Well I went down to the rich man’s house- to take back what he stole from me — take back my dignity, take back my humanity….
There we were — the unhoused, the evicted, the displaced, the disabled. Black, Brown, Indigenous, Poor white, youth and elders on one accord, all colors, all nations, all cultures, all ages, all abilites- cause that’s what poverty looks like in this stolen indigenous territory the colonizers called the US.
“We poor mamas are marching on Washington DC because poverty is violence against our babies, our elders our families and if you stay silent you are part of the problem,” said Tara Colon, Puerto Rican/Mexican mama of five from Philadelphia and Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights co-founder.
The 2018 Poor Peoples March on Washington was originally launched by impacted poor, houseless and formerly unhoused people from the PPEHRC15 years ago. Poor folks walked from Mississippi to Washington in honor of the 35th anniversary of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Poor Peoples March on Washington in 1968. The Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign is a truly poor people-led movement, which like POOR Magazine is walking for our own criminalized lives, our struggles and our own self-determined solutions.
The War on the Poor is in full effect from Frisco to Oakland to the Philippines and Iraq — but now the soldiers are social workers, police and Poltricksters creating deadly legislation and contracts.
“In St Petersburg Florida, the Palm trees have more rights than homeless people,” Shay, a unhoused resident of Florida and a poverty skola as we call it at POOR Magazine, meaning someone who has struggled with poverty and/or homelessness, continued her report of extreme criminalization of unhoused people in her town, “it’s illegal to lean against a building while homeless, basically it’s illegal to be alive in our town if you are homeless.”
Sha and Tara, along with over 100 unhoused and formerly unhoused poverty skolaz from Florida to California, all experiencing different forms of deep criminalization of our lives, began walking on June 2nd from the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Philly, where rates of homelessness, evictions and police harassment are on the rise.
The march through occupied Lenape territory (aka Philly ) and later on to Maryland was a metaphor for our struggle as poor folks. We would depart intentionally blighted poor people of color neighborhoods like Kensington and gentrifucked North Philly where my Afro-Boricua, disabled and later houseless mama was born and is now literally being seized by Temple University for student housing and a new corporate sports stadium, and then move onto wealth-hoarding neighborhoods with huge swaths of mama earth used for lawns that don’t grow food or house people, but just sit there as a testament to the sickness of wealth-hoarding and land-stealing- something POOR Magazine has been highlighting in our Stolen Land/Hoarded Resources Tours Across Turtle Island.
“Maryland is the second wealthiest state in the US — we rate number two in the most homeless people in the country and we are the oldest state in the US,” said Rev Annie Chambers, Black Panther elder revolutionary from the Spiritual Love Ministry who this poverty skola had the blessing of sitting aside as she described another problem that plagues poor folks, the intense poverty pimping and non-profiteering of poor people that happens in Baltimore where she is based doing liberation advocacy and truly poor people-led organizing.
From Oakland to Oklahoma, poor, disabled elders, children, and families are in an emergency. In Oakland, San Francisco and Berkeley where myself, Leroy Moore, Bilal Mafundi Ali and Youth Skola Tiburcio from POOR Magazine are based, there are an ongoing series of Po’Groms on poor people as Bilal Calls them, and our homeless, disabled bodies, are being violently “swept” by mayors from San Francisco to Santa Monica, like we are trash. Our elders and children are being evicted by speculators and we refuse to continue being criminalized, displaced and terrorized.
We Poor people have innovative solutions like First they Came for the Homeless in Berkeley and Homefulness in Deep East Oakland. People need to hear our own poor people-led solutions, which is also why all of us unhoused and formerly unhoused mamaz and uncles at POOR Magazine founded Homefulness — a homeless peoples solution to homelessness, which is one of the poor people-led solutions we are lifting up in this march.
Across the nation, unhoused and poor folks have minimal or no healthcare, with hospitals that are mandated to treat us, dumping our houseless and disabled bodies out of the back doors of ambulances and leaving us to die in parks.
“This is where all pastors and congregations should be, in the streets with the lost, the last, and the least,” said revolutionary Pastor Keith Collins from the Overcomer Church in Philadelphia
Migrante Raza families who cross these false borders are incarcerated in detention centers and shot cross colonizer borders not to mention becoming the fastest rising, next to elders, in the homeless population across the US and facing increased multi-layered racist profiling resulting in our deaths, like Mayan, indigenous father Luis Demetrio Gongora Pat who was killed in San Francisco, for being houseless.
“We are the new and unsettling force that King spoke of in 1968,” said Galen Tyler, PPEHRC member,”yes, we the poor are marching, speaking for ourselves: the homeless, residents of Puerto Rico robbed of their land and culture, people in recovery, the disability community, the ‘welfare queens,’ the ‘deadbeat dads,’ homeless veterans, the hustlers, young and old, immigrants, the criminals, the ‘undeserving’ poor, Black, white and Brown. We will march for our lives and when we arrive in Washington DC we will construct Resurrection city and Reclaim our future for generations to come,” said Cheri Honkala, PPEHRC founder.
“We are marching to Washington to get our Reparations, said youth skola Tiburcio, 14 years old, formerly homeless youth poverty skola from Deecolonize Academy and Homefulness, built with Community Reparations from wealth-hoarders redistributing their stolen and hoarded or inherited wealth.
From Sacramento to San Jose to San Juan, Puerto Rico, public housing units which housed literally thousands of people are being destroyed by neoliberal and now racist Trump policies, doing things like tripling the rent on poor folks who already barely have enough to pay for our lives and our rents. These anti-poor-people policies are being implemented by Trump directly following the selling of public housing leases to for-profit housing developers under Obama with a program benignly called RAD — reported by the SF Bayview and POOR Magazine and barely even mentioned by mainstream or independent media — resulting in the evictions and relocations of thousands of elders and families into nothing and as reported by comrades at Western Regional Advocacy Project (wraphome.org) this is the just the icing on the scarcity model cake, for us perceived as the undeserving poor.
From Rebel Diaz to Infinite Skillz and the Po Poets Project, artists will be part of the line-up of hip hop artists and cultural workers performing in Washington DC at Resurrection City starting June 9th through the 12th. POOR Magazine’s poor people-led media project RoofLEss Radio will also be broadcasting from the march. For More information go to economichumanrights.org or the Facebook page here.
Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia and Leroy Moore are Po Poets with the Poverty Skolaz/PoorNewsNetwork