We were so honored and excited to be part of the launch of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival in Washington DC this past Monday. From the press conference in the morning, to the direct action at the Capitol, to the event that night, we were humbled and inspired by the movement leaders as well as the voices of those most impacted. In the evening the We Are Here event produced by Sankofa, at the historic Howard Theater captivated us. One part concert, one part mass meeting, We Are Here featured faith leaders, activists, and musicians all helping to kick off the new Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.
Did we see you in DC? Did you watch our live stream? If so, what were your favorite moments? For us, there were almost too many to count, but we’re happy to share a few that we’ll never forget. It was a special night—and the perfect way to launch the Poor People’s Campaign. Find out more about the movement today.
A Powerful Morning Kickoff
Faith leaders, including Poor People’s Campaign co-chairs Rev. Dr. William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, fired everybody up with their passion, conviction, and determination at a press conference held early on Monday, just across the street from the Capitol Building. The room was filled with activists and citizens from an incredible array of organizations, faiths, and communities. As Rev. Theoharis put it, “The Poor People’s Campaign is launching a movement, not a moment. Someone is hurting our nation, it’s gone on for far too long, and we won’t be silent anymore!”
Taking Direct Action
When the press conference concluded, the assembled crowd, led by Rev. Barber, marched silently to the Capitol to present a letter protesting the GOP’s tax reform proposal to Senate Majority Leader McConnell. Though McConnell refused to meet the group or accept the letter, Rev. Barber and his fellow organizers DID deliver a message: the people will keep coming back, here in DC and in state capitals all across the country, until America fulfills its promise to all its citizens.
Bringing The Heat And The Light
Any day you get to listen to Rev. Barber speak is a good day, which means Monday was absolutely amazing. We were there with him in the morning and we were there with him at We Are Here later that night. Barber had the DJ shut down the music as he came on stage at the start of the event. “Sometimes you got to be aware of the mood you set when you’re getting ready to fight,” he told the crowd. He grew somber talking about the GOP’s tax reform proposal, about the gutting of healthcare: “I’m a pastor, and I bury people because of these politics.”
Jasiri X is a rapper and activist and he ignited the room when he launched into his set. He’s the first independent hip-hop artist to be awarded an honorary doctorate (from Chicago Theological Seminary), but what we’ll remember about this performance is how the theater was shaking by the time he was done.
A New Flavor to Bring Us Together
Ben & Jerry’s cofounders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield came to We Are Here to throw their support behind the Poor People’s Campaign and introduce our newest flavor, One Sweet World. It’s full of coffee caramel ice creams, fudge chunks, and swirls of marshmallow and salted caramel and we think it’s delicious. We hope you think so too, because a portion of the proceeds from the sales of One Sweet World will go directly to the Poor People’s Campaign.
An Enthusiastic Master of Ceremonies
Part MC, part activist, part movement leader, Van Jones played many roles at We Are Here. He always brings some much-needed exuberance, excitement, and energetic engagement to even the weightiest of subjects, but our favorite Van Jones moment of the evening came just after Ben and Jerry left the stage. “That was actually pretty cool. That was literally Ben and literally Jerry talking about some swirls!”
Making Old Songs New
“Lean on me, when you’re not strong,” Aloe Blacc crooned. “You’re gonna need somebody to lean on.” For an evening all about celebrating and fostering unity, Blacc hit all the right notes. He left us feeling inspired and hopeful with his finale, a soulful rendition of the Sam Cooke classic, “A Change Is Gonna Come”: “It's been a long, a long time coming / but I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.”
The African American acapella group Sweet Honey in the Rock has been around since 1973, but their songs of struggle and spirit rang out as powerfully on this night as they did at any point in their 44-year history. Their soaring voices lifted all of us up.
Ending on a High Note
Grammy-winner and neo-soul legend Maxwell closed the Howard Theater down late Monday night and the crowd, which had been on its feet for hours, surged forward. Fans swooned, hands shot up into the air, feet started moving and, after the last notes faded, everyone went home energized and ready to wake up the next day and continue the movement. As Rev. Barber says, “Forward together. Not one step back.”