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Calling For A Radical Break With The Status Quo Of Incrementalism

Above photo: Poor People’s Army, Philadelphia. PPEHRC Facebook.

While Democrats march around in Washington DC pretending they care about quality of life for poor people, it’s important to remember who actually walks the walk as opposed to just talking the talk.

A joint press conference held by the Philadelphia-based Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign with the Black Alliance for Peace, shared these words of wisdom via zoom on June 16, 2022. Note that the PPEHRC operates as the Poor People’s Army, a well-established organization that has struggled and won housing for single mothers and their children. Details about attending their August boot camp to learn how it’s done are at the end of this post.

PPEHRC and BAP Joint Press Conference June 16, 2022

Statement from Cheri Honkala: 

Today is our day to break silence regardless of the fear of the consequences. We are honored to take this step along with the Black Alliance for Peace & dear Pastor Keith Collins from Church of the Overcomer. We have no choice but to be here today – not because we want to be here, but because we have a responsibility to our ancestors & brothers & sisters struggling for survival at home and abroad. We come here today on the days before the weekend where many children, like my son, will grieve their father on Father’s Day because this system and the reform path took his life and never gave him a chance. It is because of this ongoing war at home, literally not symbolically, that we can no longer afford incrementalism. We must make a radical break with a system that is killing our family members.

The drug war has taken more lives than have been lost during Vietnam. My son doesn’t weep alone this Father’s Day. He weeps with children in Palestine, Yemen, Africa, Venezuela, and all over the world because we continue to stand silent as our violent government continues to deny the basic necessities of life and fails to prevent human rights violations at home and abroad. There is no reason for gun deaths in our country. There is no reason for hunger or homelessness – this is the land of plenty. If we wanted to, we could address all of these issues but we live in a country that continues to kill the dreams of children all over the world.

From the poor in Kensington, Philadelphia to the poor all over the world, we stand with you today. We see you. We hear you. These wars of sanctions and allocating billions for war need to stop, and they need to stop now.

How dare we stand by as billions are spent on war when children all over the world, and here in Kensington, go without water, health care, food or a place to lay their heads tonight. 

We understand we are on the precipice of an economic revolution. Robots and computers are replacing human labor faster and faster. The potential exists for a society where everyone has the basic necessities of life and where war and famine are prevented and where problems are collectively solved. We are calling for a radical break with the status quo of incrementalism and doing business as usual. We are moving forward in the tradition of other forward thinking pioneers and ancestors. We are building a Poor People’s Army. Today we reconfirm our commitment to building this Poor People’s Army and ask you for your support in doing that. Join with us and the Black Alliance for Peace. We will be holding a Boot Camp in Philadelphia August 12-14 and we encourage you to join us in this endeavor. We intend to map out our plans to take back the basic necessities of life by taking land, taking housing, taking food and ensuring that everyone gets educated around a People’s Centered Human Rights model. The ruling class has betrayed us thousands of times – what makes us think this will be any different. We want to move away from the US exceptionalism that keeps us from uniting from the rest of the world. Now is the time in our lives for all walks of life – artist, faith people, and musicians to get off the treadmill that is taking us nowhere. Everyone has lost someone to preventable causes. It’s time we put an end to a system that is killing us and create the kind of cooperative society that we can all flourish in.

Statement from Ajamu Baraka, Black Alliance for Peace

Thank you all for attending this morning. And thank you PPEHRC that has been at the forefront of the domestic struggle human rights in this country, and especially we want to acknowledge the visionary leadership of our dear sister and comrade Cheri Honkala.

It is indeed an honor to for BAP to be a part of this gathering to lean our voice to call for a shift in priorities away from the cult of death and oppression represented by the policies of this administration from the streets of Philly to the completely avoided, and we say in BAP, the manufactured war in Ukraine.

We say this morning as groups are gathering this weekend to supposedly to challenge this state’s continued avoidance of the issue of poverty, that poverty and its eradication can not occur without the acknowledgement that it will take fundamental structural change by popular forces that are independently organized and prepared to challenge the entrenched power of capital operating through the duopoly and currently through the Neoliberal Biden administration.

