Photo depicting a group of WAPPC members in emerald-green T-shirts holding up a banner that reads, "Washington State Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival."

Poor People’s Campaign: Building the Platform — Part 4

by Chardonnay Beaver

In 1967, after fighting against Jim Crow segregation and winning many civil rights victories for Black and Brown Americans, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and many others, called for a “revolution of values” in America.

The Poor People’s Campaign marks Dr. King’s philosophical shift from civil rights to human rights — demanding a new consciousness amid the threat of war, poverty, racial discrimination, and white supremacy. This inclusive fusion movement would unite all races through their commonality of struggle, to create solutions that would revolutionize American values.

In June 1968, an assembly of poor, impacted communities were to be gathered in Washington, D.C., for the inaugural Poor People’s Campaign March. However, in April 1968, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, and the Poor People’s Campaign was continued under the leadership of Mrs. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Fifty years later, in 2018, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival continued Dr. King’s legacy. Now, branches in over 30 U.S. states are active participants in this national call for a moral revival — including Washington.

This is a four-part series about the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival through the lens of the Washington State chapter. In this final article, learn how WAPPC uses the fundamental principles of the PPC to strategize effective measures for legislative efforts in this new year. Plus, how they aim to continue building a platform upon Dr. King’s philosophies for betterment of low-income Washingtonians.

Social justice advocates build platforms for the oppressed as a labor of love. Every movement requires intricate strategizing that, until the moments of extraordinary progress, may appear mundane. Contemporary organizing consists of arranging monthly virtual meetings, corresponding over email, and creating WhatsApp group chats. Although such actions are often perceived as insignificant, they are essential pragmatic tools that aid in creating the platforms for others to shine. 

Where do organizers go after victories have been won, and history is made? In recent months, Washington Poor People’s Campaign’s (WAPPC) coordinating committee has attempted to answer this very question.

Photo depicting Ian Lorenz in a yellow shirt and white N95 face mask in the middle of an outdoor assembly.
Ian Lorenz (right), a lead member of WAPPC coordinating committee, actively assists attendees of the Poor People’s Campaign Mass Moral Assembly. Washington, D.C., on June 18, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Ian Lorenz.)

After effectively registering voters for November’s midterm election and arranging for low-income Washingtonians to attend the campaign’s national Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival (PPC) Mass Moral Assembly in Washington, D.C., last June, WAPPC decided to continue building upon the principles established by the PPC. “One of the efforts that we want to coalesce around is identifying a sort of state-level legislative agenda for this legislative session,” said Ian Lorenz, a lead member of the WAPPC coordinating committee. “In the short term, what that’s looking like is we’re engaging with the mobilizing partnerships that we built last year.” 

For 2023, WAPPC has decided to further mobilize partnerships with pro-democracy and policy-centric organizations from across the Puget Sound. Some of these organizations include, but are not limited to: Fix Democracy First, Faith Action Network, Washington People’s Privacy, and Washington Community Action Network.

Photo depicting a virtual presentation with a slide discussing the 2023 legislative agenda for the Washington State Labor Coalition.
Karen Austin facilitates Washington Poor People’s Campaign virtual Open House, as their mobilizing partner presents their website to the group. Jan. 9, 2023. (Photo: Chardonnay Beaver).
Photo depicting a slide during a presentation displaying an "Advocacy" web page.
Washington Poor People’s Campaign coordinating committee leads their first virtual Open House of 2023. Their mobilizing partners, the Faith Action Network, shares their website information in preparation for the Feb. 9 lobby day in Olympia, Washington. Jan. 9, 2023. (Photo: Chardonnay Beaver)

On Feb. 9, members of WAPPC will be joining some of their mobilizing partners in Olympia to participate in Lobby Day. They will advocate for legislation that they hope will improve the lives of those impacted by what the campaign defines as the five interlocking injustices: systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, militarism/war economy, and distorted moral narrative. Some of these bills advocate for issues ranging from enhancing the voting rights act to improving access to jail voting.

Headshot depicting Karen Austin wearing an emerald-green WAPPC t-shirt.
Karen Austin, a member of the Washington Poor People’s Campaign coordinating committee, smiles while wearing her “Washington Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival” emerald green shirt, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Karen Austin.)

For Karen Austin, a foster parent and retired employee of King County’s juvenile courts, the campaign’s service-centric agenda and Dr. King’s human rights philosophy compelled her to join WAPPC’s coordinating committee. 

“I think that one of the important issues is making sure that people have access to information,” Austin said. 

Austin is working alongside Lorenz and others in planning the legislative session agenda, which involves strategizing ways to achieve accessibility for all interested in participating in the campaign. Recently, she worked to launch the Armchair Brigade, a group for those physically impaired or disabled to engage with the movement virtually. 

“I figure if we have some brigades, and we have camp circles where we can just sit and talk about these issues, and talk about what we can do, what we plan on doing, what we didn’t [do], and were successful at,” Austin said. “That would then encourage people to take next steps individually, but also with using that beacon that is provided by our national campaign.”

Austin says that one of the greatest ways to contribute to the solution is making space for others. Austin, Lorenz, and other members of WAPPC are seeking to expand the reach of the campaign by building bridges across platforms established by their fellow mobilizing partners. It’s in these practical strategies that the organization pursues and achieves progress. It’s in these practical strategies that the organization pursues and achieves progress.

Chardonnay Beaver is an influential speaker, storyteller, and writer for The Facts Newspaper. Chardonnay partakes in an undergraduate experience at University of Washington. In 2019, she established Words of Wisdom by Char (WOWbyChar): a platform designed to empower individuals in their pursuit of authenticity. To learn more, visit her website.

📸 Featured Image: Washington Poor People’s Campaign members proudly gather amidst a crowd to hold their chapter’s banner while attending the Poor People’s Campaign Mass Moral Assembly. Washington, D.C., on June 18, 2022. (Photo: Chardonnay Beaver)

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