More than 70 gather at Bend in the River Park in Canton for family picnic, poverty discussion
Monday, June 10, 2019 - 5:30 pm

Photo by Shaun Whitehead, Poor People's Campaign.

CANTON – More than people 70 gathered at Bend in the River Park Sunday Canton for a picnic, games, and to discuss issues of poverty in the region as part of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

This was the first public event for the group in the North Country. Many have been meeting together for several months, learning together about the campaign and sharing experiences and insights about issues of poverty, systemic racism, militarism, and ecological devastation in the region.

In St. Lawrence County alone, almost 20% of the residents are in poverty, while nearly 30% of children in the county, over 6,000 kids, live in poverty, according to, according to the NYS Community Action Association Poverty Report.

Rev. Holly Haile Thompson, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Potsdam and a blood member of the Shinnecock Nation, discussed the historic and ongoing struggles of Indigenous people. “We live on a fraction of the land to which we hold aboriginal rights … and while substandard housing poses danger for reservation families, our neighbors seem completely oblivious to our economic reality,” she said. “One cannot obtain a mortgage loan to build a house; resulting in substandard housing, inadequate for weather, plumbing, electricity, modern sanitation; when a Shinnecock grandmother has to get up in the night to see that rain isn’t falling on her granddaughter, there is undeniably something wrong that must be righted.”

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is a rebirth of the movement begun in 1967 by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., just before his assassination. Today, the crises King identified and confronted persist.

Michelle O’Donnell, a member of 1199SEIU, shared her experiences. “I still live paycheck to paycheck trying to feed my family and buy my medicine,” she said. “I work full time and make more than $15 an hour. Yes, I’m still struggling as well as millions of others. So when we are asking to change the minimum wage to $15 an hour, that is just to live. It ain’t a wage to live it up.”

More information can be found at nysppc.org and poorpeoplescampaign.org