The Rev. William J. Barber II recently said that we need “a transformative movement that will not only go to the polls but will organize in the streets and … the state capitals.” Barber and the Rev. Liz Theoharis, national co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival, will be in Portland on Oct. 10 as part of the multistate We Must Do MORE Tour.

MORE stands for “mobilizing, organizing, registering and educating.” In launching the tour, Barber said, “This is not just a voter registration tool. This is about building power amongst poor people, moral leaders, and their allies – who vote. The tour is designed to shed light on the pain and suffering of poor and low-income people by the interrelated evils of systemic poverty, systemic racism, militarism, a bloated military budget and environmental degradation.”

Anyone who has attended mass meetings led by Barber and Theoharis has experienced the spiritual power of their words, complemented by the freedom songs of Yara Allen, whose voice and presence kindle a palpable sense of the joy and love generated by this movement.

The powerful spirit of the campaign grows out of the leadership of people directly affected by injustice. They join with religious and secular moral leaders in nonviolent direct action to create what the campaign calls “moral fusion.” Moral fusion broadens the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of the union of poor people of all races, bringing together Americans across the many lines by which we divide ourselves: race, religion, ethnicity, place of birth, class, physical ability, age, gender identity and sexual orientation.

In nonviolently transcending what divides us, the campaign shifts the moral narrative, away from scolding people affected by injustice, to embracing them in their need. It is merciless and unjust (inaccurate as well) to blame the poor for being poor. Castigating affected people for being affected adds insult to injury. It is cruel and it allows policies and systems that perpetuate injustice to remain in place.

Being poor is not a sin; poverty is not a sign of moral failure or simply bad choices. Similarly, people of color, women and LGBTQ people are not sinners for being who they are. The sins are systemic: racism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia.

Worn down by political corruption and moral exhaustion, we need a shift in our consciousness. We speak about winners and losers as if we were all on a level playing field. Competition has brought us to the brink of destruction. Naomi Klein teaches us how the climate crisis requires that we quickly learn the value of cooperation. Why do we think that competition is more exciting than cooperation? We need to celebrate cooperation – fusion – with the enthusiasm that we invest in competition.

We may know that “war is not the answer,” but we keep going to war. On the one hand, we do not recognize the strength of our need to cooperate. On the other hand, we are in need of treatment for our addiction to competition. Zero-sum thinking goes very deep.

The two-fold promise of both the Poor People’s Campaign led by King and the current campaign remains the same: uprooting systems that perpetuate blatantly immoral policies. The power to uproot these systems is generated by a transformative movement led by poor and low-wealth people – who vote.

After rolling into Portland, the We Must Do MORE National Tour then will visit 20 other states where the campaign will work to unite many of the 140 million poor and low-wealth people and their allies.

If you are a lover of freedom, you owe it to yourself to experience the presence of Rev. Barber and Rev. Liz and their team as they call for a moral revival that can awaken the hearts of every American to the human suffering still increasing all around and within us. On Oct. 10, we’ll gather at Lincoln Park (350 Congress St.) at 5:45 p.m., followed by a mass meeting at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church (425 Congress St.).

The We Must Do MORE Tour will end June 20, 2020, with a Moral March on Washington and a Mass People’s Assembly. “People get ready, there’s a train a’coming, you don’t need no ticket, just get on board!”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.