Activists seek change as COVIDdeaths top 250K in U. S.
Tracy Kitt and her family were looking forward to seeing their relative, Thelma Ayres, leave the hospital on Oct. 20 after suffering COVID-19 symptoms for 10 days.
Then, her condition deteriorated. Within days, Ayres, who was in her late 60s, was gone.
“She just had such a sweet spirit, kind heart and just a great soul. She’s being missed by so many,” Kitt said Monday.
She and her granddaughter, Adrianna, wanted to honor Ayres’ death by participating in the Richmond iteration of demonstrations across the country organized by the Poor People’s Campaign, a national initiative to confront the evils of systemic racism, religious nationalism, poverty and more.
Demonstrators caravanned from the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University to the state Capitol to raise awareness of the pandemic’s impact on low-income people as part of “In Their Remembrance: From Mourning to aMoral Mandate.”
The events drawing attention to the 250,000 and counting deaths across the country unfolded across 24 states and Washington, D.C., organized by the Rev. William J. Barber II and the Rev. Liz Theoharis, national co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.
The Poor People’s Campaign took its name from the calls of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 and others for the U.S. to have a “revolution of values.” Fifty years later, organizers across over 40 states work to lift the voices of marginalized communities and address their issues in future legislation and policies.
Along with the caravan, the campaign is pushing a petition for a comprehensive moral policy agenda focused on the 140 million Americans who are poor, prioritizing health care, workers’ rights, unemployment insurance and more.
More importantly, the organizers and volunteers of the Poor People’s Campaign urged President Donald Trump’s administration, the rising Joe Biden administration and legislators to put forth policies to combat the pandemic.
“We must have a comprehensive, just COVID relief bill now. We must have a moral agenda at the beginning of the new year and a new administration,” Barber said.
Maria Mayorqui, who spoke at Monday’s event, detailed the stress her family has been under since her husband, Edwin Garcia, was detained at the immigrant detention center in Farmville last February.
The Farmville center suffered a tremendous outbreak over the summer, with nearly 97% of the all-male detainees — including her husband— testing positive.
While processing the news of her husband contracting COVID-19, and adjusting to losing the family’s breadwinner, Mayorqui and her household came down with the virus days later. It’s been difficult to take care of her house and children without her husband, she said.
“Just like my family is suffering, there are many families that are in the same situation as we are, without money for rent or food,” said Mayorqui, calling for the government to quickly implement a COVID-19 relief fund, and for those detained to be freed.