The Put People First! PA Membership Assembly happens once a year in the fall. It’s PPF-PA’s largest weekend long gathering of our membership from across the state and our family reunion of sorts where members reconnect with folks we may not have seen since the year before and welcome new members into the fold. It’s a time for learning from the past year, deepening relationships, and strategizing for year(s) to come.

This year the Membership Assembly was pulled together by a planning team of 30 people, working for months in the lead up. Nearly 50 PPF-PA members created and co-facilitated sessions during the weekend. Almost every participant had volunteer role from registration to meal prep to childcare that allowed 150 people, including dozens of children, to nearly seamlessly come together in Pittsburgh for a weekend of learning, reflecting and building together. PPF-PA was joined by folks from sister organizations involved in the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival across the country, many of whom joined PPF-PA months earlier during the Organizing Exchange in June.

Here are a few reflections from the weekend:

Karim, member of the Campaign Team
I liked being a doctor for the first time, without reservation because I got to do it with these kind folks. We only had 4 or 5 patients, and we didn’t really “cure” anything honestly. (How often have you left a hospital feeling cured?) But I think from the standpoint of care delivery, it unearthed in a small way people’s ability to take care of ourselves collectively, shining a light on disorganization as a “social determinant of health” we don’t talk about. No insurance, no profiteers knocking at the door waiting to commodify our relationships. Of course there are a thousand things people sometimes need that only a scaled healthcare system can provide. But it was a tiny opportunity to embody and envision what the system we need would feel like. It underscores that the 140 million poor people in this country are the force that can make healthcare a human right in a sense that is broad, deep, and permanent.

Laycee Norton, member of the Johnstown Healthcare Rights Committee
I enjoyed everything. I loved all the workshops, especially the media and communications and the Base Building one on one too. The leadership and clarity and all of us being together as one, fighting together and not being alone. We’re all family and I love you all so much and I’m so glad I’m in this movement and helping fight for healthcare cause its a right. Everyone has a right to healthcare and should have it. I’m also in this movement for my mom and dad since they don’t have healthcare I’m fighting to get it for them.

Matthew, Co-Coordinator of the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee
Absolutely wonderful! The support we got was amazing, the volunteers were amazing! I was able to connect with members from PSL and the Vermont Workers Center and I think we have the potential to move forward. This Membership Assembly gave us a clear vision to build this movement. I saw many people step up. I was very impressed with the camaraderie. I was blown away. I was very humbled. The Mother Jones Leadership Program helped me grow a lot in my leadership skills.

Denyne, Coordinator of Monview Healthcare Rights Committee
Honestly I am so proud of us. I am on a high, like a cloud. So thankful that with everything we still remained organized, we still worked together in harmony and I’m just so proud. One of the highlights was when Willie Baptist spoke…The profiteers benefit from our sickness and our illness and they are organized, these are the things that he discussed that are examples of the theory of change. We must organize as the poor…I am so proud of us. We organize, we do it, and then we reflect back on it because we learn from our mistakes. I am thankful for the love and care that was put into the children.

Anthony Prince, National Union of the Homeless, California
I thought it was a fantastic gathering. I was honored to be invited. I think I was most impressed by the seriousness and the organizational skills. I was very impressed with Nijmie’s presentation on relationships. It was inspiring and instructive.

Eshawny Gaskins, a member of NC Raise-Up/Fight for $15, shared some thoughts after the Media and Communication workshop on Saturday.

She was invited by others in her organization to travel to the PPF-PA Membership Assembly and showed much enthusiasm for sharing, learning and connecting as she actively participated. Eshawny observed that she is learning that people are fighting for change and that all of us are fighting for the same cause, emphasizing also that, even though their present fight is for union rights and The Fight for $15, that isn’t the end of their fight, again stressing, “our fight is all the same”.

During Put People First! PA’s Monthly Statewide Call, members had the opportunity to shared their appreciations from the weekend. Here are a few of those reflections:

“One of the things that impressed me was how diverse the group of people who were there, and the passion everyone had for our cause. It was really inspiring.” – Stan, Philadelphia

“It was really amazing to see folks take care of each other.” – Stacey, Philadelphia

“It was my first assembly and I really enjoyed myself. I loved everything about it.” – Jackie, Monview

“I am just thankful to be a part of the group and I am certainly looking forward to moving forward.” – Bardie, Lancaster

“I am super appreciating the high discipline and high morale of the weekend.” – Jae, Philadelphia

“The depth of leadership we’ve built over the last year and our strategic partners who elevated the discussion with us.” – Phil, Philadelphia

“I have one word: food” – Harrison, Norristown

“I was shocked I got an award. I was amazed about how we all worked together towards the same goal.” – Anne, Lancaster

“To quote a comrade, leadership development isn’t just on the agenda it is the agenda.” – Kristin, New Jersey

“You have built an incredible statewide organization.” – David (National Union of the Homeless, Massachusetts

“I have a lot of appreciation for everyone who did so much work for the weekend” – Maddie, Johnstown

“How about all those young folks? They were awesome!” – Hope, Johnstown

“I appreciate the collective approach to make this even happen.” – Larry, Johnstown

“I enjoyed it. A learning experience. I was very inspired and I can see myself growing.” – Angie, Pittsburgh

“I am thankful to God that I made it. To say the least the leaders were well organized. And I am thankful those who volunteered to take care of the children. I appreciate the togetherness. This was the first time but it won’t be my last time.”  – William, York

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