Poor People’s Campaign Wants to Look Lawmakers in the Eye

Groups in two-dozen states are launching a Poor People’s Campaign, 50 years after MLK did the same. The aim is to bring lawmakers face-to-face with those dealing with policies that impact poverty.

Dawn Uhl-Zifilippo/WDET

Groups in 25 states including Michigan are launching an effort to bring legislators face-to-face with those dealing with the policies lawmakers create.

Organizers say what they call the Poor People’s Campaign is based on a movement championed a half-century ago by Martin Luther King Jr.

Flint resident Melissa Mays, one of the first to bring attention to problems with the lead-tainted water in that city, is helping organize the Poor People’s campaign in Michigan.


“We are going to hopefully force them to look at this through a moral lens…We are going to basically force them to have a conscience.” – Poor People’s Campaign organizer Melissa Mays

She says speakers will take to the steps of the state capitol in Lansing and those in many other states.

Bre’Anna Tinsley/WDET

“These are 25 of the most impacted states with the highest percentages of poverty,” Mays says. “All these different states are standing together and saying enough is enough. Especially with the tax bill, the cuts that they’ve been talking about into Medicaid, CHIP, all these things. The people that need it the most are the ones who are gonna be hurt the greatest.”


Mays says the campaign will eventually reach the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, where she says voters will try to personally confront members of Congress.

“We are going to hopefully force them to look at this through a moral lens and say okay, these are people. They’re faces, they’re children, they’re elderly. They’re people, hard-working people that just need to not be left behind. So we are going to basically force them to have a conscience,” Mays says.

She adds that members of the campaign will press for limiting cuts to programs that they say those in poverty rely on.

Organizers vow to continue various Poor People’s Campaign events throughout the coming election year.


Click on the audio link above to hear the full interview with Melissa Mays


  • Quinn Klinefelter
    Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.