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WV Rally Today to Reconnect with MLK’s Radical Vision

Organizers of the new Poor People's Campaign say some of what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was pursuing with the first Poor People's Campaign has been sanitized and watered down by time. (Birmingham, Ala., Police Dept.)
Organizers of the new Poor People's Campaign say some of what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was pursuing with the first Poor People's Campaign has been sanitized and watered down by time. (Birmingham, Ala., Police Dept.)
May 14, 2018

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Poor People's Campaign here and across the country is reconnecting with Martin Luther King's surprisingly radical vision, its organizers say.

The movement will rally at State Capitols in West Virginia and nearly 40 other states at the same time this Monday afternoon. The Rev. Ron English served as King's ministerial assistant at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. He said by the time King died, he was focused on three linked problems: racism, poverty and militarism.

English said King had planned a trip to highlight white Appalachian poverty. And the new group wants to reactivate that broad, interconnected movement.

"Bringing people together to work on things that they may have had in common, but were not aware of, suffering from the same oppressive powers,” English Explained; “but we have not quite reached to each other."

Critics of social justice movements accuse them of being impractical and relying too much on government action. But the rally’s organizers point to the current administration’s plans to cut the Children's Health Insurance Program and add work requirements to SNAP as battles that can be won.

Amy Jo Hutchison of Wheeling is one of three chairs of the West Virginia campaign. She said the movement includes people focused on everything from voter ID laws to dirty drinking water. But Hutchison said by stepping back, it's easy to see how the issues are related, here and nationwide - so, it makes sense to call for six weeks of nonviolent, direct protests.

"One of the things that we're trying to do is to elevate the plight of the poor across the United States,” Hutchison said; “and calling for 40 days of moral action, for the people who are impacted by these issues, and to give them a space to elevate their voices."

The events around the country are aimed in part to culminate at a march on Washington, D.C., later this year. Rev. English said there's a lot of work to be done, to pick up where King left his Poor People's Campaign 50 years ago.

"We come together at the Capitol to see who we are, what we are up against,” English said. “This is just a convening. The work comes after the rally is over."

Monday's rally is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. on the State Capitol steps on Kanawha Blvd.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV