The “Poor People’s Campaign and its connection to local control 50 years later

MLK Day Speech, Kendra Brooks

Prepared for POWER’s A People’s Call to Action

January 15, 2018


Four years ago, my community won a fight for public education in this city. This was a fight between the haves and the have-nots for control of a community treasure — a “school”– Edward T. Steel school. Since then, it has become my mission to continue to educate myself and other parents and fight until all of our children have quality education in our neighborhoods.  Today, as we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King, we can no longer be quiet — we must ORGANIZE. Fifty years after the launch of the Poor People’s Campaign, we are still fighting injustice at the hands of the government and corporations against the poor. We still need dignified education, housing, jobs, and healthcare.

Dr. King said, “The only real revolutionary, people say, is a man who has nothing to lose. There are millions of poor people in this country who have very little, or even nothing, to lose. If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life.” The Trumpet of Conscience, 1967

We the people, in the poorest big city in America, have nothing to lose! And we must help each other to take action together. In the City of Brotherly Love there has been a decades-long intentional defunding of public education affecting the most vulnerable children in our city and still, some chose to stay silent while the powers-that-be closed schools in primarily poor, black and brown communities leaving blight – “the new phase of redlining” – to usher in gentrification and the displacement of families again in the name of reform and redevelopment. As we enter the final months of the state-controlled School Reform Commission, We the people, call for A People’s School Board that instead reflects the true stakeholders and diversity of our schools

In a city where the essential needs of children are put second to militarism and policing in schools; Where we add more police and eliminate social workers, counselors, and nurses. We the people call for a People’s School Board to challenge the district for staffing eliminations that cost a child’s life. We the people call for a People’s School Board to demand city and state government to fund the restoration or replacement of school buildings that are contaminated with lead, mold and asbestos or are falling apart and stay silent while they build more prisons.  

WE the people Call for a People’s School Board – ready to fight for fair funding, for an end to the school to prison pipeline, and for teacher of color recruitment efforts. 

In a city where corporations have turned our schools into condos, recreation resorts, investments hubs and training camps for industry but refuse to pay their fair share in taxes to support our children’s academic enrichment that includes critical thinking, problem solving, and culturally relevant curriculum. Where taxing the poor and working class has become common practice and the rich or top earners receive tax cuts and abatements. Where the local pay-to-play $100k deficit outweighs the much needed debate about funding both local and state to end the education gap between the rich and poor.  WE the people call for – A People’s School Board free of conflicts of interest and monetary gains.


This is a call to action! What are you doing with your POWER ?


Join us – I charge you to call for The People’s School Board.  Nothing about us without us!