Reflecting on the first Grassroots Organizing Exchange! Hosted by: Popular Education Project and Put People First! PA

July 12-15th, 2019 Put People First! PA hosted 30 people from 10 States for a base-building exchange in collaboration with the Popular Education Project. People came from Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey and New York. Everyone assembled in Harrisburg on Friday to kick off the weekend by getting grounded in Pennsylvania’s terrain and PPF-PA’s organizing practice. That night, the 30 folks headed back with local leaders to four regions to be a part of a weekend of base-building hosted by established and emerging Healthcare Rights Committees (HRCs) in Monview, Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Altoona, York, Lancaster, Philadelphia and Norristown. During the weekend, participants knocked over 1000 doors, completed 87 dental surveys, 56 petition signatures, and gained new 117 contacts from the actions around Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia and tabling. The exchange ended by convening in Harrisburg again on Monday before everyone traveled back home. Here are highlights from participants experiences from the exchange.

Tammy, Lancaster HRC, Put People First! PA:

We all gathered together on Friday in Harrisburg before dispersing out to our regions. We did introductions, workshops and had small group discussions. I had the honor of leading a small group discussion that was centered around media & communications. I told the group about the statewide Put People First! PA Media & Communications Team and the forms of media we use such as our Enews, website, social media and Newsletter. The others in the group shared what forms of media their organization uses and we were all so inspired by our group discussion that we decided to connect on a project going forward. The proposed project would be a podcast “Round Table” series where we would all take turns hosting it. 

About half way through the day a good friend of mine who is a Leader of MILPA,  “Movement of Immigrant Leaders of Pennsylvania” asked me if I would do an interview with her for Fox 43 so that in hopes that by working together we could try to change the narrative around the issues immigrants face and the untruths the people in power say about those who migrate here. I was humbled by her ask and grateful to help in any way she needed me to. Watching her take the lead with the reporter and swaying them to go from their desired piece filled with fear around pending ICE raids to one of changing the distorted moral narrative around poverty. Desi is an amazing leader and through her leadership that day and us working together, we did in fact help sway the narrative that day. (Link to media coverage here)

We had dinner with the leaders of MILPA Friday night and after dinner we sat around in a circle and talked about the Poor People’s Campaign a National Call for Moral Revival and the need to grow the leadership of MILPA leading up to the mass march on Washington D.C June 20, 2020. To follow the work MILPA is doing, support their efforts or get involved please see the link to their Facebook page here.

Saturday in South Central PA the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee hosted a day long event in Columbia which is located in Lancaster County and right on the border along York County. 

We started out by gathering outside the old St. Joseph’s Hospital whose future is still yet unknown and we shared briefly about our fight to save it and our concerns for the future. We then made our way to the Columbia River Park where we spent the rest of the day. 

After breakfast in the park we were led in song by Charon from the Kairos Center who sang “Ella’s Song” then we did a round of introductions followed by further political education on the history of Columbia, how our fight around the hospital led us to Columbia and our struggle to unite the poor and dispossessed. 

In the afternoon we did some more training then headed out in teams to go door knocking. When everyone gathered back together we debriefed how the door knocking went. After dinner the Lancaster HRC shared how taking action on the hospital helped us connect with the community, grow our base and develop leaders. Once the Lancaster HRC spoke the leaders from the visiting organizations shared with those present what fight they are organizing around and what does the Poor People’s Campaign mean to them personally. 

On Sunday the York Healthcare Rights Committee hosted a day long event. We started the day out in a local park where we had breakfast, did introductions, talked about the history of York and went over the door knocking training.

In the afternoon, some of us went out into teams and went door knocking while the rest did some tabling outside a local grocery store. I had a great time partnering with my friend Kareena for the door knocking, we were able to get to know each other a little better and strengthen our friendship even further. We then gathered at a local pizza shop for some lunch and conversation before heading to the church where the evening event was to be held. 

After taking some leisure time we gathered back together to talk about the York HRC and how we could help them grow. We had a great time doing the debrief from the door knocking then we enjoyed a great dinner. After dinner York hosted a Healthcare Forum where we all shared our healthcare stories with each other. I found myself sharing parts of my story that I never said out loud before. 

