Sometimes, movements move in directions you don’t necessarily expect. When I traveled to Lansing yesterday to participate in the Poor People’s Campaign, I didn’t expect to witness people shutting down the Michigan State House with singing. In fact, I don’t think any of us expected that.
It just happened rather spontaneously after we had spent a bit more than an hour outside, listening to personal stories from people directly impacted by poverty and the war economy:
-The United States spends about ten times more on the military weaponry than any nation considered an ally or any nation considered a threat. This money could instead go to education, healthcare, infrastructure, and innovation.
-The branches of the armed services recruit in high schools among students who live in poverty. These young people are offered signing bonuses which seem particularly enticing because the money can aid their poor families. I support the needs of people who have made the choice to enlist, and I believe they should have care and opportunity after they leave the military. At the same time, people in poverty should not feel as though military enlistment is their only choice for a viable future. We know that across the board (not only those in poverty) veterans do not always receive the care, support, and opportunity they need. This means that some never escape poverty after all. And some veterans return with financial and emotional needs so great that they end up on the street. There is an economy profiting off of all of this. Veterans deserve our care. Young people deserve our care. This is wrong.
Please listen to a portion of a mother’s testimony in Michigan who shared about these dynamics. Here, she talks about her two sons who fought in the Iraq War.
-When military equipment and weaponry is no longer used within the armed forces, it often moves into militarized police departments around the country. And we know that this equipment is used in physically and emotionally violent ways, especially in poor communities and particularly among Black residents and residents of color.
-There is also an economy that is profiting off of gun sales, and without having adequate checks in place, wealthy people profit by putting more weapons onto the streets and into the hands of people who will use them violently.
The Poor People’s Campaign stands against all of this.
Yesterday, we heard powerful testimonies in front of the Michigan Capitol, and then, we walked inside the building. We walked to the top balcony where we could observe the business of the Michigan House of Representatives. That’s when some people started singing spontaneously. Then, joining them, the entire balcony started singing too. This went on for a long time.
Somebody’s hurting poor people,
and it’s gone on far too long,
gone on far too long,
gone on far too long.
Somebody’s hurting poor people,
and it’s gone on far to long,
and we won’t be silent anymore.
When the representatives below couldn’t silence the singing, they adjourned. Quite spontaneously, the Poor People’s Campaign shut down the Michigan House of Representatives, all in the necessity of making voices heard. This was not only true of singing itself, but in the lifting up of voices, perspectives, and needs we heard in testimony outside.
The Poor People’s Campaign is a powerful force for moral change.
We gather again in Lansing on Monday, June 4.
All photos and videos above are used with permission.