On December 5th, 1967 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference announced plans for a Poor People’s Campaign.
The Campaign aimed to bring poor people together from all across the country and from all
racial and ethnic backgrounds in order to build up a new and unsettling force that could
lead the fight against racism, militarism, and economic exploitation. It was the Poor
People’s Campaign that the Rev. Dr. King was working on when he chose to speak out
against the Vietnam War.
Exactly one year before his assassination, on April 4th, 1967, King called all people of conscience to “break the silence” and declare war an enemy of the poor. Dr. King stated that, “A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth ...A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Today, dozens of groups in the United States and around the world are calling for a
New Poor People’s Campaign, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the original campaign. All throughout this year, we’re working to reveal the interconnected evils of racism, poverty, militarism and ecological devastation. The New Poor People’s Campaign is taking part in this day of creative action on the 50th Anniversary of “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence” because we recognize the power of artistic expression to create the language and space we need to imagine and enact a true revolution of values that can move us toward a “radical redistribution
of economic and political power,” and “a change of the whole structure of American
Recommended action for #RevolutionOfValues
The New Poor People's Campaign will be releasing a new video as part of a video series entitled “America Will Be” for the 50th Anniversary of King's "Beyond Vietnam" speech. This short 4 minute video goes beyond the headlines to explore today’s most urgent battles and to meet the people who are putting their bodies, and sometimes their lives, on the line to secure a better future for their children.
From the Native American resistance in Standing Rock to the struggles for clean and affordable water in Detroit and Flint; from the fight to end racist legislation in North Carolina to the successful nationwide strike of fast food workers fighting to raise the minimum wage to $15, “America Will Be” documents a profound moment in American history that reveals the interconnected evils Dr. King denounced in "Time to Break the Silence."
We are asking communities to come together and watch this short video. Reflecting on the historical insights shared by Dr. King's "Beyond Vietnam" speech and the present day struggles of the communities highlighted in the video, we invite people to share their own stories about the connections of racism, militarism, economic exploitation, and ecological devastation.
We ask people to think about why we need a New Poor People's Campaign in this moment? How do we move from talking about unity to building real unity? How can our creative imagining help us envision this possibility? We encourage people to share their reflections in the form of song, spoken word, and visual imagery.