United Workers & The Poor People’s Campaign Gulf Coast Tour- Day 1

Yesterday, United Workers leadership organizer Luis Larin joined the Poverty Initiative and other leaders (like UW leader Ashley Hufnagel) in the movement to end poverty, on Day 1 of the Poor People’s Campaign Gulf Coast TourCheck out Luis’ thoughts and reflections as he travels the South connecting with local leaders fighting for life and dignity & wrestles with what it would take to realize a Poor People’s Campaign today. 

Check back for more photos and updates from Luis. 

Yesterday, United Workers leadership organizer Luis Larin joined the Poverty Initiative and other leaders (like UW leader Ashley Hufnagel) in the movement to end poverty, on Day 1 of the Poor People’s Campaign Gulf Coast TourCheck out Luis’ thoughts and reflections as he travels the South connecting with local leaders fighting for life and dignity & wrestles with what it would take to realize a Poor People’s Campaign today. 

Check back for more photos and updates from Luis. 


Ted and Al

NOVEMBER 3, 2014 was my first morning in New Orleans.  After a 27 hour train ride, in which I had time to reflect, think and understand more about the political and economic context of the south, I felt overwhelmed by thinking about what I want to learn from this trip, what to contribute and how I can represent UW better in the Poor People’s Campaign.  After a while I decided to just to listen and be present.

 While I was on the train, I was thinking about the idea of re-igniting the Poor People’s Campaign and what that means.  What are the implications?  What kind of power do we need to be successful?  What does a Poor People’s campaign look like in the times that we are living in?  What kinds of demands make sense?  How can our “small” victories be strategic for a national movement?  And of course, is this even possible?   All those questions wrestling with my ideological self, that reflect upon history and respect history, and that is saying of course it does makes sense, it is more than important for these times to fight for human rights.

 Before I left everyone was saying what a great view I would have by riding the train. While I was riding the train, I put on the “thinker hat” as a good friend of mine says and I couldn’t “enjoy” the view without using my political and economical lens.  That lens was saying things like, look that building, and it’s empty and is huge! How many jobs did we lose? Look at those houses, they are part of a community, really close to the train track, and clearly poor, why do you choose to live there? Did you even have a choice? How do you sleep with so much noise?  Is that safe if you have young kids?  There was no barrier that prevents kids from running onto the tracks, and the house was just a few feet away from the tracks.  Those questions immediately made me think about the global connection, remembering where my family lived just 35 years ago and where a lot of people including some of my friends still live, which is just few feet away from the train tracks.  This made me think about the implications of start a Poor People’s Campaign in the US, and what could be the global impact.  center for Ethical & Social Justice

We arrived at the first meeting at a Unitarian Church, with Monique Harden, an environmental justice lawyer who also runs the Center for Ethical Living & Social Justice Renewal.  After introductions Monique started to tell us about the struggles that they are having with the oil industry and destruction of the environment and polluting the community.  It was more and more clear for me that when we talked about uniting across lines of divisions, is imperative to build a movement to achieve human rights.  It is not as if I didn’t know this before; my experience coming from Guatemala to the US taught me that, but its easy to forget the strategic importance of unity in a serious way.  Intellectually of course it makes sense, but seeing the “practical” side of the situation is a wake up call.

Monique HardenI was thinking about the organizing that is happening against the incinerator in Curtis Bay, and how the system is a system that feeds off of profit and profit comes from exploitation of labor and resources.  Thinking about the political situation in Baltimore and hearing how similar the situation is here, where corporations are not accountable because the government supports the trickle down economics; and at same time seeing people getting more and more awake and organized.

Then we went to meet with Ted Quant and Al Alcazar to hear about his experienced involvement fighting for social justice since the 1970’s.  He knows a lot and yet he was interested in hearing about what are we are looking for and trying to do.  We didn’t have much time to hear more from him and about his experiences, but it was clear that he was also thinking about the importance of a national movement.

 The dinner was with Sage Crump and Wendi O’Neal, discussing the racial inequality and how race is used to keep people divided.  This was not something new for me, but it was refreshing to hear that African American organizers are recognizing that we need to organize not only based on race but also class, since there are poor whites too.  We are documenting the trip and when we started to take pictures, one of the organizers asked why.  That opened the conversation to expose skepticism to any form of “regional or national coalition,” since New Orleans has been an object of “study” for outsiders after Katrina.Sage and local organizers and artist  It reminded me of the reason why I’m part of this; not only UW, but the whole movement to end poverty because there are so many organizations that think that they know what we, the community, needs without having real participation in the decision making process.  Hearing how organizations here are working on organizing across color lines and language barriers, as well other type of divisions, helped reassure me that the movement for economic human rights is possible and it will happen, but it will require that we get organized in an ideological and strategic way.


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