A movement started by civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr is seeing new life in Arkansas, and around the country, 50 years after his death.
According to organizers, the Poor People’s Campaign is “a national call for a moral revival.” Faith leaders from across the state gathered at the Arkansas Capitol to announce the goals of the campaign.
Reverend Anika Whitfield, of Little Rock said, “My faith, my hope tells me that children, teenagers, young adults, adults, and seniors that are living in neighborhoods and communities will experience the same civil liberties that are currently being enjoyed by our brothers and sisters that live on the other sides of town.”
Whitfield, Rabbi Barry Block, and evangelist Ricky Smith, all spoke at the event at the Capitol. Spiritual leaders from Russellville to Fayetteville joined the crowd of roughly 50 people in announcing Arkansas’s intention to participate in the nationwide campaign.
People directly impacted by the policies and laws the Poor People’s Campaign hopes to see changed also spoke. Maria Meneses, a sophomore at Philander Smith College, encouraged others to vote even though legally she is not yet able to.
“I am Guatemalan. I am American. I am a friend. I am sister and I am a daughter, but overall I’m also a dreamer,” said Meneses, while calling on lawmakers in Congress to pass “a clean Dream Act.”
In addition to policies targeting immigrants, manufacturing poverty, and enabling racism, the campaign also labels as immoral, ecological devastation, and an economy that emphasizes military spending. Michael Martin is an Air Force veteran who claims his time in the service led to debilitating anxiety.
“Today I’m very active in our support groups at the local VA [Veteran’s Administration], as well as other groups across the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas,” said Martin. “I have firsthand knowledge of the devastating effects of addiction. Much of it is caused by militarism, inequality, and the war economy.”
The campaign organizers delivered a letter to Governor Hutchinson promising acts of nonviolent civil disobedience unless action is taken on their issues. According to the group, similar events took place in the capitols of 32 other states.