Press Conference From The Pulpit
West Virginians and New Yorkers Demand The Passage of Voting Rights Acts In Historic Black Church In Charleston West Virginia
(screenshot of Paul Dunn and Reverend Barber)
West Virginia and New York pastors, miners, and other workers held a press conference on Feb. 3 at the historic Black church, First Baptist, in Charleston, to demand that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hold a vote on the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote act, and to revive the Build Back Better Bill. The press conference took place on the anniversary of the ratification of the 15th amendment, which made it unconstitutional to deny or abridge a person’s right to vote.
The press conference was hosted by the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and the Kairos Center. Bishop William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign, were amongst the many individuals who participated in the press conference on Thursday afternoon. West Virginia speakers included: Paul Dunn, Pastor of First Baptist Church; Pam Garrison and Jean Evansmoore, tri-chairs of the West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign; Stewart Acuff, West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign and labor union member; Lark Muncy, Reverend of Holy Trinity Anglican Church; and Eddie Burke, retired field director of United Mine Workers of America.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is a national movement that aims to unite the poor and marginalized communities in the United States in a fight to confront the interlocking evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism, the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism.
“We are coming together. We are building a movement. We don’t ever believe the fight is over until justice comes,” Barber stated.
During the press conference, speakers signed an open letter sent to Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin. The purpose of the letter was to urge the Senate to end the filibuster and pass the voting rights protections acts and revive the Build Back Better Bill.
Speakers from West Virginia and New York discussed a minimum wage increase, the Black Lung Benefits Act, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, the Freedom to Vote Act, restoring the child tax credit, the expansion of Medicaid benefits, the republican filibuster, the Build Back Better Act, and more. Several speakers said they are tired of compromise and want legislation that will positively change the lives of the American people.
Near the end of the press conference, Barber gave a speech directed at Manchin. Barber discussed the anniversary of the 15th Amendment and the lack of progress made in securing the people’s right to vote. He said that the filibuster is rooted in white supremacy and serves to block investments in the lives of poor citizens. Barber condemned Manchin and other senators, saying that their actions were “non-constitutional” and “sinful.”
“The filibuster was designed to do two things: to enable white supremacy and to block labor rights and union rights agenda,” Barber stated.
Barber also discussed the legacy of former West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd. He said that at least Byrd repented his sins, unlike Manchin, whose politics, in Barber’s opinion, resembles that of Former Vice President John C. Calhoun. He also discussed Byrd’s endorsement of Obama, the various ways in which West Virginians would benefit from the Build Back Better Bill, and Manchin’s lack of conviction to defend his position.
“Instead of standing in that tradition, Manchin is standing against West Virginia and for the greedy and for the power. He’s standing against the 42% of West Virginians who are poor…He, literally as one person, is standing against 50% of the workforce in this state. Three hundred twenty-six thousand people are on food stamps; he’s standing against them. But you know what he will vote for every time, the war economy,” Barber said.
Barber closed his speech by urging Manchin to defend his position on the Build Back Better Bill and vote to pass the voting rights protections acts.
“…I’d get on the right side of God and do the right thing or otherwise, one day, you will be a forgotten senator,” Barber exclaimed.