On January 10, PPF-PA hosted a virtual “People’s Poetry” workshop followed by Arts and Culture night. The event was put on by the Community Care and Base Building teams, with the idea that expressing ourselves together can be a way of taking care of each other in painful, isolating times, as well as developing our connectedness, clarity, and commitment to the struggle.

The first hour was a poetry workshop, where we looked at the words of past leaders in our movement – Albert Turner, Ella Baker, Fred Hampton, and Martin Luther King, Jr. – as prompts for our own writing, which we then shared. The next hour and a half was Arts and Culture night, where people continued to share their poems, alongside other pieces of culture from PPF-PA members and others: songs, videos, writing, visual art. 

The event felt like a big success, with dozens of attendees, from longtime PPF-PA members to brand new contacts. Even through the virtual medium, there was a strong feeling of love and support for each other, in the zoom chat, in our faces, expressing our joy at witnessing and learning from each other. Through it all was the understanding that sharing arts and culture is not a nice sideline to organizing, but it is organizing: fortifying each other for present and future struggles, remembering what we share, what we need, and what we’re fighting for. 

Reflection from Beckett, Philly Healthcare Rights Committee (HRC) & Base-building team

Poems from the Workshop

Poor Revolution
Kenneth Daly, Philly HRC

People say we need to have money.
People say we need to have media.
People say we need to have guns.

They’re talking about a revolution for the haves.
We’re talking about a revolution by the have-nots.
A poor revolution.
For that we first need
ourselves alone.
Thank you, Chairman Fred
Brother Mark, The People-Pueblo Party

Thank you, Chairman Fred
Although you were only 21 years old when they ended your life
you are still with us today.
You are still speaking to us, 
showing us that the way to defeat Counter-Revolution,
disease and death is through Love, Unity, Political Education, and Action.
All Power to the People!
Fran Gilmore, Montco HRC

They say the borderwall
is like a scar
on the heart
That some who went around
or through or over died
nameless in the desert sand. 
We come to this place
with arms around each other’s shoulders,
learn to hold our scars beloved,
wisdom lines.  We bring water
and love to heal them.
We seek the tracks of our heroes,
Tubman, DuBois, King and Hamer
Davis, Hampton and Baptist.
We listen to the music of our bards,
Langston, Woody, Pete and Jacob.
We listen to the music
of the clouds and stars, coax
a song from the furrowed earth,
a chorus of corn and wheat and kale,
food for all, as we honor the fallen
buried deep below.
We draw power from the wind and sun,
from the tides, from our collective will
to live, to heal, to be among each other,
among the future born.
Frank Scarsella, Johnstown HRC

If we are to Uplift the People, we first have to understand How we Got Here.
Teaching the People means Hearing them. Seeing them. Being them! Being of the people! Because no Outsider will ever Uplift US.
We must see the past Clearly! The valley was shaped by the river but cannot see the changes in itself that it brings.
What we must do is rise above it, see the changes. See the years that shaped the valley - that shaped the People - and then Redirect the River.
Up in the Limbs and Leaves
Gabrielle Angelino, Montco HRC

This tree I live in is very old.
It’s withering and rotting from the inside out. 
It was here long before our ancestors were brought here
- ankle to ankle, wrist to wrist-
in the humid hulls of ships:
built with the carcasses of our tree’s own ancestors. 
Up in the limbs and leaves
-the skin and bones of our tree-
curls and leans underneath the pressure of oppression.
The skin hates the bones for not holding it up;
the bones hate the skin for sagging.
Neither blames the roots who have carried poison throughout this tree for years under the cloak of nutrition. 
This tree I live in is scarred by war and marred by self-loathing.
If only it could look down at what lies just beneath its feet.
Rooting for Gold
Harrison Farina, Montco HRC

We gotta get to the roots
Don’t play with no leaf or no limbs
We gotta take back our fruits
And give them out 1 by 1.
Go down to the root
Like Albert Turner said
A doctor that can shoot
A dose of reality to the head
Cause we’re making room
And we gotta Zoom, now!
But not too fast, without looking
Cause then we’ll fall down and not know how.
But there’s something solid
We’re standing on
It doesn’t go down with the dawn
That’s our dignity, always under us though some times
We need a remindin’
But that’s where our collective
Rushes in with the findin’.
Cause we’re looking for gold
Just like you
Not just roots but gold, gold!
And not just a few.
Cause there’s a lot of us
And we’re here to stay
And we can’t afford to play
With falling leaves and branches.
Not just gold, but roots are important too
Grasp them if we want to get through
And make sure to wear gloves…
They’ll poison you while you say ah-choo!
We’re up against something big, but we can dig
Get to some solid ground
And look there! Roots
Turnips, beets, and all kinds of fruits!

Take em’ out, and take a bite
And kick the ass of the ruling class
With all our might!

Count Every Vote & Poor People’s Hearings

This past week Healthcare Rights Committees across the state demanded that every vote be counted and a full democracy for the poor and dispossessed!

It is our duty to make clear that as we support the democratic process, we won’t experience democracy as the poor and dispossessed – across party lines – until we actually have healthcare, housing, living wage jobs, transit, education, and freedom from discrimination, criminalization, incarceration, and detention.

We have been in crisis – before COVID, since COVID, before the election, and that crisis will continue after the election. To achieve democracy, in addition to voting and counting every vote, we need to: 

  1. Organize, organize, organize to build power for poor and dispossessed people across race and geography in Pennsylvania.
  2. Unite to overcome the divide and conquer strategies that pit white people against people of color and urban, suburban and rural people against each other.
  3. Build clear, competent, committed and connected leaders from every race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ability, immigration status, and region.

On Wednesday, Karim Nathan from the Philadelphia HRC spoke at the Count Every Vote Action in Philly. Here is a live stream of Karim’s remarks:


Pittsburgh/Mon Valley HRC took action the day after the election with Socialist Alternative in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh and Mon Valley HRCs were represented by Briann Moye during the Socialist Alternative’s Event: Don’t Let Trump Steal the Election! This event took place the day after the election and was held in order to advocate for all votes to be counted in Pennsylvania, regardless of the outcome of the election. The event called for the rejection of the two party system and the dangers inherent in the parties being run by corporate interest. Below is an excerpt from Briann’s Speech, and a link to the speech on Facebook:

“Every two to four years, every election we face is the next biggest crisis… but we recognize that the day after the election nothing in our lives fundamentally changes… I want to pose a question to everyone here in this crowd: What, to the poor and dispossessed, is democracy? What to the 140 million poor, near poor, dispossessed, working class folks in the United States is democracy? When these elections happen and the balance of power shifts from one ruling class to another, we realize our lives aren’t any different!” 

Link to video on Facebook: Briann Moye’s Remarks on the Outcome of this Election

Briann urges us to think critically about how the two-party system, despite the outcome of the election, will  never be a democracy for the poor and working class Americans. This is why we must reject partisan politics, reach across the aisle, and speak with each other so that we can work TOGETHER for a better America. If we do not do this critical work, our country will continue to divide over issues that, in the end, only benefit the ruling class. The two party system has no place in the politics of the working class and poor people of the United States. 

Remarks from Denyne of the MonValley HRC on recent actions and upcoming Poor People’s Hearing:

The MonValley HRC has been teamed up with Pittsburgh HRC and we are an incredible force together. Our team has been able  successfully perform several live actions together in a safe manner during this Pandemic. All of which helps develop us through the leadership pathway and strengthen us as an organization. We have even gained new members to both HRC’s and the amount of enthusiasm in these newcomers is enough to prove that we must Continue the work that we do. They’re out there waiting to hear the words…. of the movement they’ve been waiting for…..People are fired up and ready to act…..We must continue to educate ourselves and develop ourselves to be ready to move people along…. we must read it , research it,  study it, just do it so they do not lax into boredom…. Lets Go!!!! — Denyne Pollard, MonValley HRC

Last week, Members of the Northeast PA Healthcare Rights Committee took action. At the #CountEveryVote action in Wilkes-Barre Rose Yanko of the NEPA Healthcare Rights Committee, demanded true democracy for the poor and dispossessed. Watch the livestream here:  https://fb.watch/1HC2S2h7RR/ .

