Other Group

University of the Poor

Website:

universityofthepoor.org/

Formation:

1999

Type:

Socialist Education Group

Part of:

Justice and Education Fund

University of the Poor is an anti-capitalist educational and training resource for organizations involved in the socialist movement in the United States. It acted as the educational arm of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) for nine years until the groups formally separated. [1]

University of the Poor is not a degree-granting organization. It holds workshops and seminars around the United States, instructing local activist groups how to organize and perform political and charitable actions. [2]

University of the Poor is a fiscally-sponsored project of The Justice and Education Fund, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization based in New York City. [3]

Background

University of the Poor was developed in 1999 by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, founded one year before, which was in turn founded by members and supports of Philadelphia-based advocacy group Kensington Welfare Rights Union (KWRU) that had been co-founded by Cheri Honkala. PPEHRC began to contribute to local advocacy efforts and political events with planning, support, technical assistance, and member mobilization. [4]

The “University” teaches that inequality is not an aberration but is part and parcel of the “present capitalist economic or production system.” It claims, using rhetoric typical of Marxist writings, that capitalism compels the “dispossessed” to “seek work and wages to be exploited and oppressed for the maximum profits of a tiny propertied class of capitalists.” Further, the University claims that capitalism directly contributes to many global ills such as “food insecurity, militarism, environmental crisis, racial, gender and religious oppression, and more.” It bases its curriculum on four core texts: the first volume of Capital by Karl Marx, History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Black Reconstruction in America by W.E.B. DuBois, and the Bible. [5]

Activities

University of the Poor provided the “educational” component of a number of Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign activist ventures, including the March for Economic Human Rights at the Republican National Convention in 2000, the Poor People’s World Summit to End Poverty in 2001, the New Freedom Bus Tour: Economic Rights for All! in 2002, the March for Economic Rights at the Republican National Convention in 2004, and the National Truth Commission in 2006. [6]

In 2005, University of the Poor began its first “Leadership School” which lasted for eight days at Bryn Mawr College. It consisted of 40 “low-income” leaders teaching more than 150 attendees. It held a second Leadership School the next year at John Carroll University. It has since held hundreds of such schools all around the United States. [7]

In 2008, the leaders of University of the Poor stopped working with the PPEHRC and broke off formal ties with the organization, effectively founding the University anew. It strove to remain amicable with PPEHRC despite the break and continued to serve as an educational vessel for the Campaign. [8]

Leadership

University of the Poor was founded by members of the Poor Peoples’ Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC). Willie Baptist and Liz Theoharis were the first co-coordinators. The writings of Baptist and Theoharis are still featured on the University’s website, collected as the writings and educational materials for its “Poor Organizing the Poor Research Center.” University of the Poor states that the lessons taught in their writings were passed down from the historical National Union of the Homeless and the “Organizing Model” of Jonnie Tillman. [9]

References

  1.  “About the University.” University of the Poor, 28 July 2011. Accessed 18 July 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20110728144249/http://universityofthepoor.org/?page_id=7. ^
  2. [1] “About the University.” University of the Poor, 28 July 2011. Accessed 18 July 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20110728144249/http://universityofthepoor.org/?page_id=7. ^
  3. “Donate.” University of the Poor. Accessed 18 July 2022. https://universityofthepoor.org/donate/. ^
  4. “Who We Are.” Poor People’s Army. Accessed 18 July 2022. https://poorpeoplesarmy.com/#WHOWEARE. ^
  5. “University of the Poor Concept Paper.” University of the Poor. Accessed 18 July 2022. https://universityofthepoor.org/concept-paper/. ^
  6. “About the University.” University of the Poor, 28 July 2011. Accessed 18 July 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20110728144249/http://universityofthepoor.org/?page_id=7. ^
  7. [1] “About the University.” University of the Poor, 28 July 2011. Accessed 18 July 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20110728144249/http://universityofthepoor.org/?page_id=7. ^
  8. “About the University.” University of the Poor, 28 July 2011. Accessed 18 July 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20110728144249/http://universityofthepoor.org/?page_id=7. ^
  9. Poor Organizing the Poor Resource Center.” University of the Poor. Accessed 18 July 2022. https://universityofthepoor.org/poor-organizing-the-poor-resource-center/. ^
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