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

By Jennina, Altoona

This year, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the 3 day Poor People’s Campaign Moral Congress in DC. Leaders and organizations comprised of the Poor and working class, came from 42 states across the country to participate.  My home state of Pennsylvania ended up being the largest state presence there, with around 80 people from PA alone! 

The 1st day we got to ask Democratic (all candidates were invited, Republican candidates either refused or did not respond) Presidential Candidate’s questions that mattered to us. I stood with Mr. Wendsler Nosie and asked candidate Andrew Yang about Indigenous sovereignty rights and the Indian Child Welfare Act. His response disappointed me, it was simply “I’ll hire someone to handle that”. 

The remainder of the 1st day, was mostly getting to know other leaders from across the country, eating, socializing and getting rest. I was both amazed and inspired that nearly 1,000 people, from varying cultures, races, religions- all poor or working class, all made this long trip. We gathered together in instant fellowship, to learn more about our common struggles and improve the quality of life for millions.

Days 2 and 3 we divided ourselves into workshops or Tracks, where we learned from Leaders from past and present struggles.  These classes were meant to increase our overall clarity, connection to others and commitment to changing conditions in society that are killing us.

I went to the Organizing the Poor workshop on day one, led by Tony Prince. We heard from “houseless” organizers about their struggles, their losses and their victories. Perhaps the most incredible thing that happened this day, was the reformation of The National Homeless Union! We got to witness history in the making as they established, appointed leadership, honored distinguished leaders and signed a document which reestablished their union.  

I then went to a workshop on Indigenous Sovereignty.  Indigenous leaders from C.A, AZ, Standing Rock, and N.Y. gathered with faith leaders and members of NY PPC who are committed to making indigenous voices heard. Hearing their common pain and struggles  inspired me to set up a meeting between those of us who were able to stay a bit after the Congress and Rev. DR. Liz Theoharris.  

The last day we got to see some of our own members speak to Congress about poverty in the U.S. Our own Savannah Kinsey from PPF Johnstown Healthcare Rights Committee spoke about the connection to poverty, the drug epidemic and lack of healthcare and treatment. 

After the Congress was over Rev. DR Liz Theoharris graciously agreed to meet with myself and some of the other Indigenous women from across the country. We talked to her about ways to help Indigenous people feel more welcome and heard in the PPC nationally.  

My day ended with a celebratory dinner between Trini & Irene- Native Women from the CA delegation and myself. I drove to the airport, and fellow MJLP leaders Maddie and Jake Butterly took turns calling and helping me stay awake on my long drive home. I am forever grateful to be part of such an amazing group of people.

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