Ypsi summit aims to set cohesive moral agenda to address poverty in Washtenaw County

Setting a moral agenda to address poverty in Washtenaw County is the focus of a Moral Fusion Summit hosted by the Washtenaw County Poor People’s Campaign (Washtenaw PPC) from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 26 at Brown Chapel AME, 1043 W. Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti.


The Washtenaw PPC is just one of several local groups that sprang from a national movement that "seeks to challenge the many systemic barriers that keep people trapped in poverty." Additional sponsors include the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ), the Social Justice Council of the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, and WeROC (The

Washtenaw Regional Organizing Coalition).


The day-long summit will start with an introduction and overview, followed by participants breaking into working groups to address sub-topics ranging from criminal justice and the environment to education, housing, and veterans' concerns.


The day will end with a report from each working group, as well as reflections on the agenda developed during the summit and possible next steps.


"It's a conversation. It's not people talking at you, but talking together," says Greg Olszta, a member of Washtenaw PPC who is on the planning committee for the event.


Olszta says the concept of "moral fusion" is about coalition-building between groups that have different focuses, such as justice for LGBTQ people or disability rights, but who support the same underlying agenda.


During the summit, participants will work together to not just come up with statements of ideology but to develop concrete strategic actions to overcome racial and economic barriers that keep people trapped in poverty.


The movement was inspired in part by the Moral Mondays protests launched in North Carolina in 2013 and 2014 by William Barber, head of the North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. It also harkens back to Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 Poor People's Campaign.


Over the summer, both national and local PPC groups engaged in a "40 Days of Action" campaign, staging weekly demonstrations in state capitals including Lansing, where more than 100 people participated in civil disobedience actions.


Organizers hope to develop a common agenda including both short-term and long-term goals that allow participants with different areas of concern to work together and create systemic change in Washtenaw County.


The event is free, but contributions of $10 are encouraged to cover food and other costs for the summit. Interested area residents are encouraged to register at the ICPJ website or call Lisa Bashert at 734-255-0592.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.


Photo courtesy of the Poor People's Campaign.

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