Beginning Friday, January 18th, the Poverty Initiative will be traveling in Pennsylvania on our tenth immersion. Please read below for more information about the trip and follow us on this blog for regular updates from participants along the way.
The mission of the Poverty Initiative is to raise up generations of religious and community leaders to build a social movement to end poverty led by the poor.
The Poverty Initiative is dedicated to carrying forward the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and especially the work he did near the end of his life with the Poor People’s Campaign. This campaign became the focus of King’s work as he shifted from Civil to Human rights and began to realize that integrating the lunch counters was incomplete if some could afford to order lunch. The Poor People’s Campaign was an attempt to challenge the “edifice of poverty” by uniting the poor and dispossessed across racial, geographic, religious, and other lines of division. King understood that the strategy of keeping the poor separated and oftentimes pitted against each other allowed for the perpetuation of systems and structures of poverty. W.E.B. DuBois described this process as “plantation politics,” and it endures today as one of the most significant challenges to building a social movement to end poverty in the United States.
Poverty Initiative immersion courses are one essential tool we use in organizing to build a movement to end poverty. This year’s immersion course will focus on the State of Pennsylvania where the dynamics of plantation politics have a long and rich history especially as they apply to the Abolitionist movement, Reconstruction, the industrial labor movement, and the Poverty Initiative’s own organizational history with the National Union of the Homeless. We will explore this history and use it to ground and consider strategies for today’s struggle to unite the poor and dispossessed in a movement to end poverty. Students from Union Theological Seminary will travel and learn with members of the Poverty Scholars network as we engage with other leaders, churches, organizations, and communities across Pennsylvania that are struggling across a range of issues (youth organizing and education, gas drilling, housing, healthcare, workers rights, etc.) trying to break their isolation in the daily and deadly battle against poverty. Participants will learn through presentation, discussion, Biblical study, theological reflection, and exposure to the history of struggle in the U.S. by visiting a number of key historical spaces.