The Poor People’s Campaign Midwest Tour
The Poor People’s Campaign Midwest Tour started on May 16th in Chicago, IL and ended on May 26th in Cleveland, OH. Over those ten days, we brought together over 40 leaders from 10 different states and representing at least 20 different organizations. In our delegation there were people who had participated in our past tours in Alabama’s Black Belt, the Gulf Coast, and Appalachia, and there were others who were linking up with the Poor People’s Campaign for the first time.
We were Black, white, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous; from 6 months to 70 years old; from small towns and big cities; queer and straight; from a wide range of faith and moral traditions. What brought us together is the fact that our communities are facing daily violence at the hands of governments and private interests, and our shared recognition that our only hope of victory and survival is with each other.
Together we visited Chicago, Elkhart (IN), Detroit, Flint, and Cleveland, meeting with over 250 people from these communities. Generous with their time, wisdom, and spirits, they held People’s Tribunals and community hearings to bear witness to the crimes of racism, militarism, poverty, and ecological devastation. They took us on poverty tours to see local conditions. We sang, prayed, and ate together.
In Chicago, meeting with groups like Blocks Together and the Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke, we heard about gun violence, police violence, the dismantling of public education, and the poisoning of neighborhoods by industry.
In Elkhart during a tour and at a community meeting organized by the People’s History of Elkhart and others, people spoke out about the hard hit-manufacturing industry, widespread home foreclosures, and growth of low-wage, no-security, temporary employment.
During the Michigan leg of our tour, we witnessed the effects and discussed the causes of widespread unemployment and mass water-shut offs in Detroit, lead poisoning in Flint, and the undermining of democracy throughout the state by the Emergency Manager system. We’re grateful to the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Westside Mothers, United Auto Workers Local 600 and Region 1D, and the Flint Democracy Defense League for leading the tours and discussions there.
In Cleveland with our friends at Organize! Ohio, we saw many of the same problems: a lack of good jobs, growing homelessness, the selling off of the public education system to profiteers, and the horror of police violence as shown in the murder of young Tamir Rice.
Each of these places has seen some media attention recently because of these issues and more. But rarely are the legitimate voices of the community heard in all of the discussion. That means that even though there are people fighting every day to solve these problems, we often don’t even know about each other. The idea of the tour was to take a step towards changing that situation: giving us all a moment to look up and see each other, learn from each other, take on each others’ fights as our own, and start figuring out how we can work together. On that count, it was a major success.
You can see some pictures from the tour here.
You can read an interview from right before the tour, with Willie Baptist, John Wessel-McCoy, and Tim Shenk, about the “Global Significance of America’s Heartland” for a movement to end poverty here.
Besides the groups mentioned above, we want to thank the other groups and organizations which helped to host us and donated space for meetings during the tour:
Centro Comunitario Juan Diego (Chicago)
Church Community Services (Elkhart)
The Red Oak Community House (Elkhart)
Central United Methodist Church (Detroit)
Sacred Heart Catholic Church (Detroit)
The Hush House Museum and Cultural Center (Detroit)
There were also many, many individuals and families who housed us, fed us, and provided support for the tour. Thank you so much, all of you!