The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is commemorating the work and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by continuing along the path he laid out for all. It is no accident that SCLC chose the 39th anniversary of that tragic event to sound off the bugle and challenge society in a way that only King could have envisioned – the Poor Peoples Campaign. Reminiscent of Dr. King's call, "America is at a crossroads of history and it is critically important for us as a nation and a society to choose a new path and move upon it with resolution and courage, the Poor Peoples Campaign must not be just Black People, it must be all poor people, " SCLC Chairman of the Board of Directors, Tyrone Freeman, and its executive director, Rev. Eric Lee have issued a call to all of Los Angeles, Southern California, and indeed the nation to join this fight to eradicate poverty once and for all.
Freeman went straight to the point by outlining the pressing needs of today's society. He stated unequivocally, "The campaign is about full employment. If we can send a man to the moon, then we can find a job for every able-bodied person in the community, and for me, it's a feat that's achievable with a focus of a community that is in dire need of self reflection." And Freeman ought to know; he is president of SEIU, United Long-term Care Workers' Union, and is uniquely qualified to campaign for jobs.
He continued, "We are making it happen through SCLC and we hope it would be a collaboration not only with SEIU Labor Council but also with businesses, community organizations and elected officials, and we hope that all able minds, bodies and persons will collaborate with us. We do not want to be exclusive; we want to be inclusive by the encouragement of people of goodwill."
Danny J. Bakewell, Jr., President and C.O.O. of both the "Los Angeles Sentinel" and the Bakewell Company promised the support of both companies for the campaign. He said, " I think the Poor Peoples Campaign is the kind of grass roots effort that gave African Americans the biggest gains in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement. I applaud both Tyrone and Eric for picking up the mantle and driving this idea forward." In addition to the support of both of his companies Bakewell also promised, "The Sentinel, as the leading media outlet in our community will play a key role in monitoring those businesses and people – those who are for this effort and those who are against it."
Bishop Roy Petit of the Miracle Center Apostolic Community Church said, " It's something that was initially started (by Dr. King), but now Eric Lee and the rest of the board wants to establish that and take it into an active outreach for the poor. We need to focus on helping the poor and those that are less fortunate than we are, and some of the press exposure will help us to re-launch that campaign and make it a success. And now the object is to re-establish it and try to resurrect it. I think it's a great idea because there is always a need to feed the poor." Finally the Bishop closed with these spiritual words, "The poor you'll have with you always and you must remember the poor."
The Honorable Roosevelt Dorn, Mayor of the City of Inglewood, on hand to lend his support, also gave these comments, "What I want to do is pass an ordinance in the city of Inglewood that will create a living wage ordinance. My chief of staff is drafting it now, as we speak. I think it's essential that we have such an ordinance in the city of Inglewood, and it should apply to all those employers that have 50 employees and up with the exception of restaurants. The reason I would exempt restaurants is because of the tips that are involved in restaurants. Otherwise, I think living wage is what the corporations should be paying; I support that and I am going to try and see if I can get three votes to support that on the council." (In Inglewood there are four city council members; the Mayor needs three votes to get a measure to pass.)
The President and CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade, Charisse Bremond-Weaver is on board supporting the campaign as part of her work and commitment on behalf of the community. She said, " The Brotherhood Crusade stands shoulder to shoulder with Rev. Eric Lee and the SCLC of Greater Los Angeles, as they re-launch Dr. Martin Luther King's Poor Peoples Campaign. The SCLC has picked up Dr. King's torch with a similar goal of alleviating systematic issues of poverty and unemployment in Los Angeles, where half of California's impoverished African Americans live. We are committed to this effort and look forward to supporting Rev. Lee.
Other leaders who are expected to lend their support to this SCLC campaign are Council members Jan Perry and Bernard Parks; City Attorney Rockard "Rocky" Delgadillo; Anthony Samad, Founder of Urban Issues Forum; Lois Bradford, Vice President United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA); and Julie Washington of UTLA.
Not to leave anything to chance Freeman named all the important elements in the communities that are needed to make the campaign a resounding success. He concluded, "This campaign will stand on several legs: the first leg will be a leg that includes the legislative and political advancement for full employment – funding and training. The dream is not dead, it is still alive and it goes far beyond speeches and it must be done with action. We are tired of speeches; we want jobs before the summer breaks. We want to push this. No more violence, just jobs."
Freeman ended by saying emphatically, "If everybody's got a job, I promise you that will be the greatest drop in crime in the history of Los Angeles."