Here are remarks from Alex in Wilkes-Barre:

“It’s going to take social movements for the foreseeable future, to make sure that Northeast PA [interests] are protected by whoever is in power… for too long Harrisburg has not prioritized the needs we have. We have low wage jobs… non-union jobs… and the fact is this [happens] even when our [people] power was the most significant in our society and in PA…”

  • Alex Lotorto from NEPA HRC

On Saturday in Philly, Nijmie spoke at the Voters Decide: a Rally for Life, Liberty and Democracy Here are Nijmie’s remarks and the live stream of the event: https://www.facebook.com/phillywerise/videos/407904960379043/ 

My name is Nijmie Zakkiyyah Dzurinko and I am a co-founder and co-coordinator of Put People First – PA and co-chair of the PA Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. As we stand here on Lenni Lenape land today I bring you greetings from my tribe, the Occaneechi band of the Saponi nation. 

I grew up on the other side of the state, in Westmoreland County, and I was raised by my grandparents. My grandfather was a steelworker. The first award I ever won was in 4th grade when I wrote an essay about the importance of unions, so I salute all of my union siblings here today.

I want to thank everyone who worked, who organized, who mobilized, who gave 1000% to ensure that those who COULD vote did and to protect our democratic right to vote!

In the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, we connected with two million poor voters of all backgrounds across this country through our program of Mobilizing, Organizing, Registering and Educating which trained THOUSANDS of everyday people in organizing conversations and registering people for a MOVEMENT, who will vote. 

Today is such an important day! It’s a day to celebrate the working class power that we demonstrated through this election. It also seems to me a great synergy that today is the 103rd anniversary of the Russian Revolution, one of the great examples in history when the working class kicked the ass of the ruling class!

And as we celebrate today we also must remember that Democracy for Indigenous people, for Black and Brown people, for AAPI people, for houseless people, for disabled people, for immigrants, for queer and trans people, for ALL poor and dispossessed people in this country – over 140 million of us and counting – is still a distant dream.

Our political rights and our civil rights will not and CANNOT be fulfilled until healthcare is a right! Until housing is a right! Until clean water is a right! Until quality education is a right! Until freedom of migration is a right! Until freedom from incarceration and detention is a right! Until freedom from state violence is a right! 

That’s why I’m so glad that we continued with today’s action. Because the wealth of billionaires grew by over 800 billion dollars while our class is being thrown into the streets. Because hospitals like Hahnemann right down the street are CLOSED as we have another huge spike in COVID cases. Because Walter Wallace Jr. was killed by police in MY NEIGHBORHOOD while mental health services are stripped away. 

Because we must ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE the WHOLE WORKING CLASS across all lines of division and across urban, rural and suburban places in every county in this state and across every state in this country. Not just on election day, but every day! When I say “All power” you say “to the working class”! WE ONLY GET WHAT WE ARE ORGANIZED TO TAKE. Join us! THANK YOU!

On Sunday, the Montgomery County Healthcare Rights Committee took action with a Poor People’s Hearing on Democracy in Norristown. Here are photos from the event and Remarks from Serissa Homa:

I’m 15 years old and I am a part of the Montco HRC of Put People First – Pennsylvania. Being 15, I know what it’s like to not be heard because of your age, a lot of people don’t understand that kids are more mature than they think and that we are more aware of what goes on around us. I believe that we all need to organize to make change. And the change I want is healthcare for everyone. My mother Stephanie and I have been denied the healthcare we need and deserve for a very long time, like most of you here today. From our medications we need to survive like heart meds and inhalers to braces and oral surgery, etc. We have had Aetna my whole life and they barely have ever helped us. We have paid thousands of dollars over the years on hospital visits and medications. That should not be the case. I know many of you have this struggle and I’m so sorry that the system  has screwed you over as well. They have made so much profit over the working class people and I’m sick of it! Under a democracy we would have health care and not have to worry about dying because you can’t afford your medications! I hope that more of today’s youth like me will also stand up for what they know we need HEALTHCARE! — Serissa Homa, Montgomery County HRC

Photos https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.203024501344589&type=3 

On Sunday, the Philadelphia Healthcare Rights Committee took action with Poor People’s Campaign partners, Co-Emceeing the event with Act UP! Here is the live stream of the event and remarks from the Poor People’s Hearing in Philadelphia:

