The University of the Poor Journal - Issue 2 - February 2019
Leadership Across Difference
An interview with leaders from Put People First! PA
The following interview was conducted with Put People First! PA’s Nijmie Dzurinko, Phil Wider and Borja Gutiérrez of Put People First! PA. PPF is a statewide membership organization among poor and working class people in Pennsylvania. It is leading a “health care is a human right” campaign and has been involved in the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. In this interview we discuss PPF’s role in the Poor People’s Campaign and how they are building unity among the working class. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
UPoor: What are the ways that it makes sense for Put People First to be involved in the Poor People’s Campaign? Where is there alignment between the Campaign and Put People First?
Nijmie: We objectively see the strategy of the Poor People’s Campaign as the strategy of Put People First and the strategy of Put People First as the strategy of the Poor People's Campaign. The conception that we need to unite the poor and dispossessed across color lines and all of the lines of division to build a mass social movement is, in our understanding, really aligned with both the history of the original Poor People's Campaign, and also the trajectory of the new campaign. If it is to be successful it rises or falls on the leadership and the organization of the poor and dispossessed, and so Put People First is a vehicle to build the leadership and organization of poor and dispossessed people united across all lines of division.
The Capitalist Class & the Council on Foreign Relations
The University of the Poor seeks to identify and develop leaders of the poor and dispossessed in order to build the unity of our class. By dispossessed, we mean those who do not own private property: factories, plants, stores, banks, farms, etc. All we own is personal property: cars, TVs, furniture, perhaps a house, etc. The poor – if you count everyone at or below twice the “official” poverty line – are about 48 percent (nearly half) of the population of the United States. Four out of five – 80 percent – of the population may experience poverty at some point in their lives. Those are the people we aim to unite.