This summer we are planning a series of Freedom from Poverty events and programs as we continue our campaign to organize the day laborers who clean Camden Yards after Orioles games there. The summer, Summer of Justice, follows last year's Summer of Honor and the Summer of Hope the year before.
Baltimore is a city engulfed with poverty. There are entire neighborhoods almost totally abandoned. Rows of houses are boarded up, emtpy, some falling apart. Parts of the city are in ruins. Tens of thousands of the city's residents are paid below minimum wage. Thousands more are homeless, without medical care and working two or three jobs just to survive.
Despite the poverty and the police cameras and helicopters, I love Baltimore. Not all of Baltimore is in poverty. Much remains either poor or working class. Unlike my native Seattle, or nearby Washington DC, Baltimore retains a working class feel. The stores and homes are for people making $7 an hour, not $700,000 a year. There is a great buzz to the city, especially in parts of the city not emptied out, which makes it a wonderful place to live and be.
It is in this reality that the UWA organizes the day laborers that clean Camden Yards. The Summer of Justice is our campaign to get folks from the suburbs to stand up with the poverty-wage workers to demand economic justice for all. We are organizing a series of events to bring people together for this cause, culminating in an all-night vigil, morning faith service and large march from the office of the Orioles owner to Camden Yards.
John Edwards talked about two Americas in his campaign for the nomination and then for Vice President. His was a lonesome voice in American politics these days. Somehow our leaders - from both parties - don't talk much about the poor. The goals of a "new deal," "fair deal," and "great society" have been lost to middle class tax breaks, welfare reform, and getting tougher and tougher on crime.
There should be no poverty in the United States. We are the richest country in the history of the world, with great technical riches making it possible to end poverty. But we cannot even start to make this end possible until we start down the path. And that requires leadership.
It's time for progressives to start talking about class politics again. To start talking about the values of economic justice. Because if we fail to do this, we risk seeing the end to the remaining poor and working neighborhoods not only in Baltimore, but also in Philadelphia, Cincinnati Detroit, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and in the rest of America. We must take on poverty, take on criminal economic neglect and injustice, or we risk losing our democracy, our national soul and causing great pain suffering for millions more of future Americans.
Visit the UWA's website for more information.