By Jennina Rose Gorman, Altoona

First and foremost,  I  am a nerd. I need you to understand that to preface this story. I come from a long line of family who love The Shire, wished others to “Live long and Prosper”, believed in the power of the force,  and looked up to Stan Lee and the hero’s of his Marvel Universe as guides in my own life. It is in the Marvel universe and  that this particular tale takes place.

April 26th 2019- the national release date of Avengers Endgame. The movie we are told will end an era of super hero’s and super villains.  The brilliant culmination of all of Stan Lee’s most famous creations, and the fate of the Marvel universe,  rest in this last chapter.

My husband and I , like many other Marvel fans, are determined to see it, on the 1st night of its release. I excitedly got off from work, dressed myself in a Gamora t-shirt and Spider-Man hoodie, and went to my local theater. We arrive 30 minutes early,  even though we pre-purchased our tickets.

I have NEVER seen the parking lot so full. Indeed,  I can only find parking 2 lots away in an area that isn’t even paved yet. I see many parents with children, ages newborn to teens, all wearing something of their favorite hero’s. Some adults even showed up in full cosplay, and are greeted with compliments and instant comradery- the Wakanda costumes are particularly beautiful and well done.      We arrive in the theater, drinks in hand, strangers call out to us “How many seats do you need?” “There’s room over here!”. The seats we find are in the middle of a middle row.  Our new row-mates stand up and smile as we pass, complimenting my Spiderman hoodie, or Gamora t-shirt.

Now seated and ready, I take in the now overflowing theater around me. There’s working-class families, with 2-4 kids, each with popcorn and drinks. The retired  couple holding hands in front of us. The whole row of black sorority girls, who yell out “Wakanda Forever!” during the battles.  My husband makes a sarcastic joke and it’s echoed throughout the theater with laughter and approval from a room full of strangers.

This movie theater is filled with people from all walks of life. Different ages, varying incomes, different races, religions and sexes- but none of that matters right now. For the next 3 hours, we will all laugh, cry, cheer and wait on baited breath – together. We will comfort the strangers next to us, while they weep, and smile knowingly when our eyes meet.For 3 hours, we are in this together. We are a community, believing in something so much, that none of our differences matter.

My brother Josh had a similar experience when he took my nephew to see this movie. He reflected afterwards: ” In the old days  Stan would have his “editorial” in his comic books and his message was often one of how we all need to stick together and respect one another despite our differences. I could imagine him beaming down from above and saying “This is what it’s all about, folks. Excelsior!” Maybe we’d be better off if our first questions about one another were “D.C. or Marvel?”, “Captain America or Iron Man?”, “Ant Man or Wasp?” etc. etc. I don’t know, it’s stupid, but it was one of those rare moments where I actually felt connected to the rest of the universe and the human race. Well done, Stan.”

The work we do, in Put People First, and The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, of uniting the poor and dispossessed, is hard work, but it’s necessary.  We must come together and work together to achieve a better society for all. There are those who scoff at this goal, and call it impossible.  They are wrong. I’ve seen it, I  lived it, for 3 hours and 2 min. It would be a beautiful place to remain.  Trust me brothers and sisters- it’s worth fighting for.  Excelsior. 

Our semi-annual newsletter, The Keystone, is a great introduction to Put People First! PA, our work, and our community. It’s all written by our members for our own communication and education, and for supporters and new relationships to get to know us better. Each issue features reports from our work, news about our victories, stories about the health care system and the other issues affecting our communities, and poetry and artwork.

Click below to check out the Spring/Summer 2019 KEYSTONE online. Print copies are being distributed at Spring Leadership Institutes and will be available at Healthcare Rights Committee (HRC) meetings and tabling events.

KEYSTONE Spring/Summer 2019

VICTORY! Lancaster City Council unanimously votes YES for a Public Healthcare Advocate

Tuesday, April 9 — The Lancaster City Council unanimously voted YES for Put People First! PA’s resolution for a Public Healthcare Advocate for the state of Pennsylvania, making Lancaster the first city to do so. This comes as a big victory from the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee’s (HRC) relentless organizing to keep UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster open. While the hospital closed March 1st, the HRC continues to organize for access to healthcare and this city wide resolution is a step in that direction. Some Council members volunteered to join the Lancaster HRC for meetings with state representatives to help push for this legislation and showed support for a city resolution for a universal healthcare system for the state of Pennsylvania. Read press coverage in LancasterOnline.

Here is part of the resolution for a Public Healthcare Advocate:

Congratulations Put People First! PA Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee! Thank you for your leadership in this struggle. Forward together, not one step back!

Pittsburgh Put People First Statement on the Rosfeld Verdict March 2019

Thank you to Put People First Johnstown (March 27th) and Put People First Lancaster (March 29th) for holding vigils to lift up voices for Antwon Rose II, a teenager who had been shot in the back by a police officer last summer, and to call for justice for his family and for a just legal system.

It was wrong for the cop to walk away with no punishment; he and the legal system needs to be accountable. How can the system be said to have accountability if police walk away after shooting a 17-year old in the back? The cop can go back to work while Antwon is dead. What can the family do? Go to court to get compensation? There’s no price that can be paid to bring him back. Seen aside so many other similar cases in the country, this result shows that the lives of poor people of color are not valued and our rights as human beings are not defended. While this result was predictable, we believe it is wrong & shows the white supremacy of the systems of power.

We believe that white supremacy is the enemy of all poor people. It directly intimidates and hurts a large group of us – poor, working and dispossessed people of color. It divides us against each other to distract us from the powers that be and how they operate to control us through the economic & legal systems. It is also built to control poor, working and dispossessed white people. This unjust system tries to bribe us into thinking our safety lies with the powers that be, although when we talk to each other and reflect on what we have in common and how the current system hurts us all, we know that is not true.

We are sad, we are angry, we are grieving. Something needs to be done. This injustice is happening everywhere and there’s typically no consequences for the police. People in poor communities can’t trust the police for anything & don’t want to call them, for instance if someone breaks into your house, because they might come for you; you don’t know what will happen. We’re not safe.

What can we do about it? Members of Put People First believe that the only force that can end structural racism is poor, dispossessed & working people taking action together. We must work together to change the system. Our needs are our rights, and public safety, a just legal system and freedom from police violence, is a need and a right. We must build strong personal and political relationships across color lines and engage in political action that understands the history of racism. Unity involves putting what we have in common to the front, not erasing differences.

With that in mind, we welcome a serious discussion in our communities of the demands by the students who have shown leadership and have led actions following the verdict:

  1. Justice for Antwon Rose II
  2. Fire the FOP President
  3. Get rid of DA Stephen Zappala
  4. Full community control and democratic oversight over the police! Strengthen the Allegheny County Police Review Board by making it democratically elected and giving it the power to hire and fire, issue binding recommendations, and approve or deny police department funding requests.
  5. Convict and sentence killer cops. End the policies which have led to mass incarceration of black youth and end the school to prison pipeline.
  6. No more Pittsburgh police inside of city schools. Fully fund public schools and youth job programs to give kids the resources they need.
  7. Environmental justice now! Clean air and water for all, especially the black and brown working class neighborhoods most impacted by corporate and institutional negligence.
  8. Black homes matter! Build more affordable housing and create protections for renters to address the increasing shortage of affordable quality housing and gentrification of black and brown working class neighborhoods.
  9. Build a mass movement of youth and workers to fight for a new system and a better world free of police violence, racism and white supremacy.
  10. Work towards the collective liberation of all people and a world where police and prisons are obsolete. Until black and brown folks are liberated, no one is.

To talk more with Put People First! PA members in Pittsburgh contact Barbara at