Monday, many of those who attended the weekend exchange gathered back in Harrisburg for a debrief from the weekend and used the time to strengthen bonds while others started their journey back to their home states. 

The best part of the weekend for me was the new people I met and were able to connect with. It’s nice having an extended family from across the nation and I made it a point to follow up with them since the weekend has ended. I look forward to hopefully getting this “Round Table” podcast series going and I’m glad I was able to connect with some of our out of town guests on social media so we keep in contact and continue to build everlasting bonds. 

Volney, Vermont Workers Center:

I want to thank PPF PA and the Popular Education Project a million times over not only for giving the Vermont Workers Center the chance to learn and share organizational tactics via engaging hands on exercises, but for the hard work and meticulous planning that obviously went into executing it. Everything from the political education pieces to the canvassing spots had such a sense of cohesion and created such a powerful,exciting learning experience i feel indebted. I was able to walk away with new outlooks and takeaways on leadership development,class warfare,the insurance industry and a wealth of other topics as well as share my experiences and skills as an organizer.

    Meeting and bonding with my comrades from all over the country in both Johnstown and Altoona was an incredibly fulfilling experience and I left with a stronger sense of connection to the work we do from trading stories of both triumph and struggle. Getting out there and doing the work with our team really pushed me to think about my role as a leader and how I see myself contributing to the battle to eradicate poverty.

   I have immediately begun to use a lot of the lessons that I have brought back from the exchange in my organizing efforts with the VWC. From planning strategies and delegation of responsibility to lessons in labor struggle and social skills,  there was so much I was fortunate enough to have experienced. This type of Organizational exchange is a powerful learning tool we must continue to use.

Rev. Tim Seitz-Brown, Faith Leader in the PA Poor People’s Campaign a National Call for Moral Revival 

There are 140 million poor and low income people in the United States, and this organizing exchange brought together activists from among these dispossessed from across the country to learn from each other how we might bring a healing justice to this land.

What I learned was that previous movements for justice being led by the poor had early, “easy successes” followed by defeat at the hands of those who are more organized in multiplying injustice. That means the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and Put People First! PA and other groups led by the poor must lift up and train leaders from the dispossessed who are “clear, competent, committed and connected.”

During the exchange, the Trump administration had announced ICE raids against immigrant communities throughout the US. Fox43 News interviewed Desi Burnette from the Movement for Immigrant Leaders of Pennsylvania (MILPA, Rev. Beth Reed from the Pennsylvania Poor People’s Campaign, and Tammy Rojas from Put People First! PA.) While the media sought to frame the raids through a narrative of fear, these three leaders from the exchange sought to create a new narrative of hope and courage. I witnessed these leaders speak in terms of human rights, morality, against dehumanization, and for the dignity of every human being regardless of their immigration status. They were clear, competent, committed and connected!

Meanwhile, I have a burning question from the exchange. Because our leaders come from precarious situations, I see the need to provide financial stability and consistent emotional support for them, freeing them to provide leadership. How do we do this? Are there models out there that we can learn from? What are creative ways we can holistically support the talented organizers among us? I am motivated to work for this.

When I saw the two minute episode on the ICE raids air on Fox43 at the end of the exchange, I saw that the media give 60 seconds to their “fear narrative” and then 60 seconds to the message our leaders wanted to give. So I see this work as a long journey requiring resilience and persistence. So I’m in this fight with all of you!


