MASSENA — A local group is part of a national effort to continue the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work to oppose systemic racism, poverty, militarism and ecological devastation.
The North Country Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is holding an organizing meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Emmanuel Congregational United Church of Christ, 39 West Orvis St., Massena. They’ll share information about the campaign at 6 p.m., and the regular meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.
“They’ve been meeting in various churches in the north country. This is the first meeting in Massena,” said the Rev. Judith VanKennen, pastor at Emmanuel Congregational United Church of Christ. “If somebody is new to the Poor People’s Campaign, the idea is to arrive at 6 p.m. The first half hour is spent bringing people up to speed and educating them about the work of the Poor People’s Campaign. Anybody is welcome to come.” One of the key leaders of the local effort is John Tenbusch.
“We move our meetings around — Gouverneur, Canton, Potsdam and now the first one in Massena. St. Lawrence County is a huge place and we want people from all parts to be able to go to a meeting,” he said.
Mr. Tenbusch said the Poor People’s Campaign was preparing in 2018 for its 40 days of action in observance of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.
“Several of us in the north country heard about it and wanted to participate. There were different types of web events. We made those available to anybody who was interested around St. Lawrence County,” Mr. Tenbusch said.
Following that, several individuals went to an October meeting where the statewide Poor People’s Campaign was starting. Then they held a picnic in June and about 75 individuals participated, he said. Most recently, they marched in Massena’s Labor Day parade.
The June picnic included about a dozen presentations.
“One thing the Poor People’s Campaign tries to do is shift the narrative. Rather than me talking about poverty in St. Lawrence County, we want somebody who has lived in poverty in St. Lawrence County to talk,” Mr. Tenbusch said.
One of the “four legs” they focus on is militarism. He said Martin Luther King Jr. brought the issue up in 1967, when the country was in the middle of the Vietnam War.
“He referred to the militarization of the economy. He was talking about the Vietnam War. Fifty years later, here we are in the middle of an 18-year war. The amount of money this country spends on war-making capabilities, if we could spend even a portion of that on health care, providing people with basic incomes, basic services and basic housing, we’d be a whole lot better off,” Mr. Tenbusch said.
More information about the effort can be found at https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/.
The gist of it
n WHAT: The North Country Poor People’s Campaign will hold a meeting beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Emmanuel Congregational Church of Christ
n WHY: The group is part of a national effort to continue the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work to oppose systemic racism, systemic poverty, militarism and ecological devastation
n MORE INFORMATION: More information about the effort can be found at https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/