The Poor People’s Campaign (PPC), begun in 1968 by Martin Luther King Jr., is being resurrected across the country. The original campaign targeted racism, poverty, and militarism. Today’s PPC adds ecological devastation. A Dec. 31 program on KKFI, 90.1 FM, celebrated the political activism of PeaceWorks-KC and the PPC, giving reasons for hope. Check out the podcast and KKFI description at PeaceWorks-KC and the Poor People’s Campaign • KKFI.
The program is hosted by Spencer Graves, a member of the KKFI Radio Active Magazine team and secretary of the Board of PeaceWorks-KC. Christopher Overfelt and Jane Stoever, current and former PeaceWorks Board members, respectively, discuss their work and wishes. Charles Carney and Kathy Downing give an overview of activities of the Kansas Poor People’s Campaign. Lois Swimmer and Tammy Brown of Cherith Brook Catholic Worker House discuss the Missouri Poor People’s Campaign.
Graves, a statistician, says he has estimated a 50percent chance that a child born today will die prematurely from the direct or indirect effects of a nuclear war — UNLESS there is some fundamental change in the structure of international relations.
Stoever says the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which “enters into force” Jan. 22, will be celebrated in KC. PeaceWorks plans a rally at 2pm that day on the Plaza (47th and Main) with speakers, flags/signs of 51 countries that have already ratified the treaty, and John Lennon’s song “Imagine.”
Overfelt, of Veterans for Peace, asks people to weave new threads into our national narratives—underlying beliefs—which have been distorted through the lens of white supremacy and “American exceptionalism.” He says our “national defense” narratives miss the stories of people around the world who suffer from our foreign policies.
Carney, a social worker, says the bloated military budget comes at the expense of the poor. For example: “A 52-year-old victim of domestic violence is forced to live in an outdoor homeless camp after she leaves her abuser because there aren’t enough shelters to go around. A 59-year-old woman who has been working since she was 14 loses both her job and her health insurance at the beginning of the pandemic. She hasn’t regained either since. A 58-year-old man who has worked hard all his life has to forgo surgery on his right eye because he has no health insurance. Now that he does have it, it is too late. That eye is no longer reparable. If you believe these examples are contrived, you’d be wrong. These are all people I’ve worked with in the last year.”
Downing says she’s helped organize the “nonviolent Medicaid Army” through the Kansas Poor People’s Campaign (PPC), with marches and rallies seeking an expanded KanCare (Kansas Medicaid). Noting that 21 percent of Wyandotte County residents are uninsured, compared with 8 percent in Johnson County, Downing says, “We could eliminate those disparities” with expanded KanCare.
Swimmer, of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, reviews gatherings of the Missouri PPC locally and in Washington, DC. She says she became involved in the PPC through her volunteer work at Cherith Brook Catholic Worker House and serving on its Elders’ Circle. At Cherith Brook, she says, the homeless have registered to vote, have prepared for PPC rallies for better health care coverage and wages, and recently have received free testing for Coronavirus.
Brown tells parts of her own story: “I was homeless. I was hungry. And someone told me Cherith Brook feeds.” She became a volunteer at Cherith Brook, is part of its Elders’ Circle, and prepares some of the meals the house offers each Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. She also is active in the PPC and has attended PPC events in Jefferson City and Washington, DC.
Downing says of the PPC, “It’s about building a larger core, about uniting across dividing lines such as race and economic levels.”
—By Jane Stoever of PeaceWorks, Kansas City