ABOVE: Speakers raise awareness about the struggles of poor individuals in Wichita, the surrounding communities, and the world. Individuals gathered from near and far to attend the Poor Peoples Campaign. (Courtesy photo by Lora Andrews)
By JC Fuentes
On Oct. 8th, Dr. Dawn Pleas, vice president of retention and student success, took a couple of students as well as a couple of her close friends and associates to take part of The Poor People’s Campaign in Wichita as part of her HOPETour. This campaign is about people banding together to fight poverty, racism, unjust voting restrictions, military aggression, and various other topics.
We left from Grace United Methodist Church by charter bus at 4 pm. On the way to Wichita, Pleas decided to play a “game” to help everyone on the bus get to know each other better. “Speed Dating” is a game where the outside seats of the bus would get up and move around every 2 minutes to talk to new people. It was a very interesting activity and I was able to meet some very interesting people as well as talk to some old friends who were also invited to this trip.
Our first stop was Jardine Middle School in south Wichita. Jardine has been a part of the Builder Bound camps, camps Southwestern holds during the summer for middle schools with a diverse group of less fortunate children to help them enjoy college and help them understand that college education is a reachable goal; also started up by Pleas, for the past couple of years. Most of the college students who visited Jardine, like myself, worked at the camp and got the chance to meet some of the Jardine students. When we visited Jardine yesterday we were reunited with most of those students from the camps. We were fed dinner, talked to the students for a while, and then were greeted by Principle Lura Atherly. Atherly told us about the diversity of the students that are a part of Jardine and how hard most of these students have it. She then thanked Southwestern and Pleas saying “These Builder Bound camps are the best thing to ever happen to most of these students. They come back completely different. They change how the students are and how they act not just in the classroom but outside of school as well.”
ABOVE: Individuals held signs protesting injustices. These signs were displayed for hundreds to see. (Photo courtesy of Lora Andrews)
Our last stop was the main event. The campaign was held at the WSU Hughes Metroplex in Wichita. We arrived around 6:40 to an auditorium filled with different people standing together and singing songs like “O Home on the Range” and “Woke Up this Morning with my Mind.” It was a two and half hour event where various people came and talked about their personal experiences and what the group stands for and their demands for politics. There were about 10 speakers, 2 of them being the campaigns Co-Chairs, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. The rest of the speakers were local citizens of Wichita who were invited to speak and share their experiences.
This was a very strong and organized group and from what was being said at the event and how the audience was taking it, you could definitely tell their message was being heard.
JC Fuentes is a junior majoring in communication. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .