Everybody’s Got the Right to Live: Jobs, Income and Housing

“The Stronghold Sacred Journey (led by the Apache Stronghold’s Wendsler Nosie, a leader of the Poor People’s Campaign) stopped in L.A. at ‘Indian Alley‘ to meet and pray with their urban relatives — a site well-known for its stories of pain and resilience, suffering and survival for indigenous peoples. With over 100 federally recognized tribes represented within Los Angeles County, it is home to the second-largest population of Native Americans in the US.” — Steve Pavey (photo by Steve Pavey)

Dear America,

To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity — Nelson Mandela

Human rights means the right to a living wage, the right to safe and affordable housing, and the right to a quality education. Many politicians in our nation’s capital and in state capitals across the country have continued to deny these basic rights to the poor. On Monday we continued with our fifth week of nonviolent moral fusion direct action in Washington D.C. and over 30 states across the country. This week, our theme was Everybody’s Got the Right to Live: Jobs, Income and Housing.

There are 140 million poor people living in the United States. While many extreme politicians will argue that the nation’s poor aren’t working hard enough or can pull themselves out of poverty, they also refuse to raise the federal minimum wage, state minimum wages and they are denying people access to care. These state and federal lawmakers are keeping our nation’s poor in poverty. There are 64 million workers making less than $15 per hour, meaning they can’t afford other basic needs like adequate housing. In our nation’s capital, the average minimum wage worker would have to work 91 hours per week just to afford a very modest 1-bedroom apartment. This is a crime. Congress should fulfill Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of guaranteeing every American a universal basic income. Millions of hardworking people struggle to meet their basic needs every month because they are living on minimum wages. They can barely afford to pay rent and run the risk of being thrust into poverty or homelessness if an emergency should occur. A guaranteed universal basic income would ensure that all people have the means to actually live instead of just barely scraping by.

We have people fighting to survive, every single day, just to meet their basic needs while there are three individuals in this country who have the same wealth as 160 million poor people. Congress’ response was to cut taxes for the wealthy so that they would raise worker wages and create new jobs, but corporations like AT&T have just funneled their savings back to their shareholders. Instead of creating new jobs, they’ve closed call centers and laid off workers.

Every single person has the right to live and these politicians are attacking the poorest among us through policy violence. They are keeping our poor in poverty and helping the wealthy stay rich.

Despite the recent attempts by some to prevent us from raising our voices and protesting these injustices, thousands of supporters still gathered this week. Activists and faith leaders joined together in California, Missouri, North Carolina, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, and Massachusetts amongst other states. Authorities in Arkansas and Kentucky have continued to obstruct our right to peaceful assembly by denying or limiting our presence in the state capitals. This simply enforces the fact that many lawmakers don’t care about basic human rights. Many don’t care about free speech or our nation’s poor who are struggling to survive every single day. They don’t care about the lack of safe and affordable housing. They don’t care about the quality of education our children are receiving or the mass student loan debt. Many only care about keeping the wealthy rich and in power.

But there are other politicians who are using their influence to lift up the poor. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings convened a hearing on economic inequality, union rights, voter suppression and other issues of injustice. I testified with several other impacted people who have been leading this movement in their home states. Together, we made it clear that this nation’s poor have had enough and are demanding immediate change.

We have one week left in our Forty Days of Action. Tell everyone you know to join us at state houses and the the US Congress. Then join us at the National Mall in D.C. on Saturday, June 23 for the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival’s Call to Action Rally.

Click here to join now and commit to participating on the ground or share your support online using the #PoorPeoplesCampaign hashtag.

Our voices will be heard.