jesse jackson

Echoes of the Poor People's Campaign

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Poor People's March on Washington, D.C., 1968. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In early 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders continued plans for a Poor Peoples Campaign. It would take place in the spring in Washington, D.C. The poor and those in solidarity with them would take up temporary residence and march peacefully on the Capitol and advocate for substantial anti-poverty legislation from Congress. They would demand jobs, healthcare, and decent housing.

People set up a camp on the Washington Mall and called it Resurrection City. Jesse Jackson gave his famous "I Am Somebody" speech there. But King was assassinated in the weeks leading up to the campaign and Robert Kennedy was assassinated during it. Disheartened and discouraged, people drifted away from the campaign, their dreams deferred.

What if MLK had lived to lead the campaign with his insight and eloquence? What if Bobby Kennedy had lived to support it with his doggedness and political will? Would the United States be a place where 1 out of 5 children, around 15.5 million, are in poverty and where close to 50 million people are without health insurance?

SBC's Richard Land Says Obama, Jackson, Sharpton 'Exploiting' Trayvon Martin's Death

Richard Land. Photo via Getty Images.
Richard Land. Photo via Getty Images.

A top Southern Baptist official has accused President Obama and black civil rights activists of using the Trayvon Martin shooting to foment racial strife and boost the president’s re-election chances.

“Rather than holding rallies on these issues, the civil rights leadership focuses on racially polarizing cases to generate media attention and to mobilize black voter turnout,” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the denomination’s top public policy official, said on his radio program on Saturday (March 31).

“This is being done to try to gin up the black vote for an African-American president who is in deep, deep, deep trouble for re-election and who knows that he cannot win re-election without getting the 95 percent of blacks who voted for him in 2008 to come back out and show they are going to vote for him again.”

The Poor People's March and Occupy Wall Street

Martin_Luther_King_-_March_on_WashingtonAt the dedication ceremony for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, at least two speakers -- the Rev. Bernice King, Martin Luther King's daughter, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, one of King's lieutenants -- reminded us that at the end of King's life he was planning the Poor People's March

The Poor People's March is an ancestor to the current Occupy Wall Street movement that we see breaking out across the globe today. The idea was to bring poor people from across the color line -- white, black, brown, red, yellow -- to Washington to call attention to the importance of economic justice. King understood that economic justice -- distributive justice -- was not a matter of race in the United States.

It was true then, and it is true now that African Americans and Latino/as suffer disproportionately from income inequality. But it is important to remember that people of all colors suffer from the corrosive effects of income inequality. Some of the poorest communities in the country are European American. The poorest states in the United States with some of the worse educational and health care outcomes are states in the former confederacy.

Income inequality has increased since 1968. So the question that insists upon being answer is this: Why has income inequality worsened between 1968 and today?

Legalization Talk

Perhaps the last thing anyone would have expected to happen during the Reagan era was a renewal of interest in the idea of legalizing drugs. But there it is, right on the cover of the major news magazines and spattered throughout the discourse of political talk shows.

The legalization talk is not just about going easy on the kid with a half-ounce of marijuana. They ("they" being the usual assortment of pundits, pols, and experts) are talking about legalizing the whole dizzying, tranquilizing, and stimulating laundry list of contraband psychotropes--cocaine, heroin, maybe even PCP.

In marked contrast to the "legalize pot" days, none of the current legalization advocates actually condone the use of drugs, and especially not the aforementioned "hard" ones. Instead they are making the case that criminalization is doing nothing to curb drug use, abuse, and addiction. In fact, they say, criminalization of drugs is only serving to create a whole new set of costly, and often deadly, problems in the area of violent crime.

The argument goes something like this. Illegal drugs are very expensive and thus wildly profitable. Unfathomable truck-loads of drug-induced cash change hands daily, especially in the cocaine business. Drugs are so expensive, and thus so tantalizingly profitable, precisely because they are illegal.

Being banned by law makes cocaine a relatively scarce commodity. Large cash incentives are required to induce people to risk the long prison terms that can come with drug trafficking. Consequently, by the time the stuff reaches some poor sucker on the streets of my hometown, or yours, it's so expensive that the only way they can pay for it is by breaking a window and stealing your VCR, or my stereo.

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