What do the poor in Western Maryland have in common with the poor in Baltimore? Seemingly separated by race and culture, taught by the media to fear each other, how could they possibly have common cause? It turns out, both struggle to pay for housing. Both endure unfair labor practices. Both are unable to pay for basic healthcare. Both live with the persistent ache that their whole life could fall apart with no warning.
On June 10 in Western Maryland, United Workers held a membership orientation at Hager Park, near downtown Hagerstown. There, we brought together voices, both urban and rural, that rarely hear from each other. What emerged was a profound unity. Not a unity based on political affiliation or race, gender, or orientation, but a unity based on the shared experience of being poor in America.
This unity of purpose came with an unexpected benefit. The benefit of joy. The joy that comes when the burden of shame is lifted, the shame of being poor and being told that it’s our fault. Together, those who gathered learned that systemic poverty doesn’t care if they are white or black, trans or straight, young or old. Because systemic poverty consumes everyone in its path.
With our focus on developing leaders from the ranks of the poor, we shared our Theory of Change — identifying the root problem, then asking who can change it and how. It is here that we find the crucial point: only by uniting across differences can the poor become “a new and unsettling force,” to stop being afraid and start being involved.
This involvement involves planning, strategy, and, most importantly, reconnaissance or fact-finding to determine our enemy’s strengths and weaknesses. That enemy is poverty in all its forms. We laid out our plan to accomplish this “Year of Reconnaissance” in 2023 through collective listening, collective research, collective study, and collective decision-making. Because only collectively can such an enemy as poverty be defeated, with the poor of Baltimore and Western Maryland standing together.
Written by: Mike Hughes, United Workers member
Here are some more reflections on the New Member Orientation from our members across the state
I was so struck by the enthusiasm and efficiency of the clearly dedicated Baltimore organizing team! It was obvious from the response of the diverse crowd of new members from across the state that so many of us are hungering for an end to the inequality and inhumane treatment of the poor. I am so proud to join this organization and to be a part of this movement! - Janet Kay, United Workers member from Allegheny County
Hearing the views of other members from around the state made me feel very optimistic and excited about the next steps in building this movement to end poverty. People shared their stories of struggle and seemed excited to be connected to this organization and the movement. - Randolph Ford, United Workers member from Baltimore City
The main thing that stood out to me was meeting and engaging with different people from around the state. It made me see that poverty has no color or race. We all are living in poverty and we must unite together as a class across different barriers of division in order to make a change. - Nadiyah Patterson, United Workers member from Baltimore City
UPCOMING EVENTS: JUSTICE JAM BBQ’s!
We are continuing our series of Justice Jams across the state, but we’re taking it outside! Join us for these special Summer BBQ Justice Jams as we continue to share our stories and information about how we can file appeals to food stamp cuts, prepare ourselves for Medicaid cuts, and unite in the fight for our basic human rights!
Cumberland Justice Jam BBQ
- WHEN: Saturday, July 29th, 4-6pm
- WHERE: 311 E. 3rd St, Cumberland, MD - Also known as Smith Park
- RSVP here
- Contact info: Call or text Janet at 301-514-5551
Baltimore Justice Jam BBQ
- WHEN: Saturday, August 5th, 4-7pm
- WHERE: 625 N Carey St, Baltimore, MD 21217-2410
- RSVP here
- Contact info: Terrel Askew- 443-509-3328, Michael Coleman- 445-560-2810
Westminster Justice Jam BBQ
- WHEN: Saturday, August 26th, 4-6pm
- WHERE: Westminster City Park Pavilion
- RSVP here
- Contact info: (443) 340-5403 or (443) 605-9146