Pastor Tim Seitz-Brown

Spring Grove, Pennsylvania

My Education and Stay with PPFPA 

Zsa’ssata Williams, M.A.D Activist’s, Alabama

Thursday, July 11th, 2019: It’s 10am and I kiss my husband and 3 children goodbye as they drop me off at the airport in Mobile, AL, with my final destination being Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to attend the first annual Put People First PA Organizing Exchange. My husband Bomani Williams and I represent and are the founders of The M.A.D. Activists (M.A.D. being an acronym for Making A Difference), and also the literal term for our emotion associated with the oppression, policies, and exploitation of this capitalistic society. We are also proud members of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival in the state of AL. The sheer anticipation of the unknown and meeting organizers from all over the country, is enough to make anyone second guess themselves in their personal contribution in the area of grassroots organizing. “Have we done enough?”, “Are we using the correct tactics and/or methods in our organizing efforts??”, were just some of the questions that rang in my mind as I was in mid flight. Once I arrived in Harrisburg, I was picked up by two members of PPFPA (Savannah and Hope), and a fellow out of towner from Dallas, TX was in tow as well. We then drove to the train station to pick up one more passenger from Boston, MA, (who by the end of my trip ultimately became my “Uncle James”), and made our way to our lodging quarters for the night at PPFPA event organizer Katrina’s home, which was a great way for us who had traveled to end our night. 

Friday, July 12th, 2019: Today I had the opportunity and pleasure to meet a host of organizers from across the states who are shaking things up in their respective areas in the fight for liveable wages, healthcare, farm workers rights, voter rights/restoration, and a host of other injustices that continue to plague our societies. Meeting PPFPA and PEP members Uncle Phil and Willie Baptist for the first time, was an amazing experience all its own, considering all of the accomplishments and political genius that they have to offer. The participants were given an introduction on how and why PPFPA was started, and were taught the characteristics and techniques that are required for Leadership Building. I particularly remember “The 4 C’s” that one must possess to become such a leader….. Clear, Competent, Connected, and Committed. In this work, I have learned it is important that we realize who our base group is before we engage in any action or political work.

Saturday, July 13th, 2019: It was a beautiful morning in Lancaster, PA, as we arrived at a local hospital that at one point was once a huge staple and safe space for the community. The hospital was recently shut down due to the greed of the elite class whose only concern is to keep up with their profit margins, and not the healthcare and welfare of its citizens, who’s time and physical labor makes the wheels of this economic machine turn. I was extremely moved by PPFPA member Tammy Rojas’s story of how her life literally began in that hospital with her grandmother (who was a nurse there) by her mother’s side, the way she described the homeless being housed and cared for on the 1st floor by the staff, and how her grandmother, the love of her life, ultimately took her last breath in that very same place. It is a story that will stay with me forever, and a wonderful introduction into PA politics and the citizen’s unwavering will to stay in the fight. We made our way over to the city of Colombia and received a brief history from PPFPA members Matt and Ann before going out into the community to door knock in the name of healthcare for all, which went better than many of us expected, and gave us the confidence that we needed to gear up for the next day’s activities. 

Sunday, July 14th, 2019: I have now spent three days with my team and we’re beginning to get more comfortable with one another as we start to engage in more personable conversations, (i.e., children, relationships,  upbringings, political viewpoints). On this day we meet up in the city of York, which PPFPA members Mr. Kim, Ms. Val, and Mr. Brett gave a great backstory on before we went out door knocking in the neighborhood. My partner, PPFPA member Richard and I made a great team and were able to engage multiple residents in the fight for dental care for everyone. One conclusion that we came to on this day that was different from our experience in Colombia, was that the individuals who were insured through their employment willingly signed our petition and were adamant about fighting for those who did not receive it. The conversations that we had along the way made our hearts smile, and gave us hope that humanity still exists and the fight must and shall go on! 

Monday, July 15th, 2019: Today is the last day of the Organizing Exchange and all of us organizers are brought back into one core group again for debriefing and reflections. Some main highlights for our group were the personal connections that were made between us in such a short amount of time. There is something very intimate about living in close quarters with one another when you don’t look your very best, haven’t had your coffee or what ever vice gets you going, and sharing personal and emotional stories that ultimately connects us more than they keep us apart. We learned that the poor and dispossessed are dealing with the same issues no matter what state we live in and that we must rid ourselves of the divisive lines that are put in place to keep us apart. It is not  often that I’ve went into spaces where I’ve taken away more resources than I’ve put out. PPFPA’s Organizing Exchange is definitely one of those exceptions. Not only did I gain more knowledge, skills, and techniques to better organize in our area. I returned home with a new respect for the work and sacrifice of all grassroot orgs across the globe. Most importantly I added more members to my activists family that will keep this movement sustainable, and always moving forward together, not one step back! 

