WPU Celebrates MLK with the NC Poor People’s Campaign

student interviewing guest speaker on stage

William Peace University town hall meeting flyer
Jenica Myers

Many people wonder if the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is still alive. On Jan. 17, William Peace University celebrated MLK’s legacy with the N.C. Poor People’s Campaign.
The opening of the ceremony included the Director of Diversity & Inclusion Stephanie Reed, who explained that diversity is important to the WPU community.
“Diversity and respect are what our school thrives on,” said Reed.
Reed went on to explain that diversity is a huge part of WPU and it was all a part of MLK’s vision.
The ceremony continued with a performance by the Peace Gospel Choir, which performed songs such as “Lift Every Voice” and “Open My Mouth.”
The special guest speaker of the night was North Carolina’s NAACP Latino Liaison and Tri City Chair of The Poor People’s Campaign, Ana Blackburn.
Blackburn explained that the mission of the Poor People’s Campaign is to bring awareness to people in poverty. It is also a moral movement within our community.
“Our mission is to be the voice for the oppressed and to fulfill the message of Dr. King when this campaign first started in 1968,” said Blackburn.
Some of the social issues that the campaign focused on in the past were things such as: raising minimum wage, fighting for clean water and air within communities, and bringing awareness to 64 million U.S citizens who live below the poverty line.
After the presentation by Blackburn, Anthony Cooper, a junior at WPU, interviewed special guest Al McSurely.
McSurely is an iconic civil rights attorney and has been a part of the Poor People’s Campaign since the beginning of the campaign in 1968.
One of the questions that Cooper asked McSurely was, “Why should millennials be a part of the Poor People’s Campaign?”
“Things still need to be done. It is important that you young people get involved,” said McSurely.
McSurely went on to explain his personal experiences with the campaign. During his interview, he recalled the 1968 Washington Riots.
“It was a terrible time, the unemployment rate of African-Americans was unbelievable, and African-Americans were living in poor conditions,” recalled McSurely.
As the interview carried on, McSurely explained what the true mission of the protest truly was, which was to put a mass of poor people in front of the government so the government would be forced to listen.
After the interview with McSurely, different students from throughout Raleigh explained their personal experiences with poverty.
The students had a wide variety of issues such as: living off of minimum wage, immigrant parents, and not having proper medical coverage.
“We must bring a call to action to these issues so that no one should have to worry about if they are going to have 401K, proper medical coverage, or if they will have their rent money for the month,” said Blackburn.
Blackburn went on to explain that the Poor People’s Campaign will bring a call to action and how others can get involved.
“To carry the mission we are going to take our fight to the General Assembly. From May 13 to June 21, there will be a civil disobedience campaign,” said Blackburn.
In an interview, Dr.Ralph explained the importance of a town hall meeting and why students should be involved in something such as this.
“This meeting brings awareness. Through this, we can challenge our students and learn how to be more engaging within our community,” stated Dr. Ralph.

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