The 40 Days of Action: A Defining Moment

July 5, 2018


The 40 Days of Action, launched by the Poor People’s Campaign on May 23, came to a close with a remarkable finale last week, and we’re feeling more energized than ever. Now that we’ve had a little time to reflect, here are a few things we know to be true.

  • As long as there is systemic poverty, then America will not be great.
  • As long as there is systemic racism, then America will not be great.
  • As long as our spending on the military dwarfs our spending on helping people who need it, then America will not be great.
  • And as long as we destroy our environment and put the burden of dealing with that destruction on our most vulnerable communities, then America will not be great.

But we know too that there is greatness within us, within every one of us, and we’ve seen that over the past 40 days as the Poor People’s Campaign rallied thousands of people in communities large and small across the country—people who understand that it falls on all of us, no matter who we are or where we come from or how much money we have, to make this a more perfect union.

Changing the Narrative

America is at its best, at its greatest, when the voices of all its citizens are heard. The new Poor People’s Campaign was launched last December to finish the work of Martin Luther King, who dreamed in 1968 of bringing together Americans of all backgrounds to end poverty. He was killed before that dream became a reality. This new campaign was the culmination of years of work in communities that have been hit hard by poverty and pollution and politicians’ neglect, of years spent listening to and being guided by people who’ve suffered injustice and racism.

And over the past 40 days, those people, whose voices have so often been drowned out by the sound of massive bags of unregulated cash dropping onto the desks of politicians, stood up, spoke up, and were heard.

Every generation experiences defining moments, and every generation wonders if it’ll be equal to the challenge. Well, these past 40 days may prove to have been a defining moment. The 40 Days of Action concluded in Washington, DC, with a massive call to action. But its legacy will not be that of any single event or speech. It will be the connections made in community after community, state after state. It’ll be the feeling we have right now, that together we can change this country. It’ll be what we decide to do next.

We Have the Power

So, after hundreds of events in state capitals all over the country (not to mention DC), after hundreds of trainings and hundreds of nonviolent direct actions and thousands of arrests, after all the news reports and newspaper articles and livestreams and videos, and after countless hours of hard work, connection, and celebration, the foundation has been laid for what comes next. 

We must end the war on the poor. And to do that, we need people of every race, religion, sexual identity, income bracket, gender, background, age, and political affiliation from all over America to stand together. That’s what this movement is about.

We saw that throughout the 40 days. We saw that the Poor People’s Campaign is not defined by its leaders. That power doesn’t flow from the top down. We all have the power. And we have to use it to raise each other up. To raise up the front-line communities, who’ve been suffering the most for the longest. To raise up communities of color, to raise up the poor, to raise up the refugees and asylum seekers who are risking their lives to come here and make a better life for their families, to raise up everyone who may have ever felt that they have no place here. But they do. We all have a place here.

This Is Our Moment

The ultra-wealthy and the corporations: they do have the money. But we have the people. And what we saw during the 40 days was a reflection of that. We kept the pressure on local and national politicians, and we can’t let up now. America will only be great when there’s freedom and justice for every citizen. Some leaders understand that. Others will need to be persuaded. And others will have to be voted out of office.

So take this feeling—of possibility, of energy, of celebration, of hope—and focus it. Raise your voice. Talk to your friends, family, neighbors. Run for office. Organize your coworkers. VOTE. (This is critical: we ALL have to turn out in November.) Because now is the time, that change is coming. This is our moment. Together we can save the soul of our democracy.