In 2017, Labor-Religion Coalition organized a Truth Commission on Poverty in New York State with 3 public hearings in Allegany County, Long Island and Schenectady that collected testimony from directly impacted New Yorkers, advocates, direct service providers, faith leaders and policy experts. This was part of a national Truth Commission on the Right Not to Be Poor, organized as part of the leadup to the Poor People’s Campaign. In October, we released the Truth Commission report at a statewide conference in Binghamton, in conjunction with a Poor People’s Campaign Mass Meeting.
Shailly Gupta Barnes, Policy Director for the Kairos Center and the Poor People’s Campaign, wrote in the forward to our 2017 report,
“Today’s Poor People’s Campaign is asserting that what we are experiencing are the structural sins of our country’s misguided economic, political and social leadership. It is an appeal to our deepest sense of morality that is grounded in multiple faith traditions and a profound understanding of the indivisibility and universality of our God-given human rights…The Poverty Truth Commissions are an indispensable element of this effort. These events brought together veterans, mothers, fathers, social service providers, LGBTQI community members, and many more to testify to their own struggles with housing, social services, low-wage jobs, and our public institutions. Their testimonies confronted deeply embedded stereotypes of the poor. It gave space to the courageous people who are standing up across New York State and the rest of the country, saying, this is enough. We do not deserve this. We, the least of these, are most of us. We are all God’s children and we demand more.”
Five years later, organizing through the Poor People’s Campaign and other efforts in New York have taken significant steps forward, while at the same time the moral and economic crises of system racism, poverty, militarism and ecological devastation have deepened -- especially in the wake of COVID-19.
In 2021-2022 Labor-Religion Coalition will hold another series of Truth Commissions to highlight the continuing crisis of poverty, amplify the demands put forward by directly impacted communities, and help connect leaders and groups representing different identities, issues and regions of New York. We know there are many more stories to be told, wisdom to be shared, and leaders to unite as we continue to build a moral fusion movement in New York.
Stay tuned for more information about events in the coming months!