Activist William Barber II Urges Blacks in Congress to Mobilize Poor Voters

The Rev. William Barber II, co-founder of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, speaks on Feb. 4, 2020, at the Congressional Black Caucus’ 2020 National Black Leadership Summit at the Congressional Ballroom at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

The Rev. William Barber II brought his message about supporting the needy to the Capitol, urging an “emergency convening” hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus to mobilize poor voters in the upcoming election.

“There’s no way we can inspire people to move with the normal politics that doesn’t fully address poverty,” said Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and the keynoter on Tuesday (Feb. 4) at the caucus’s National Black Leadership Summit.

“When you can work a full-time job at minimum wage and still not be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in this country, that’s poor. And if we can’t see that and if we don’t acknowledge that poverty then we are refusing to call upon these witnesses among us.”

Hundreds of politicians, faith leaders, union representatives and others gathered in the Congressional Auditorium of the Capitol Visitor Center to discuss ways of ensuring more people of color are included in the upcoming once-a-decade census and the national elections this year.

Attendees at the Congressional Black Caucus’ 2020 National Black Leadership Summit stand and applaud keynote speaker the Rev. William Barber II on Feb. 4, 2020, in Washington. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

“This is the state of our union: Every state that is a racist voter suppression state is a red state, and it’s also a high poverty state,” Barber said, speaking as the results of the Iowa caucuses remained unknown and giving his own analysis of the country hours before President Donald Trump was set to give his State of the Union address.

“If you organize 2 to 10 percent of the poor around an agenda, you can fundamentally shift every election,” Barber predicted, citing statistics from a forthcoming study done by his organization.

Barber said more attention needs to be paid to voters in the South and voters who are black and poor, asserting they can help change policies and the political direction of a state.

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Source: Religion News Service