JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — On this day 50 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. launched a campaign to fight against injustices facing poor people. In more than 30 states, including Missouri, a new campaign has been launched today by a coalition of Missourians wanting higher pay for low-wage workers, more affordable housing and an end to racial inequality.
Campaign advocates have vowed to risk arrest beginning on Mother’s Day if politicians fail to adopt laws that aim to end injustices facing poor people.
Carol Smith with the Poor People’s Campaign says the number of poor people has increased by 60% nationwide in the last 50 years.
“Right now in Missouri, one out of every seven people faces the challenge of poverty,” says Smith. “A higher one in five of every children do. More than half of the counties in Missouri have poverty rates that are much higher – one out of every four.”
Bridget Hughes and her husband are raising four kids in Kansas City who struggle to make ends meet with their low-paying jobs.
“As a parent who works hard but makes low pay, my life is full of things that I cannot give to my children,” says Hughes. “It makes me feel like a failure.”
Rev. Cassandra Gould of Missouri Faith Voices says the Missouri Legislature has made it easier for Missourians to get a gun than to vote. In 2016, state lawmakers passed sweeping changes to the state’s gun laws. During the same year, the legislature enacted changes to the way Missourians are able to vote at the polls.
One of the speakers, Diana, says she came to the U.S. illegally as a child because her parents wanted her to go to college and pursue her dreams.
“My parents worked hard to support our family and make a home here for us,” she says. “Just like everyone else, we deserve equal rights. We deserve dignity in our jobs and in our communities.”
Diana is a leader with the Kansas Missouri Dream Alliance – a Kansas City area non-profit youth-led immigration organization driven to inform undocumented individuals.
State Rep. Bruce Franks, Jr. showed up at the end of the event to support the group’s efforts.