The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spent the 1950s advocating racial harmony and peaceful co-existence between blacks and whites with the Word of God as his spiritual weapon, as well as through his nonviolence demonstrations. Yet though the Black Power Movement was rising during the latter half of the 1960s, he continued the good fight, as he decided to set up the Poor People’s Campaign — shifting the focus from civil rights to the issue of poverty, health care, affordable housing, job loss, education, and other areas of economic justice.
Forty years after his death, the campaign has been jump-started due to several individuals such as Antoinette Harrell, co-founder of Gathering of Hearts. She and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) will be campaigning and marching June 19-20 in Lambert, Mississippi; a public hearing will be held discussing poverty, with one of the main goals to bring attention to the developing of an Economic Bill of Rights.
During the Poverty tour in the South, Antoinette interviews homeless Vietnam vet Napoleon Leonard at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in Marks, Mississippi: home of the Wagon Mule Train, which is also where Dr. King spoke about poverty before the birth of the Economic Bill of Rights.
She and Dr. Bryon Clay, head of the SCLC were given a complete tour of St. Helena Elementary School in St. Helena, Louisiana. “This is totally, totally unacceptable, and my heart is very saddened by the insensitive of the government authorities” he said when seeing the school playground, which has plumbing problems. “This is an elementary school, and young children could get hurt here. I am determined, the SCLC, and the Gathering of Hearts [are determined] to get this kind of issue before Congress.” He then responds of a student’s statement of snakes being both in the bathroom and classroom. “This is not a safe and decent environment for our children to be forced to attempt to learn, and I’m afraid of snakes” Clay continued. “It’s just sad that our children are being robbed of adequate, decent, and safe education.”
Both Gathering of Hearts and the SCLC visited the Brown family, leaving Antoinette in tears mid-way through.
“This is our time to show the world that poverty is real. It’s real. And if we don’t do something about it … How could the governor come into this house … when he talked about building roads and not put in money into housing programs for families like these? No family should have to live like this.”
If interested in knowing more information or how to get involved, contact Antoinette Harrell via Gathering of Hearts at 985-229-8001 or send her an email at [email protected].