Poor People’s Movements, Then and Now

Wednesday, March 27
1-3:30 pm
N320 Social and Behavioral Sciences Building (SBS)

Co-Sponsored with NYS and LI Poor People’s Campaign; Stony Brook Departments of Africana Studies, History and Sociology; Center for Civic Justice; Office of Multicultural Affairs; Building Bridges Brookhaven

1 p.m.: “When Poor People Marched on Washington”

Gordon Mantler, History, George Washington University

The Poor People’s Campaign, held in Washington, D.C., in 1968, has long been overshadowed by the assassination of its architect, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the political turmoil of that year. More than 50 years after that fateful spring, Mantler revisits this unfinished crusade, arguing that the fight against poverty held great potential for multiracial collaboration but also illustrated the complex dynamics of such organizing.

1:30 pm: “The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and the Movement to End Poverty”
Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Kairos Center and Co-Chair, National Poor People’s Campaign

 The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival builds on the legacy of Dr. King and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign to organize the poor and dispossessed to confront the interlocking evils of systemic racism, poverty, militarism, environmental devastation and our distorted moral narrative. Over the summer of 2018, the Campaign launched an unprecedented wave of non-violent civil disobedience across the country. Now organizers in over forty states are at the beginning of a massive organizing drive of the poor to build power and transformative change. In this session, Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign alongside Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, will talk about the work of the Campaign and its vision going forward. 

2:15 pm-3:30 pm:

Panel: Bringing the Campaign’s “Moral Agenda” Home:

Brief Testimonials on the Current Campaign’s Four Themes:

  • Systemic racism: Racio-ethnic prejudice they’d experienced, or ways they’ve worked to combat.
  • Poverty and inequality: From the SBU food pantry for feeding university’s hungry, or any other economic assistance program.
  • Ecological devastation: Experiences with Sandy or toxic drinking water or some other arena of environmental activism.
  • Militarism and war economy: Experiences in the military or association with the military economy and its effects in society.

Speaker on the Poor People’s Campaign in NYC

Final Discussion with Audience: What is to be done now at Stony Brook and beyond?

Dr. Gordon Mantler is Director of Writing in the Disciplines and Associate Professor of Writing and of History at the George Washington University. His first book, Power to the Poor: Black-Brown Coalition and the Fight for Economic Justice, 1960-1974, was the inaugural volume in the Justice, Power, and Politics series at the University of North Carolina Press, and came out in 2013. His current research focuses on multiracial electoral politics and community organizing in Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as public history narratives and memorialization in D.C. His work has been supported by GW, Duke University (where he received his PhD in 2008), the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Humanities Center, and the Black Metropolis Research Consortium. 

The Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis is an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church, the director of the Kairos Center for Rights, Religions, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary and the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. She has spent the past two decades organizing amongst the poor and dispossessed in the United States. She has led and won major economic and racial justice campaigns across the country, organized hundreds of trainings and bible studies with grassroots leaders, written in major national and international publications and recently published Always with Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor and Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing.

In 2018, alongside the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber, Theoharis helped to launch the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Over the coming years, the campaign will organize poor people across race, religion, geography, political party and other so-called lines of division to fuel a moral revolution of values in the country. Theoharis has been recognized for her work by many national bodies, including the Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn for Peace, the New York Council on American-Islamic Relations and the 2018 Politico Magazine Top 50 list of “thinkers, doers and visionaries who are driving American politics and policy”. 

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