By Bill Bateman
All People’s Assembly
On Saturday, January 16, over sixty members of the MLK All-Peoples Assembly for Jobs & Human Needs in Providence, Rhode Island; gathered to honor and carry-on the words and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The event was chaired by Mary Kay Harris, lead organizer of DARE (Direct Action for Rights & Equality), a Providence-based community organization. The DARE mission supports low-income communities of color.
In attendance were representatives of the Rhode Island Unemployed Council, the George Wiley Center, the RI Public Housing Tenants Association, the RI HUD Tenant Project, the “Behind-The-Walls” prison campaign of DARE, The Green Party of Rhode Island, the Providence Community Library, RI Jobs with Justice, Immigrants United, the Women’s Fight-back Network, FIST Youth, the Laborers Union, the United Steelworkers of America, UniteHERE, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, RI State Senator Harold Metts, and RI State Representative Joe Almeida.
The assembly opened with a moment of silence for the victims of the Haitian Earthquake and for the much beloved Henry Shelton, founder of the George Wiley Center in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, an anti-poverty organization. Mr. Shelton was recently hospitalized with a stroke.
The key-note speaker was Larry Holmes, national organizer for the “Bail-Out- The People Movement” energized and inspired everyone with Holmes’ call to everyone to carry-on Dr. King’s Campaign for jobs or income and an “Economic Bill of Rights.” He saluted the multi-national “rainbow” of poor and working people who came together from Rhode Island and New England in the “historic” All-Peoples Assembly. He urged everyone to study the lessons and “the real legacy” of King, which ultimately was the understanding that racism, unemployment, poverty, and war were inter-twined, inter-related, and inseparable.
Holmes saluted the great Dr. King for not backing down when “the-powers-that-be” continuingly claimed a lack of jobs, housing, healthcare, and education because of the escalating cost of the Vietnam War. He emphasized how our society needs to heed the difficult lessons of yesterday in today’s world. He also criticized how those same “powers-that-be” gladly handed over to the large American Banks $27 trillion in bail-out aid and $1 trillion in funding to the US. Military to “engage the enemy” through foreign wars and occupations.
He appealed to the Assembly to engage in the fight for jobs at living wages as a right for all; and he called for a massive public jobs program such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the Roosevelt Administration in the 1930’s which put 9 million unemployed people to work. He informed everyone that this April marks the 75th Anniversary of the WPA and the Bail-Out. The People Movement is calling for a “National Right-To-A-Job Day’” on Saturday April 10 involving a mass mobilization to Washington DC and in other cities nationwide.
Holmes said that fighting-back is important, not only because it is the only way human progress is made but also because it helps us deal with the mental illness and social self-destruction that unemployment and poverty inflicts on us. Right now millions of unemployed workers are blaming themselves and asking, “What’s wrong with me?”
Towards the end of the meeting, the microphone was passed around the room to give all in attendance a chance to speak. The people spoke out about the poor state of Rhode Island’s economy and the high unemployment rate “officially” determined to be just less than 13%. A campaign was announced to demand that the Census count the inmates from their neighborhoods, not from the prison which is located in Cranston, an overwhelmingly white and middle class city. The women in attendance reminded everyone that they “hold-up half the sky,” and the fact that they are assigned a low social position in this society makes them good fighters because their backs are against the wall since they “have nothing left to lose” as they try to make ends meet for their families. Tens of millions of dollars in cuts to education, social services, healthcare, and daycare in the governor’s budget were slammed as attacks on women, children, youth, and families.
The Action Plan of the All-Peoples Assembly includes:
(a.) To hold follow-up Assemblies at the DARE offices in Providence.
(b.) To Mobilize Buses to Washington DC for the “National A-Job-Is-A-Right Day,” Saturday, April 10 (The 75th Anniversary of The WPA).
(c.) To begin planning for a massive local March on Saturday, May 1, in Rhode Island for jobs, human needs, & justice.
(d.) To hold Rhode Island State Office holders accountable on the issues of concern.
You can learn more about the All People’s Assembly by contacting LIBERATOR401@COX.NET & WWW.BAILOUTPEOPLE.ORG or by calling (401) 839-7663 / (401) 572-3740