Kim Altland, York HRC, Put People First! PA

On July 12 to 15, 2019 Put People first and several allied groups came together in Harrisburg PA for a membership exchange. The protestants came from PPFPA and groups from Massachusetts, New York, Alabama, Vermont, and more. This event included an educational exchange on Friday. Saturday and Sunday were a chance to experiences tabling and door knocking in new areas and in a new format. Several groups left Harrisburg to go to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and other locations around PA.

Saturday started with a visit to the now closed St. Joseph’s Hospital to see what the Lancaster HRC is fighting for. We then went to setup a meeting place and starting point for our day of door knocking at the Columbia River Park. Small groups fanned out from the park doing door knocking and outreach. It the end of the day we had a potluck dinner open to any one who chose to come.

Sunday we met in York at Farquhar Park and again setup a starting point. We then went to Union Lutheran church for tabling and then fended out along West Market St and West Philadelphia St again to do outreach and door knocking. We then debriefed at Heidelberg Lutheran Church. That evening we once again we had a potluck dinner open to any one who chose to come. Monday we returned to Harrisburg for a debrief and to say our goodbyes.

Jae Hubay, Philly HRC, Put People First! PA

Leading up to the PPC/PEP organizing exchange, the SEPA region in PPF had been shifting a lot. In Philly, we changed from a neighborhood-based HRC to a citywide HRC, the Montco/Norristown HRC has been figuring out how to officially launch, and folks in the Fayette Justice HRC like all of us have been dealing with challenges, as we always do as poor and dispossessed people! And while we’ve been keeping afloat, maybe doggie-paddling around, the exchange presented a challenge for us to learn to do a synchronized swim routine. We hosted a doorknocking, a Leadership Across Difference training, a speak-out at Hanhemann Hospital, and several meals to get to know our partners in the PPC. I’m so proud of us for the new level of organization and collective movement we accomplished during the exchange! Forward together!

Join PPF and national partners for a base-building exchange across the state this weekend

From July 12 – 15, Put People First! PA will host our first ever Grassroots Organizing Exchange. The exchange will bring around 30 grassroots leaders from sister organizations from across the country to Pennsylvania. This is the first in a series of organizing exchanges, facilitated by the Popular Education Project, happening in other states in the future. On Friday, national leaders will get to know local leaders and be prepped for the weekend, grounded in PPF’s history and political education. From Friday night to Monday morning, national leaders will break out into four regions and engage in base-building and local events with PPF and PA Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival members. On Monday, national and local participants will return to Harrisburg to debrief and learn from the experience. Here’s a sampling of events from the weekend.

For more information, contact regional point people listed on PPF’s website contact page here. Up to date information will also be listed on PPF’s facebook page here.

Southwestern PA

Community Cookout in Monview
Saturday July 13, 11am – 3pm
Monview Heights Community, West Mifflin, PA
Call/text Ben 412-482-0041, for details on exact location

During the day on Saturday, Mother Jones Leader Denyne, along with new PPF members in the Monview community, will host our delegation of out-of-state leaders and local neighbors for a cookout and community discussion about health hazards and substandard conditions in the housing development. 

The Struggle is a School: Lessons from the Poor People’s Campaign
Saturday July 13, 6 – 8 pm
Pittsburgh Food Policy Council
5341 Kincaid St, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

The Pittsburgh HRC and the Thomas Merton Center will hold a potluck dinner and discussion with delegation leaders and members from CADBI-West and Just Harvest, on lessons from the struggle to build the Poor People’s Campaign around the country.


Western PA

Walking tour, Door-knocking & Cook out
Saturday, July 13th, starting at 9:30 am
Johnstown, PA

Join Johnstown and Altoona HRC members for a historic tour of Johnstown at 9:30 am. From 1:30 – 3:45 pm participants will door knock, complete with a training beforehand. All this followed by a cook out in the evening, with time to share about organizations attending, both local and national. Call or text Hope at 814-619-9293 or Savannah at 814-659-3528 for more information.

