What is the University of the Poor?

From The University of the Poor Concept Paper:

The mission of the University of the Poor is to systematically identify and develop leaders committed to the unity of the poor and dispossessed across color lines and other lines of division so as to build a broad-based and powerful movement to end poverty.

Our opponents have think tanks, training centers, journals, universities, and foundations to understand this moment in history, develop their ideology, advance the political organization of their class, and replicate their intellectual leaders. We need these kinds of organizations also. In order to successfully fight the ideological and political battle necessary to end poverty, we need to develop the unity of the poor and dispossessed in both thought and action.

We draw on the vision of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose active recognition during the last years of his life of the necessity of uniting the poor as “a new and unsettling force” was very prescient, anticipating the present global economic and political situation:

Getting the poor and dispossessed to “take action together” as the poor and dispossessed can today serve as a rallying point for attracting the greater mass of the people who are now being increasingly economically and politically assaulted. Because this united action poses the greatest political threat to the Powers That Be, it is no easy task.

Therefore the first and indispensable step in the uniting the most exploited, excluded, and oppressed is the identification, education, and uniting of its newly emerging leaders, teachers, and organizers. Facilitating this first indispensable step is precisely the task of the University of the Poor.

The University of the Poor seeks to put key groups and leaders in relationship to one another to facilitate deep and rigorous study and research, develop materials for learning and teaching and serve as a central depository for resources and analysis.

We aim to produce curriculum in order to develop a cadre of leaders with a common analytical framework, who see themselves as leaders not just of particular struggles, communities, or sectors but also of our class as a whole.

We aim to apply those analytical tools to research and in-depth study of the problems we face. This work cannot be disconnected from the everyday struggle and organizing of the poor, but instead must support and be fueled by that work.

The University of the Poor is currently focused on three main areas of study: history, political economy and the mental terrain, or ideology. In each of these areas, we focus on curriculum development and think-tank-style research.

The University of the Poor is also committed to developing studies in organizing and campaign strategy, through the Homeless Union History Project and Campaign Round Table. In addition, we are developing an online Journal.


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