"The time is now. We call for change. The time is now. We need to fight to end poverty. The time is now. Delaware stand up."
Andrea Brown-Clarke helped the local chapter of the Poor People's Campaign kick off a national, year-long movement where groups across the country will begin calling for the 3rd Reconstruction, an effort to end poverty that will culminate in a Moral March on Washington in June 2022.
Local movements like the one taking place on the steps of First and Central Church at 1101 North Market Street in Wilmington were scheduled to take place throughout the day across the 45 states where chapters are established, all leading up to a livestreamed, hybrid mass assembly where Delaware's own President Joe Biden will address the National Poor People's and Low-Wage Workers Assembly in North Carolina beginning at 5:30 p.m. Monday evening, June 21, 2021.
"I'd like to share with you more specifically some issues that are taking place near and dear to our heart in the mighty First State of Delaware," Brown-Clarke said. "This month has been groundbreaking when it comes to legislative action. We have a need--a moral justice need--to support and ensure that we do not have food insufficiencies, housing insufficiencies, the ability to have a living wage, and to be able to ensure that food is placed on your table and not just in the stores that our constituents work in."
The situation in Delaware is as dire as it is across the country, said Rev. Andy Jacob of the Hanover Presbyterian Church. While there have always been inequalities, the disparity between haves and have-nots has only continued to compound over the last few decades.
"Fifty years ago, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many other faith leaders launched the Poor People's Campaign to tackle the pervasive problems of systemic racism, poverty, and militarism," Jacob said. "By many measures, these interrelated problems are worse today than they were back in 1968. And if you add climate change and ecological devastation, the urgency is even greater."
In Delaware, he said the situation has progressed to almost half of all Delawareans struggling financially, and it's a problem that, while affecting all groups, finds certain segments of people affected disproportionately.
"Remember this: 45%--getting near half--of the people who live in Delaware are poor, or are low-income; 45%. If that's not a mandate, I don't know what is, Jacob said. "Unfortunately, it's even worse, because 56% of children, 47% of women, 61% of people of color, and 35% of people who are white, are poor, or have low-income."
Those disproportionate effects were on display ever at their own rally, Brown-Clarke pointed out, as the crowd gathered was predominantly made up of those privileged enough to be present.
"As I look around, when you said that I was reminded by the fact that, while there might be 25 people here in this moment, about 1/5 of them, 1/5 are women. And less than that, just two of us are minorities," she said. "That's so important, because the people that have been historically disenfranchised and criminalized because of the systemic system can't be here today. They can't be here today because they have to work two or three jobs in order to put food on their table."
And Rev. Lyle Dykstra said it has become far too common for poor people to be told it's their own fault while fighting a system that holds them down, and that everyone needs help from time to time to crawl out of the hole in which they might find themselves.
"We have had too much, 'Push, push, push. Work your way up. Work your way up. Sure, pull yourself by your own bootstraps,'" he said. "What if you don't have boots, let alone straps on the boots?"