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Most pastors say they preach the truth. The Rev. William Barber also delivers sermons on another topic: "the trick."
The trick is Barber's term for something that he describes as a weapon of mass distraction. It stymied the leaders of the populist movement in late 19th century. It vexed union leaders who promoted workers' solidarity. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. King died trying to beat the trick.
The trick is when white politicians persuade poor white working class people that the source of their pain is people of color, immigrants and other scapegoats, says Barber, who rose to national fame after helping lead Moral Mondays, a social justice movement formed in North Carolina.
"You have to show them the trick," says Barber, his rich, baritone shifting into preaching mode when asked how he would address this challenge.
"The majority of people in this country who are poor are white people. You have to undermine the trick and say, 'Listen, you want a living wage, but the people you voted for don't want a living wage. You're upset that you don't have health care. Guess what, black and Latino people aren't your problems. It's the people who are voting against health care.' "
Barber's message worked in North Carolina, and now he and others are taking it nationally on Monday to revive King's boldest crusade: the Poor People's Campaign.
Organizers for a "new Poor People's Campaign" and the Fight for $15 movement say they will launch rallies across the mid-South to raise awareness of the plight of the nation's poor.
The campaign is calling for thousands of cooks and cashiers to walk off their jobs Monday and join protests in two dozen cities. A march is planned in Memphis, Tennessee, retracing the route King took during his fateful last campaign. And six weeks of "direct action and nonviolent civil disobedience" are planned starting May 13, Mother's Day.
Behind the flurry of events, this new campaign could provide an answer to a question that has long tantalized historians and activists: What if King had lived to see his Poor People's Campaign through. Could it have worked?

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