“It’s time for everybody to come together…this is for the poor people, the struggling people, the people who are willing to put their lives on the line to see that justice is served. No longer will we be coming to City Council begging…for a human right!…Our ancestors thank you for giving us the light to travel and withstand all of this oppression: police state, national guards! Instead of tripping on each other…on which white person in power is going to take care of us, it is time for us to take care of each other!” – Sam Druton


Yesterday, PPF-PA joined the Movement of Immigrant Leaders in PA and other organizations for the Unity in Power Parade in Harrisburg where we celebrated our community power. Here is the livestream of Desi from MILPA speaking: https://www.facebook.com/PennsylvaniaPPC/videos/386736309116325/?vh=e&d=n 

During this time it is more important than ever for us to be united as a community and fight for our Human Rights!

Unete con nosotros para celebrar el poder de nuestra comunidad cuando nos unimos! Durante estos tiempos es mas importante que nunca que nos unamos como comunidad y luchemos juntxs por nuestros Derechos Humanos!

Hot off the Press!! Fall 2020 – Winter 2021 KEYSTONE

Presenting: THE KEYSTONE: Fall 2020/Winter 2021 Edition, Put People First! PA’s member created, biannual newsletter.

The Keystone tells the stories of PPF-PA members and our organizing over the past half year. Many PPF-PA members from across the state contribute reflections as well folks from sister organizations. Big shout out to the Media & Communications team for creating this powerful tool!

Check it out here in virtual magazine form.

Check out or download the KEYSTONE PDF here.

Want to look at past Keystone editions? Here on the website is our archive to take a trip down memory lane…

KEYSTONE Fall 2020 - Winter 2021

NEPA member reflects on racism, divide and conquer of immigrants

By Rose Yanko, Northeast PA Healthcare Rights Committee

I come from a small town in Northeast PA (NEPA) and grew up on a property with several houses on a 15-acre lot.  My father was born to an immigrant family in a nearby town. The town was a wonderful little web of many different languages and cultures. Since that town was so close to our family property, we remained friends with everyone and frequented my grandparents’ bar.   Like mostly everywhere in NEPA, they were coal miners in the past and many worked at the coal company right down the road which is still open today.

At the bar, elders frequently told tales of struggle and strife. They took any job they could get such as cigar factories and coal mining, where if you were killed at work, they dumped your body on your porch. I heard the struggles of immigrants who could not speak English until their new neighbors befriended and helped them. My ancestors wouldn’t have survived here without the people who accepted them – though surely not everyone did.

As I read the most recent articles along with the comment sections in the local news regarding Hazleton and the Covid-19 pandemic, I wonder how many of my peers have forgotten the struggles of our own ancestors as they turn around and point fingers at the Latinx community now.  Our proud ancestors stood together across racial, religious and ethnic lines to lead the working class struggles of the time and fight the exploitation of the bosses. People died because of exploitation back then, too. 

A story comes to mind from a 90-year-old woman I cared for in her home. When she was a child at home with her mother; when she heard what sounded like roaring thunder.  A majestic, uniformed Hanover policeman was at her door. He asked if her neighbors were home but she told him she did not know. The policeman knocked on her neighbors’ door and asked for the man of the house. The wife answered and went to get her husband.  When the husband approached the door, the policeman clubbed him in the head.  As his body dropped to the porch with his kids and wife screaming, the mounted policeman rode off.  All because the neighbor was fighting for safety and rights in the workplace as a coal miner.  He was a Polish immigrant. And that was his bitter end.  Despite attacks and intimidation by police in the service of wealthy bosses, workers continued to fight for and won greater rights and protections for coal miners.

Today, a problem that I have recognized is that most Latinx people within Hazleton, work essential jobs with low pay. The global corporations that own the factories, plants and logistics centers – subsidized by our tax dollars – are not providing these workers with Personal Protective Equipment. They can’t just stay home because many have families. So people are getting sick and dying because of corporate exploitation and greed. I compare this to the struggles of immigrants from days gone by.  Have we forgotten already?  

A stand must be taken by the people against the corporations that are the root cause. We must defend the people falling victim to racist narratives. With Put People First! PA, we have a vision for how to get through this crisis that includes all working people and offers real solutions to keep our families and communities safe. We have a Healthcare Rights Committee in Northeast PA and everyone is welcome to get involved.