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Hello all Poverty Scholars Program Participants!

I hope this finds you all well. It was great seeing many of you at the recent Poverty Scholars Program Leadership School in West Virginia this summer. The School was such an important event in our work to reignite The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign. I’m sending you a few updates coming out of the Leadership School and planning for the Poverty Scholars Program’s coming year.

First, I want to let you know that over the next month and in the coming months we will be working to update the Poverty Initiative’s website to have many of the materials, powerpoints and photos, and other documentation of the School up on the web — available for your use. The School’s documentation team did an incredible job ensuring a photo/audio/and video record throughout the School. We hope that many of these will be useful for you for work you are doing back in your organizations, congregations, and communities. We will not be posting all of the audio and video recordings, but if/when there are specific sessions or workshops that you want, please let us know, and we will work on getting you a copy of those to you. I do believe they are very helpful in thinking about our pedagogy — how and what we are teaching — and in developing our curriculum for the emerging leaders around us.

Second, I want to let you and your organizations know about two upcoming events this year that the Poverty Scholars Program will be hosting. I hope that you will save the dates for these gatherings.

– This Fall on November 6th – 9th, we will host a small gathering for a key leader (or possibly two leaders) from organizations that have participated in the Poverty Scholars Program over the past year of programming, to come to New York to take part in thinking about the next steps of the Poverty Scholars Program, to discuss how to best move forward, to grow, to consolidate and expand. In particular, we will: evaluate the past year of programming; reflect on the strengths and struggles of the growing core of organizations in the Poverty Scholars Program network; summarize the core areas of curriculum and organizing models we are developing and have to offer; and think together about what role the Poverty Scholars Program should play at this stage in Reigniting the Poor People’s Campaign and in building a broad movement to end poverty led by the poor. We will also think about how best, with our limited resources, to stay in touch, to strengthen this important network, and to continue learning and sharing lessons between the times that we are together. This event will take place at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

– In the Spring, on April 8th – 11th, the Poverty Scholars Program will host two simultaneous Strategic Dialogue Gatherings. One of the gatherings will focus on the role of Media and Communications in Reigniting The Poor People’s Campaign. The other will focus on the role of Religion in Reigniting The Poor People’s Campaign. Participants in both dialogues will also all be invited to participate in a film festival on “Building an Economic and Social Rights Movement in the U.S.” that NESRI and other groups will be holding that weekend. (All are invited to submit videos and films to be a part of this Festival). These events will take place at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. The Film Festival site is TBD.

We hope that leaders in your organization whose work involves either of these strategic focuses: Media and Communications and/or Religion and Organizing will be able to participate in these gatherings!

Other events and gatherings are in the works. More info coming as they take shape! In the meantime, I hope that we will stay in touch, continue to share the lessons from our daily experiences and our knowledge with one another.

Wishing you all strength, health, and courage in these times.


Willie Baptist


SISSONVILLE, W.Va. — John Hough sacrifices time with his family to work 12 hour days, seven days a week as a cab driver in Philadelphia. After paying for his cab, radio and taxi medallion, he earns slightly more than $4 an hour.

Luis Larin was willing to do anything — cleaning, trash collection, demolition work — to earn enough money to support himself and send money home to his mother and sister in Guatemala. After paying for his transportation to and from work sites, the former day laborer said through an interpreter that he was lucky to earn $20 a day, just enough for him to afford a one-meal-a-day diet of Ramen noodles. Read the rest of this entry »

John Wessel McCoy holds his 1-year-old son, Myles, on his shoulder as his wife Colleen looks on during the first day of a leadership conference Sunday at Camp Virgil Tate.

John Wessel McCoy holds his 1-year-old son, Myles, on his shoulder as his wife Colleen looks on during the first day of a leadership conference Sunday at Camp Virgil Tate.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — John Wessel-McCoy likens the effort needed to pull millions of people out of poverty to the 19th century’s fight to abolish slavery and the coalfield battles in rural West Virginia in the 1920s. Read the rest of this entry »

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Nearly 160 community and religious leaders from across the country are coming to West Virginia to talk about ways to fight poverty.

Direct Action Welfare Group Executive Director Evelyn Dortch says next week’s event is especially relevant as more Americans lose their homes, jobs, health care and retirement savings. Read the rest of this entry »

Sid Hatfield monumentWill West

Sid Hatfield foot marker