Club charter: Poor People’s Campaign

by Mikayla Davis | Staff Writer

The Poor People’s Campaign became an officially chartered club on Feb. 6. The club’s members began meeting together in September 2018 and it is now co-led by four students: junior Alex Mowery, senior Erik Blank, junior Amy Eichelberger and junior Rohini Vyas.  

The name of the club comes from a national organization with the same title. According to the organization’s website, the Poor People’s Campaign is focused on reviving and implementing the 1968 movement led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The Poor People’s Campaign,” said Mowery, “is a national organization that’s working to address what MLK, and then contemporaries, have identified as the four great systemic evils of America, which are poverty, militarism, racism and ecological devastation.”

The club hopes to function as an extension of this larger organization and with the same purpose. “We’re not trying to create something new,” said Blank, “so much as be a chapter of something that’s already happening, and taking their movement to Spokane and the Whitworth area.”

According to Blank, the club works to involve its members with other community groups outside of just the national organization. The club looks to support community efforts whose goals and principles align with their own.

In reference to the plans the club has for the Spring semester, Blank said, “Getting our students involved off campus into what’s already happening in Spokane, I think that is what our main goal is.”

Blank hopes the club can rally students behind, and educate them on, what the national organization stands for.

“Something unique about the Poor People’s Campaign,” said Mowery, “is it’s very grounded in faith, in morality, about changing the narrative around what faith means to politics. That moral emphasis is pervasive throughout our language and throughout how the organization nationally works.”

Over the Fall semester, the group was involved in events both on and off campus. According to Blank, about 25 students attended a Spokane City Council meeting in October. Their goal was to demonstrate their support of a proposed ordinance that would require Immigration and Customs officers to obtain a warrant or the mayor’s permission before entering non-public, city owned property. The students urged council members to do the same.

“A lot of our students wrote letters to the president of city council,” said Mowery. “We made phone calls. And he reached out and told us that those letters, those calls, were really powerful to him and really influential, and he ended up siding with us on that vote. So I think we are doing really meaningful things, as well as kind of shifting campus conversations.”

As the club becomes involved in more community issues, Blank said, “It’s important to note that this isn’t necessarily a political club. While a lot of its aspects are inherently political, it’s more of a moral obligation to change the state of how a lot of things work in our country.”

The club uses the national organization for guidance and inspiration. “We think that the things the Poor People’s Campaign is doing nationally are good,” said Mowery. “We think they are very helpful, very productive, and very necessary.”

The newly chartered club will meet on Monday nights at 5:30 p.m. in Dixon 102.