By Jessica Brodie
NORTH CHARLESTON—A group of social justice advocates are doing what they can to help the world—and Washington—have a heart for people in poverty.
This month, South Carolina United Methodists will take part in Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, organizing a neighborhood voting drive, hearing testimonies and hosting a rally and march, all in the hopes of opening people’s minds about the plight of the poor.
The canvassing and voting registration activities will be Saturday, Jan. 11, and the march and rally will be Monday, Jan. 13, culminating at Cherokee Place United Methodist Church.
“So many decisions are made that don’t look at health and wholeness of people but look at income and profit,” said the Rev. Amiri Hooker, pastor of Wesley Chapel UMC, Lake City.
That is why he and others are hoping people will join in the march and the campaign—and take seriously the commitment the other groups in the denomination have made to the Poor People’s Campaign, endorsed both by the United Methodist Women and the General Board of Church and Society.
“I want United Methodists in South Carolina to just show up and be present and join the campaign,” Hooker said. “I think the Poor People’s Campaign is one of the movements that directly connects to what it means to be a Wesleyan and a United Methodist in this day and time.”
The Charleston weekend is part of a 25-state “We Must Do MORE” tour led by the Rev. William Barber and the Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. MORE stands for Mobilizing, Organizing, Registering and Educating. The tour will lead into the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington, where thousands of poor people and moral agents will gather at the nation’s capitol June 20, to demonstrate their power and call for action.
“We view the MORE tour as an opportunity for the conference to recommit to Wesleyan understanding of social justice gospel of Jesus for all people,” Hooker said.
The South Carolina Poor People’s Campaign calls all people of conscience to engage in deeply moral civic engagement and voting that cares about poor and low-wealth people, the sick, immigrants, workers, the environment, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community and peace over war.
Beyond Hooker, other pastors participating in the campaign with some of their parishioners include the Rev. Wendy Hudson Jacoby of Two Rivers Church and the Rev. Richard Reams of North Charleston UMC.
Hooker said he became passionate about the Poor People’s Campaign and other issues of poverty after his son began to struggle with neurological problems stemming from mold and mildew issues in his local school.
“When I was trying to pay the bills an find doctors, I was told by doctors, ‘We are just country doctors—you’ve got to go to Charleston or Charlotte for help with this.’ That’s when I said, ‘Something is wrong with the healthcare in this country,’” Hooker said. “Between that and trying to get Medicare passed in the state Legislature it made me passionate about poverty and healthcare as a whole.”
He said the Poor People’s Campaign concerns itself with the “moral care of this country.”
“The Poor People’s Campaign feels we are losing our moral fiber of this country and slipping back from what it means to be moral and decent and Christlike,” Hooker said.
Hooker said building and strengthening partnerships with already-present organizations and groups is key to the PPC’s effort and very much a part of Methodist connectionalism. The Saturday voting drive will partner with the NAACP and the League of Women Voters. The Monday march will begin around 5 p.m. (location to be determined) and end at Cherokee Place UMC with testimonials, music, singing, preaching from Barber and more.