Monday, June 18, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) and Assemblymembers Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Kansen Chu (D-Milpitas), Laura Friedman (D-Burbank), Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher (D-San Diego), Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. (D-Los Angeles), and Eloise Reyes (D-San Bernardino) this morning commenced a 50-hour fast in honor and recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign.

Organized in 1968 by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Poor People’s Campaign, also known as the Poor People’s March on Washington, was a multiracial effort to gain economic justice for poor people in the United States. After King’s assassination, his close friend and mentor Ralph Abernathy took over the leadership of the campaign. The largest gathering of the Poor People’s Campaign occurred on Solidarity Day, June 19, 1968, or “Juneteenth,” with an estimated crowd of 50,000 to 100,000.

In honor of Solidarity Day, the Assemblymembers will commit to a fast whereby they will abstain from all food and beverages, with the exception of water, for 50 hours starting at 8 a.m. on Monday, June 18, until 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 20. The Assemblymembers’ fast is a small way of paying homage to the significance of the call to action for poor people across the nation, 50 years ago. The fast is also an acknowledgment of the need to continue to fight for economic justice for all Americans during this time of extreme income inequality and rapidly growing rates of poverty. The idea of a fast was sparked by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, the first Indian-American to serve in the California legislature, as a nod to the common practice of hunger strikes employed as a form of nonviolent civil disobedience.

“As the economic success of California continues to be a shining example across the nation and world, there is no doubt that there is much more work yet to do in order to ensure the rising tide of wealth lifts all families so that they may attain the basic necessities for human survival: adequate food, reliable shelter, affordable healthcare, and living wage jobs,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “As legislators fighting for economic justice in the halls of power, we all too often face fierce opposition from moneyed interests who prefer the status quo of continuing economic injustice rather than committing to the shared sacrifice that is required of all of us to create a sustainable society so that future generations can prosper.”

The Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 demanded an Economic Bill of Rights with five planks that included amongst them a meaningful job at a living wage, as well as access to land and capital. The Assemblymembers, in fasting, also pay their respects to the 2018 Poor People’s Campaign that has led a national effort to bring attention to our continued struggle for economic justice for all. 

What participating Assemblymembers are saying:

Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno)

“I think it is important for us to show support for the important work being done by the Poor People’s Campaign. We need to continue working to address poverty and the impact it has on health care, education, housing and the economy.  This week’s fast is a reminder that after 50 years, there is still much more ground to be gained to improving the lives of all Californians.”

Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland)

“Every day in California, families are experiencing hunger, homelessness, and other devastating impacts of poverty.  Children don’t know if the next day will bring a healthy meal or they’ll go to bed hungry.  It’s not right.  California can do better.  In a state with California’s incredible wealth, we all can and must do more to reverse this growing economic disparity. This 50-hour fast is a small sacrifice to send a giant message that every Californian deserves the opportunity to have food, shelter, and other basic human rights.”

Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco)

“It is no secret that economic inequality is growing in our state and our country. On the 50th Anniversary of the Poor People's Campaign, I look forward to highlighting with my colleagues the many areas in which we need to do more to ensure all Californians can make it in our state--from a living wage to health care to affordable housing."

Assemblymember Kansen Chu (D-Milpitas)

“I am honored to be joining my colleagues in solidarity to highlight the injustice and inequity that many families across the nation still face.  It is heartening for me to serve in California with my fellow legislators that are so committed to continuing our work to balance the scale for all.”

Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego)

“The broader issues of poverty, racism and environmental damage that brought us the Poor People’s Campaign 50 years ago are still at the forefront today. We can’t become complacent.”

Assemblymember Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr (D-Los Angeles)

As Chairperson of the Progressive Caucus, I think it is important to show solidarity on issues that bring us together as a caucus.  While California was recently identified as the fifth largest economy in the world, we must remember that economic injustice remains a challenge for many of the people we represent.  Fasting together helps us to be mindful that there is hunger among our constituents despite California’s successful economy