Door-knocking and an introduction to the Poor People’s Campaign
Sunday, July 14th, starting at 10 am
Altoona, PA

Join the group in Altoona Sunday for a brief, local tour followed by door-knocking and an evening event to introduce folks locally to the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.


Southcentral PA

Door knocking, Political Education & Games
Saturday July 13th, starting at 8:45 am
Green Roof Pavilion Columbia River Park, Columbia, PA

The Lancaster HRC and York HRC will meet at Columbia River Park in Columbia, PA in the morning and set up home base for the day at the Green Roof Pavilion in the park. They will start the day off at 8:45 am with breakfast. Then from 9:30-11 am everyone will partake in political education “Why We Chose Columbia” followed by base building & door knocking training before setting out after lunch at 12pm to knock on doors in Columbia. 

The door knocking will wrap up by 4:00pm and everyone will gather back at the Green Roof Pavilion for a debrief on the door knocking and prep for the public picnic. From 5-7:30 pm the group will have a family friendly potluck picnic dinner with games which will be open to the public to attend. 

If you want more information or you want to join the Lancaster and York Healthcare Rights Committees for the day long event in Columbia please email Tammy at

Outreach and Open Forum
Sunday July 14th, starting at 8:30 am
MLK Park, 370 S Penn St, York, PA 17401

The York and Lancaster HRCs will meet at  MLK Park in York, PA in the morning to eat and do a quick refresher training. We will start the day off at 8:30 am with breakfast. During this time we will also talk about York and have some time for everyone to introduce themselves before doing brief outreach training. 

At 10:30 we will head over to Union Lutheran Church, 408 W Market St, York, PA. Folks will do some outreach there when services let out. After the crowds have dispersed, we will split into teams and those who are able will start knocking doors.

Around 2:00, we will head to Jim and Nena’s Pizza at 501 W Philadelphia St, York, PA. There we will be able to eat and relax. There will be some down time between lunch and dinner. Folks will be able to explore and learn about York City.

At 6:00 pm we will gather at Heidelberg United Church-Christ, 47 W Philadelphia St, York, PA. There we will have dinner, debrief the day, and invite folks to share their stories of plight, fight and insight. Our stories will be centered around healthcare. Others may be compelled to share stories from the front of struggle being tackled by their own organization. 

If you want more information please email Katrina at


Southeastern PA

Door knocking & Training
Saturday, July 13th, 10 am
Norristown, PA

Protest closing of Hahnemann Hospital
Sunday, July 14th, 2 pm
Hahnemann (230 N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19102)

Action to protest the closing of Hahnemann Hospital in Center City, Philadelphia at 2pm on Sunday, July 14, outside Hahnemann (230 N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19102). The attempts to close this hospital are only the latest in a long line of attempts to profit off the illness of the poor and dispossessed in this state and across the country. PPC members will be sharing their experiences in a speak-out at the Hospital, which has been a staple in Philadelphia for over a hundred and fifty years. If you are interested in helping with the action or speaking about how the monetization of healthcare affects you personally, please contact Iaan at 215-251-1821.

Please register for Philadelphia events here!

PPC Meet & Greet
Sunday, July 14th, 6 pm
2401 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103.
Come to learn more about the Poor People’s Campaign from leaders across the country, find out how you can get more involved in our work, and share some great food!

July 7, 2019

For Immediate Release 

Press Contact:

Clarissa O’Conor
(717) 203-4097

Put People First! PA member 

Drexel medical student 

Medical students join with Put People First! PA, patients, staff, nurses, and doctors to protest the closure of Hahnemann Hospital! 

What: Philadelphia medical students, Put People First! PA, nurses, patients, and staff of Hahnemann Hospital hold vigil on Tuesday evening to unite and fight its imminent closure. 

