Each year, Veterans For Peace has the opportunity to allow the commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. to serve as a guidepost for the ways that we are carrying on his legacy—as an organization and more broadly as a peace movement. Peace, social justice and King’s legacy come together as VFP continues to advance the interests of the poor, of the victims of social and racial injustice, and of the victims of violence on all scales. We know that these are all symptoms of endless war-making and military domination.
This MLK weekend, we reflect on what King’s legacy and the movement that he was a part of mean for us at this moment in history. Dr. King's memory has been largely sanitized in popular American culture, with some of his most revolutionary thoughts and words all but wiped from the pages of popular history. Rarely do we hear of his anti-war stance, his work to end poverty or his full vision of racial justice. At this historic moment, The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality.
Since King’s community was global, so too must our “home” be where all oppressed people who suffer from the violence of war-torn nations reside. VFP must have no borders in our attempts to grow our movement and make alliances with others who share our mission. We must work to build peace at home, peace abroad. As Dr. King said, “The Triple Evils of poverty, racism, and war are forms of violence that exist in a vicious cycle. They are interrelated, all-inclusive, and stand as barriers to our living in the ‘Beloved Community.’ When we work to remedy one evil, we affect all evils.”
Join the Poor People's Campaign
Just a year before his assassination, at a Southern Christian Leadership Conference staff retreat in May 1967, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
I think it is necessary for us to realize that we have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights…[W]hen we see that there must be a radical redistribution of economic and political power, then we see that for the last twelve years we have been in a reform movement…That after Selma and the Voting Rights Bill, we moved into a new era, which must be an era of revolution…In short, we have moved into an era where we are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society.
This commitment is needed from all leaders interested in taking up King’s mantle. He demonstrated the difficulty and necessity of uniting the poor and dispossessed across race, religion, geography and other lines that divide. In our efforts to commemorate and build a Poor People’s Campaign for our times, we will undertake an analysis of the 1967-68 Campaign. We aim to stand on the shoulders of those who came before and put effort into learning lessons and getting into step together.
Read more of the history of the Poor People's Campaign
Fundamental Principles of the Poor People's Campaign
We are rooted in a moral analysis based on our deepest religious and constitutional values that demand justice for all. Moral revival is necessary to save the heart and soul of our democracy.
We are committed to lifting up and deepening the leadership of those most affected by systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation and to building unity across lines of division.
We believe in the dismantling of unjust criminalization systems that exploit poor communities and communities of color and the transformation of the “War Economy” into a “Peace Economy” that values all humanity.
We believe that equal protection under the law is non-negotiable.
We believe that people should not live in or die from poverty in the richest nation ever to exist. Blaming the poor and claiming that the United States does not have an abundance of resources to overcome poverty are false narratives used to perpetuate economic exploitation, exclusion, and deep inequality.
We recognize the centrality of systemic racism in maintaining economic oppression must be named, detailed and exposed empirically, morally and spiritually. Poverty and economic equality cannot be understood apart from a society built on white supremacy.
We aim to shift the distorted moral narrative often promoted by religious extremists in the nation from personal issues like prayer in school, abortion, sexuality, gun rights, property rights to systemic injustices like how our society treats the poor, those on the margins, the least of these, women, children, workers, immigrants and the sick; equality and representation under the law; and the desire for peace, love and harmony within and among nations.
We will build up the power of people and state-based movements to serve as a vehicle for a powerful moral movement in the country and to transform the political, economic and moral structures of our society.
We recognize the need to organize at the state and local level—many of the most regressive policies are being passed at the state level, and these policies will have long and lasting effect, past even executive orders. The movement is not from above but below.
We will do our work in a non-partisan way—no elected officials or candidates get the stage or serve on the State Organizing Committee of the Campaign. This is not about left and right, Democrat or Republican but about right and wrong.
We uphold the need to do a season of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience as a way to break through the tweets and shift the moral narrative. We are demonstrating the power of people coming together across issues and geography and putting our bodies on the line to the issues that are affecting us all.
The Campaign and all its Participants and Endorsers embrace nonviolence. Violent tactics or actions will not be tolerated.