Rep. Pramila Jayapal read testimony from Mashyla Buckmaster, a young woman from Washington’s impoverished Grays Harbor County: “I wasn’t homeless because I was stupid and lazy. I was homeless because our country has no problem with pregnant mothers being homeless in the dead of winter while just two hours away, in Seattle, the founders of Microsoft and Amazon have made themselves the richest individuals on the planet.”
Buckmaster’s story resonated with Jayapal, who represents the city of Seattle. “It has been breaking my heart that my community — so tolerant, so wonderful, so inclusive — has unfortunately been turning anger of inequality in our system against people who are experiencing homelessness just like the testimony I just read.”
Japayal also read the story of Deanna Butler, a 31-year-old restaurant server and single mother active in the Fight for $15 campaign in Boston, a city with sky-high rents. “I don’t understand how these multibillion dollar corporations are able to build an empire on the backs of low-wage workers and get away with making millions in profits while we have nowhere to live and have to depend on brothers and sisters to help us make it through,” Butler wrote.
Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin read the testimony of military veteran Brock McIntosh, who described a heart-wrenching encounter with an Afghan boy who’d been injured while attempting to set off a roadside bomb. “We need to demand opportunities for working class folks that don’t require killing other working class folks,” he wrote.
Earlier in the week on the other side of the Capitol, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) co-hosted a hearing with Poor People’s Campaign Co-Chair Rev. William Barber and affected people from several states across the country.
Rep. Ro Khanna, who attended both events, said he’s been to a lot of hearings on Capitol Hill but had “never been more moved, not just as a politician, but as a human being,” as he was while listening to their testimony.
Over the past month, hundreds of people have been arrested for acts of civil disobedience at Poor People’s Campaign actions at state capitals around the country. On June 23, the campaign will be back in Washington, D.C. —this time outside the halls of Congress, with a mass rally on the National Mall.
Khanna said he hoped members of Congress would listen to the voices of the people who will be marching in the streets and “take some inspiration from their courage — courage far exceeding any of ours in this body — and be inspired to do the right thing and fight for economic justice.”