Richmond Times-Dispatch

Activists seek change as COVIDdeath­s top 250K in U. S.

- BY TAMICA JEAN-CHARLES tjean-charles@timesdispa­tch.com

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.

 ?? ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/ TIMES-DISPATCH ?? Hilda Perkins puts cutouts on her car to recognize COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. before the Poor People’s Campaign drive around the Capitol.
ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/ TIMES-DISPATCH Hilda Perkins puts cutouts on her car to recognize COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. before the Poor People’s Campaign drive around the Capitol.
 ?? ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/ TIMES-DISPATCH ?? Prior to the drive, Adrianna Kitt, 8, watches grandmothe­r Tracy Kitt put the last piece of tape on a banner honoring relative Thelma Ayres.
ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/ TIMES-DISPATCH Prior to the drive, Adrianna Kitt, 8, watches grandmothe­r Tracy Kitt put the last piece of tape on a banner honoring relative Thelma Ayres.

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