this role as Tri-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign of Massachusetts. I am focused on education, activation, relationship-building, and leadership development from the bottom up, so that we build that mighty fusion movement to take on the interlocking evils of this time that keep us down. 1199 and the Poor People’s Campaign have been comrades in this as far back as the 1960s. We are furthering and firing up that tradition and legacy now!! We are moving Forward Together and Not One Step Back!!”

—Savina Martin is one of three Co-Chairs of the Mass. Poor People’s Campaign and a member of the Mass. Peace Action Board.

National Poor People’s Digital Assembly and Moral March on Washington Draws Millions

—From the national Poor People’s Campaign


Poor and low-income people from across the country stepped out of the shadows June 20th to participate in the digital Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to demand an agenda designed to heal a nation besieged by poverty, systemic racism, militarism, ecological devastation, and a distorted moral narrative.

Poor People's Campaign March, Washington, DC, June 2019
Poor People’s Campaign March, Washington, DC, June 2019

The event, sponsored by the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival,  attracted more than 2.5 million Facebook viewers and resulted in nearly 300,000 letters sent to governors and members of Congress to support a newly released, multi-issue justice platform.

These viewer numbers don’t include MSNBC’s broadcast on YouTube, listeners who tuned in on radio, media outlets that broadcast the program from their online platforms, or C-SPAN. The assembly aired twice on Saturday June 20th and once on Sunday June 21st.

The Poor People’s Moral Justice Jubilee Policy Platform, released during the Assembly, is a sweeping, transformational response to the needs and demands of poor and low-income people in this country. The platform articulates the campaign’s policy and legislative priorities around voting rights, police violence, indigenous rights, immigrant rights, education, welfare, jobs, education, housing, water, war, wealth inequality and more.

“We have been investing in punishing the poor; we must now invest in the welfare of all,” the letter to Congress reads. “When we lift from the bottom, everybody rises.”

The assembly — which was held online rather than in person because of COVID-19– was a cementing of a powerful social justice movement for this country, bringing together people of all races, faiths and sexual orientation to change the government’s death-dealing policies to policies of life and to exercise voting power around an agenda based on our deepest moral values.

It focused on the 140 million poor and low-income people in the U.S., or 43% of the country. Some 700 people die each day from poverty, or 250,000 people a year. And those numbers were the reality in the U.S. before the COVID-19 pandemic.

These are people whose votes can change the political calculus of this nation if they cast their ballots. For that to happen, they must hear from politicians who break from the typical narrative, in which Republicans racialize poverty and Democrats run from the subject.

“Each of you must know that this might be the reason that you were born,” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, said during the assembly.   “Now might be the moment when you are called into being. You have waited long for this moment. The ancestors have waited long for this moment. In this fateful hour, your time has finally come.”

The Poor People’s Campaign centers its demands around the five interlocking injustices of systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and militarism and a distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism.

“We are gathered today to call for a radical redistribution of political and economic power, a revolution of moral values to demonstrate the power of poor and impacted people banding together, demanding that this country change for the better,” Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, a campaign co-chair, said during the program.

After the June 20th Assembly, the Poor People’s Campaign organized a nationwide speak-out of clergy of all faiths – preachers, rabbis, imams, and others –to call for the Poor People’s Jubilee Policy Platform on the weekend of July 4th. Many included sermons on Frederick Douglass’s speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” Following that coordinated action, the campaign held a Congressional briefing on July 16th urging passage of legislation to rectify the five systemic interlocking injustices.

The campaign is sponsored by Repairers of the Breach, based in Goldsboro, North Carolina, whose president is Rev. Barber, and the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice in New York City, whose director is Rev. Theoharis.