[Hpn] A University of the Poor - A call for a movement whose time has fully come come

I CAN! icanamerica@email.msn.com
Thu, 20 Apr 2000 01:59:59 -0500

A University of the Poor - A call for a movement whose time has fully come

Dear Member of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign,

We hope all of you and your families are doing well and have continued
organizing since the March of the Americas. We want to thank each of you and
your organizations for making the March a success.

One of the most important parts of the March of the Americas was the
participation of so many dynamic organizations of the poor. While each
organization came to the March with a rich history and a unique range of
experiences, all of the groups are united in the struggle to build a movement to
end poverty led by poor people themselves. These varied experiences towards the
common goal of securing economic human rights for all can be a valuable resource
to us all.

We are breaking new ground by building a new social movement in this country, a
movement to end poverty and economic human rights violations. The role of
education and the exchange of experiences becomes increasingly important as we
develop new tactics and strategies for this new period.

Join us. A number of the organizations of the PPEHRC discussed and agreed at the
March of the Americas on the concept of a "University of the Poor" - a
web-centered university where the different groups of the PPEHRC can share their
experiences, leadership development ideas, and educational models.

This university will host exchanges, where different "teachers" and "students"
from participating organizations can visit other areas nationally and
internationally to learn lessons on organizing, educating and developing
membership. During the March, the Movimento Sem Terra (Landless Workers
Movement) of Brazil extended an invitation to host such exchanges. The
"University of the Poor" will also host intellectual exchanges including calls
for papers to assist the PPEHRC organizations with organizing in their local

During the March, organizing low wage, temporary and contingency labor workers
was identified as one such issue. Different leadership development institutes,
education centers of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign will serve
as campuses for the "University of the Poor". The libraries and resources that
each of our organizations have developed can be shared among the campaign,
either at the sites/campuses or over the web.

As poor people's organizations, we have limited resources to regularly get
together in large conferences and gatherings. Through developing independent and
cheap lines of communication with our web pages, listserves and email, we will
be able to better support one another. The "University of the Poor" can be web
centered and much of the exchange of information and curriculum can be over the

We want to share an experience that demonstrates how the "University of the
Poor" might function. After the March of the Americas, members of the Kensington
Welfare Rights Union and the Atlanta Labor Pool Workers Union visited Immokalee,
Florida, where the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is holding a general tomato
strike, asking the growers of Southwest Florida for a dialogue and a raise in
the wages for tomato pickers. All three organizations of the PPEHRC were able to
learn from each other as the strike unfolded. Also, during this exchange, a web
page was developed where the Coalition can add to their network of supporters as
well as keep in touch with other PPEHRC groups.

We believe the University of the Poor can help build each of our local
organizations. By growing and strengthening locally, we can build a large
national movement to end poverty.

There is a wealth of information and experiences in this campaign. We see the
University of the Poor as an infrastructure to facilitate communication and
exchange among the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign.

We welcome any and all ideas that you may have on how to establish such an
infrastructure. We invite you to consider how you might benefit from and can
contribute to the University of the Poor. We hope to hear from you soon. Please
feel free to send your ideas and responses to Willie Baptist or Liz Theoharis of
the Kensington Welfare Rights Union @ PO Box 50678, Philadelphia, PA, 19132, Fax
215- 203-1950 or  Email Willie or Liz at:  kwru@libertynet.org

We look forward to hearing from you soon and together, making the "University of
the Poor" a reality.


Willie Baptist
Education Director
Kensington Welfare Rights Union

Liz Theoharis
Education Admin Assistant
Kensington Welfare Rights Union
e-mail: kwru@libertynet.org

H. C. Covington, Executive Director
I CAN! America,  LLC
Management & Resource Consultants

Homeless & Housing Resource Center
1.800.678.5774   Fax 1.505.209.2619