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2019 Poor People’s Campaign National Congress

The 2019 Poor People’s Campaign’s (PPC) national congress kicked off Monday, June 17th at Howard and Trinity Universities in Washington D.C. The Campaign emphasizes and protects its non-partisanship; it’s fitting, therefore, that alumni include, liberal Justice Thurgood Marshall and conservative Republican Senator John Kornyn.  It is, however, most definitely NOT apolitical.

Monday’s opening day included substantive appearances from nine Presidential candidates including Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.  While the assemblage was directed, repeatedly to applaud only the questioners and NOT the candidates, the energy of the audience was most definitely at peaks during the appearances of Sanders and relative unknown, Mary Williamson.  

Photo Credit: Will Coley

Mary Williamson

From the seventh row, the intensity and appeal of the Sanders’-style Socialism and integrity made obvious and undeniable connections to the audience.  Mary Williamson’s message of the need for a national penitence and cleansing of the country’s soul was ready-made for the campaign’s over-arching mission of moral revival.  While the issues around poverty, war economy, homelessness, economic disparity and others are indeed hallmarks, they are undoubtedly not the underpinnings of the PPC’s movement and her message, delivered vibrantly, fit the venue like a glove.

Kamala Harris

Joe Biden was . . . fine.  Kamala Harris (a Howard University alumnus) was not the strong-willed, hard driving prosecutor I’ve seen deliver speeches in the past.  Her courtly respect given to Reverend Barber softened her delivery and made it obvious that she is appropriately deferential to the reverend or, perhaps, gospel pastors in general.  “I wouldn’t think of interrupting a pastor” she said at one point during an exchange. The look suited her well.

Photo Credit: Steve Pavey

Andrew Yang

Candidate and entrepreneur, Andrew Yang, was very much at ease with the audience and the venue.  His sense of humor and caring came across as unquestionably genuine. His claim to fame at the moment is a platform plank of giving a $1,000 “dividend” per month to every American.  Cynics will see this as thinly-veiled bribe. His explanation of how this lifts people up, stimulates the economy and is in no small degree similar to a corporation giving a cash dividend to its owners, I can attest to as a student of Economics, makes sense though I question its lack of means testing as a prerequisite.

The Congress continued into Tuesday with a speech by Reverend Barber and breakout sessions.  On Wednesday, the Reverend and one person from each of 29 states attended the House Budget Committee hearings.

Hearing 2019-012: Poverty in America: Economic Realities of Struggling Families
By Aaron Matteson

Aaron Matteson is Tri-Chair of The Wisconsin Poor People's Campaign, Former Candidate for State Representative in the Wisconsin State Assembly, and Menomonee Falls Action Team Activist.

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