We Declare Jubilee: Everybody’s Got A Right to Live: Photo Essay
PA Poor People’s Campaign conducts statewide car caravan in weekend of actions building energy toward June 20, 2020
On Sunday June 14th in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Northeastern PA, organizations, individuals and families in the PA Poor People’s Campaign came together as a strong, united force to highlight the interconnected injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and militarism.
In cars decorated with powerful images created by Pittsburgh artist and PA Poor People’s Campaign leader Kim Dinh, caravans collectively made visible 15 sites of systemic injustice while highlighting the relationship between corporate powers and the state that facilitates their profiteering while criminalizing, warehousing and separating poor families and denying us of our basic human rights.
Drawing on the biblical concept of Jubilee, the PA-PPC lifted up the following demands in its declaration: Heal the Earth — Free the Vulnerable — Healthcare for all — Housing for All — Cancel Rents, Debts and Mortgages — Guaranteed Income for All — Reunify Families — Transit is a Human Right — Drivers Licenses for All — Care Income Now
A central message of the caravan was to put the powers that be on notice that we will not allow the state budget to be balanced on the backs of the poor and dispossessed working class.
What follows is just a sampling of the many voices and leaders present throughout the day!
“The Grand Central of mass incarceration” is how Shandre Delaney of Human Rights Coalition — FedUp! (a member of the Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration — CADBI) described the Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh. “Inside those walls is a judicial system that funnels Black, brown and poor people into the Allegheny County jails and state prisons… these same judges will not incarcerate police officers who use excessive force or kill people,” she added.
In front of the Port Authority, Teaira Collins of Pittsburghers for Public Transit shared “Transit riders deserve access to everything that you access with a car. The healthcare systems want people to drive up to get tested for COVID19. They should also provide the means of transportation for people to do that. Food boxes should be made available on the buses, not just for people who can drive up in a car.”
Standing on the steps of the Capitol in Harrisburg, Tammy Rojas of Put People First! PA and the PA-PPC Coordinating Committee remarked “UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) acquired more than 20 PA hospitals between 2011 and 2018 and closed at least three of them… the hospitals UPMC closed in Braddock and Lancaster disproportionately served people of color. Hospital closings are a racial justice issue.”
“By joining the Poor People’s Campaign and MILPA (The Movement of Immigrant Leaders in PA) I know that I am not alone because together we can move the people forward and defend them by fighting for our rights,” said Stephanie Nuñez, who also spoke about their fight for driver’s licenses for all, one of the issues taken up under the banner of Jubilee by the Poor People’s Campaign.
“It all revolves around morality — a simple understanding of right and wrong. Mayor Kenney, since you have been in office, you have raised the police budget by $120 million while simultaneously cutting funding to housing and homeless services. You could invest some of that money into buying properties that the Philadelphia Housing Authority is selling and putting them in a land trust available only to people making under $20,000 a year,” demanded Jamaal Henderson of ACT UP Philadelphia.
“We are here to demand that DHS money go directly into the hands of low-or-no-income mothers and other care-givers who often do the unwaged work caring for our children, elders and those with disabilities. The Department of Human Services (DHS) spends $38,000 — $50,000 a year to remove a child. Why can’t that money, or half of that money, go to the mother or primary caregiver?” asked Pat Albright of the Global Women’s Strike/Every Mother Is A Working Mother Network.
Rose Yanko of the Northeast PA Healthcare Rights Committee of Put People First! PA spoke in front of her daughter’s workplace, the privately run ManorCare in Kingston, Luzerne County: “HB2510 recently passed in PA and was signed into law by the Governor. This bill was spearheaded by Speaker Turzai — who just stepped down — and was written by UPMC, PA’s largest healthcare profiteer. This bill earmarked 300 million dollars in emergency funding but instead of bringing facilities under public control it puts our money into the hands of private corporations that have already failed to provide adequate care running our long term care facilities as for-profit businesses. We continue to call for these facilities to be brought under public control.”
“I know the experience of needing a hospital and finding a jail cell, of feeling alone and afraid. And I thank God that today I have found a movement and people with shared interest in joining together to end this madness,” remarked Ben Levanduski of the Northeast PA Healthcare Rights Committee of Put People First! PA outside of Pike County Prison which many people don’t know also contains an ICE detention center. Other speakers at this location testified to how this rural county has no hospital, community college or other institution of higher education and how the money going to Pike County Prison should be re-invested in meeting the human needs of the county’s residents.
The PA Poor People’s Campaign continues to build power of the poor and dispossessed working class across PA in rural communities, small towns, suburbs and big cities. Join us! To get involved, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org