When: Tuesday, July 9 at 5:30pm

Where: Hahnemann University Hospital, 230 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19102

Medical students, nurses, community groups, patients, and Hahnemann staff are coming together to hold a vigil to show our solidarity and dedication to fight the closure of Hahnemann Hospital. American Academic announced they will be closing Hahnemann by the end of the summer due to insurmountable financial losses. The hospital is owned by investment banker, Joel Freedman, who will no doubt benefit from its closure. At stake is the loss of a Philadelphia safety-net hospital that serves a large population of Medicaid patients, as well as the loss of 2500-3000 jobs within the community. We will also be joined by Put People First! PA members from Lancaster, PA, who are fighting the closure of St. Joseph Hospital, owned by UPMC. 

For more information or to RSVP go to the PPF event page here.

Put People First! PA Leaders Reflect on the Poor People’s Campaign Moral Action Congress (Series)

By Tammy, Lancaster

(Photo credit: from Poor People’s Campaign a National Call for Moral Revival Twitter) 

A lot took place during the three day action in Washington D.C and it took a few days afterwards for everything that took place to really sink in for me. Each day went by fast and with each day that passed I became more connected to the overall movement. I missed the main Poor People’s Campaign rally in D.C last year because I was in Minneapolis doing a workshop for the Healthcare Now national conference so I was extremely grateful that I was able to attend this year’s Moral Action Congress. 

On day one we heard from 9 candidates and of course overall consensus, they spoke in a way a politician would. The good that did come from that very long event was we used it to help sway the distorted moral narrative around poverty. The majority of the major media outlets were only there for the first day of the three day event and we all know it was because of the 2020 Presidential candidates being present. So with the media present we were able to get our message to a more broader audience and force the nation to finally talk about poverty in the United States. Now the next steps are to hold the 9 candidates accountable to their promise they would commit to a 2020 Presidential debate about poverty and the interlocking injustices! The best part of day one was the release of the Poor People’s Campaign a National Call for Moral Revival, Moral Budget. (Link to Moral Budget here.)

Day two was absolutely amazing! It was filled with workshops, learning and connecting with others from around the nation. The first workshop I attended was the one about organizing the homeless where I was able to hear more about the great work of the California Homeless Union and others who have organized around homelessness. I’m excited to say that I was able to witness the official kick off of the Committee to Re-Establish the National Union of the Homeless! In the afternoon I was asked to come to the front of the main gathering room to share with the nation why I decided to become a leader in the Pennsylvania Poor People’s Campaign a National Call for Moral Revival, I was very nervous but pushed through the fear because someone out there may have to hear the message, don’t give up, we can fight for a better society, together, you’re not alone. (Link to video footage of my remarks here.)

Later in the afternoon on day two I was able to take part in being on a panel about organizing around Healthcare and Welfare Rights. It was amazing to be able to share with people from across the nation how the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee has been taken action against UPMC for closing our hospital and speaking truth to power. I was able to share with those in attendance how taking action the way we did actually gained us power in the local arena and helped develop more leaders within the HRC. (Link to video footage of the entire workshop here.)

On day three we watched on a large overhead screen the live footage of the hearing before the House Budget Committee where the Poor People’s Campaign had Moral witnesses and presented the Poor People’s Campaign Moral Budget. A part of the panel of witnesses were two Pastor’s on the end who were there on the ask of the powers that be. Our very own Put People First! PA  leader Savannah Kinsey was one of the Moral witnesses there with the Poor People’s Campaign a National Call for Moral Revival. ALL of the witnesses did a fantastic job and our Moral Budget was put into record and parts of it were read out loud. After the hearing the witnesses came back and we celebrated our success and began to get hyped about the June 20th 2020 March on Washington D.C. (link to full hearing here)

Three members of the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee attended the three day Moral Action Congress and ever since we have been back we jumped right into work. I made connections while in Washington D.C with those who are a part of the Committee of the homeless Union and we are hoping to connect that work here with what we are already doing in Lancaster, PA. Many hopeful possibilities came to light for me over those three days and it helped me solidify my purpose within the movement. It came clear to me when asked during an interview what exactly my purpose is within this movement. I believe I’m here to help grow the movement through base building, developing other leaders through pushing our campaign plan forward and use my love for art & writing to tell our stories, to help sway the distorted moral narrative around poverty while we strive for a Lancaster County Moral Revival!