Olivia Kupiec (She/Her)
June 7th, 2021 marked a historic day for the Poor People’s Campaign, as thousands of individuals across the nation gathered in over 50 rallies to demand a Third Reconstruction in America. From New York City to Maryland, masses of low-wage workers, moral and faith leaders, PPC advocates, and community members joined together outside their local representatives’ offices to support the PPC’s public policy demands that effectively address our country’s poverty crisis.
As someone who had just recently become affiliated with the PPC, this was my first ever Poor People’s campaign event, as well as the first in person get together of powerful voices and faces I had only met over the phone or zoom. It was also the first public gathering I had attended since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, making the already community-oriented nature of the rally so much more passionate and impactful. I remember my first encounters with folks I had been introduced to over text just hours before the rally - the energy was unmatched. The fire inside each and every soul was ablaze and resilient, growing stronger with every word spoken and every sign held high in the air.
What I found remarkable about this rally was just how clearly the campaign’s message is carried out through the actions of the hardworking organizers, leaders, and community members that attended. The PPC lives to its ideals in the truest sense: the narrative was being shifted by shifting the narrators to those combatting an oppressive system that denies adequate healthcare, housing, and financial security required for a DECENT life in this country - not just livable. In NYC, the versatility of exploring this narrative and demanding its attention by our government officials was exactly how I saw this shift at play. From heartfelt poetry and spoken word, to beautifully painted banners, to soulful and hope-filled songs, personal experiences with the fight against poverty were relayed in ways most meaningful and individualized to the narrator. Shifting the narrative requires allowing artistic expression and creativity in how individuals share their stories, which differs from many traditional methods of protest and civil disobedience such as formal speech or marching. Not only did this versatility allow for the most genuine and powerful expression of the rally’s participants, but it garnered the attention of many passerbyers who were curious to understand the organization behind such powerful poetry and artistic presentations; almost all our flyers had been given out by the end of the event to these passerbyers, effectively spreading the message and ultimately growing support for the campaign. Of the various rallies and protests I’ve attended by similar organizations to the PPC, none had presented the variety and individuality that the June 7th speakers, artists, and organizers so powerfully relayed to us all that day.
Another component to the strength of demanding a third reconstruction was the location in which this rally was held. Advocating for the poor and dispossessed in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in New York City (the Upper East Side) I believe amplified our message to demographics that are both uneducated and ignorant about the plight of poverty and their complacency to the unequal distribution of wealth in America. As base-building and growing the PPC community is immensely important in these events, so is the ability to directly demand individuals with economic and political capital support our policy demands to create a moral, socially just society.
June 7th was a powerful day across the nation, leaving all participants, organizers, and myself more invigorated and excited for upcoming PPC actions. When we lift from the bottom, everybody rises!