Dr. King reminded us of the connection between racism, materialism (capitalism) and militarism – he referred to these as the giant triplets. In remind the movement of these fundamental relationships and declaring his opposition to the war in Vietnam he earned the wrath of the entire liberal establishment and had his life taken from him one year to the date of his declaration to break the silence on war.

This ultimate sacrifice is the model that must be assumed if one if serious about human rights. One can not have one foot in the establishment, echoing its most backward positions on issues like the war in Ukraine, and the other foot with the people declaring solidarity with the people suffering from the rapacious greed and violence of a ruling class operating through the two capitalist parties.

One has to make a choice – you are either with the people all the way – or with the enemies of human rights, democracy, and global social justice.

Today PPEHRC and BAP declare our firm commitment to the life-affirming values of equality, social justice, cooperation, participatory democracy, self-determination, and non-oppression represented by the PCHR framework.

However, we recognize that we are not going to realize PCHRs by just criticizing the rulers or begging for them to recognize HRS. We understand that the realization of HRs must come about as the result of struggle.

That is why BAP is joining hands with PPEHRC in their efforts to build a Poor People’s Army, a non-violent army dedicated to ground working class and poor people in the PCHR framework and collectively through our own agency creating the conditions where we can experience the full range of HRs. 

People-Centered Human Rights (PCHR) are those non-oppressive rights that reflect the highest commitment to universal human dignity and social justice that individuals and collectives define and secure for themselves through social struggle.

The people-centered framework proceeds from the assumption that the genesis of the assaults on human dignity that are at the core of human rights violations is located in the relationships of oppression. The PCHR framework does not pretend to be non-political. It is a political project in the service of the oppressed. It names the enemies of freedom: the Western white supremacist, colonial/capitalist patriarchy.

The demands for clean water; safe and accessible food; free quality education; healthcare and healthiness for all; housing; public transportation; wages and a socially productive job that allow for a dignified life; ending of mass incarceration; universal free child care; opposition to war and the control and eventual elimination of the police; self-determination; and respect for democracy in all aspects of life are some of the people-centered human rights that can only be realized through a bottom-up mass movement for building popular power.

That is the historical task we face, and the historic responsibility that we have assumed for ourselves and call on everyone to recognize this task and come off the fence.

Neither party represents the needs and interests of the people and that understanding must be front and center in our analysis and our politics. 

That is and will be the message of the Poor People’s Army that will guide us to victory!


Press conference recording (Direct link if embedded video does not work for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vm0-sc3CvLg)

Statement from Pastor Keith Collins, Minister with the Inner City Faith Congress and Lancaster Mennonite Conference (Excerpt):

And someone once said, Why is it that we reject the charity model? Shouldn’t the Church support charity?

Well. the reason we reject the charity model is very simple.

Charity is vertical charity is from the top down, and in charity the people that are on the top remain on the top and the people that are on the bottom usually remain on the bottom or very close to the bottom.

We believe in a faith-based model, that that celebrates solidarity.

Solidarity is always horizontal. It respects all those around you, and respects each other person as our equal. It is not a condescending agenda, but it’s an agenda that empowers everyone. 

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The Biden administration and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress are called the trifecta because presumably a party in control of those branches can get shit done. Although they ran on empty promises like Medicare for All, forgiving student loan debt, and extensive claims that they would serve actual people’s actual needs far better than their Republican rivals, what Democrats have actually delivered is mostly a horrifically expensive proxy war with Russia. The $54 billion or so sent to Ukraine has enriched U.S. weapons manufacturers as working class and low-income people here struggle with soaring housing costs, soaring fuel costs, soaring food costs, and medical bankruptcy.

A glitzy march on Washington with free sandwiches on the bus does nothing to address the fundamental problems facing poor people in the U.S., and may or may not have served as a get out the vote boost for the midterms.

How much hungrier will poor people be come November? Will they organize on their own behalf rather than following Democrats down the road to perdition?

If you want to help organize on behalf of housing and other human needs in your area, consider attending the PPEHRC boot camp outside Philadelphia this summer. Learn from the best! And don’t forget who your real friends are.

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