When Lonnie and Jennifer Watson went to Washington last week to attend the Poor People’s Congress, many of the 800 attendees from 34 states already knew a lot about the troubles in McCurtain County’s government and public officials.
At the event in the National Capitol, Watson learned that a local group which he has become a leader in is really more a movement than an organization.
“They reached out to us and told how they operate as a movement that advocates for low income families nationwide and statewide,” Watson said.
He said the local movement (known simply as “the movement”) consists of people meeting each Sunday afternoon at Booker T. Washington Center and at mid-week via Zoom (an on-line site) at mid-week.
“We are learning ways to strategize and organize. We are advocates for all ethnic groups and sexes. We are learning how to reach out” to everyone, Watson said.
The training sessions they attended at the D.C. Hilton were study groups focusing on “moral power” and a “national call for moral review,” said Watson.
He said this training allows McCurtain County people to network with others who are “fighting for the less fortunate (relative to) government policies, taxes, health care, all the policies that are controlled by government.”
“I have learned so much about politicians and how they strategize. We want to be an advocate for everyone. We want this county to be a county we can be proud of. We need people to show up, be there.”
He said it starts at the home and with education. Too many things have been “swept under the rug,” he said, but good leaders have got to be transparent and stand up to face situations and problems that will always exist.
“We have to deal with the situation before it gets worse,” he adds.
He said the committee that he meets with (approximately 30 at the last meeting) requested that Watson and his wife to go to Washington for the Poor People’s Congres and represent them.
When they told people at the meetings where they were from, at the mention of McCurtain County, many reacted and indicated they knew about the recent events here.
“Of the 34 states represented, over half already knew what was going on down here,” Watson said.
“They would say, ‘You are from there? Here’s what you
Which was a “chance for us to network” with people who have faced similar obstacles on local, sate and national government levels.
One woman from Rhode Island who had been a state senator and a candidate for lieutenant governor introduced herself and said “she knew exactly what was going on.”
Watson says, “This is just one fight. There are all kinds of things we can do together. Learn the proper way to register to vote, how to get jobs, how to start a bank account…We want to be an advocate for everyone.”
The Watsons spent four days in Washington, with the Poor People’s Congress paying their expenses.
They also visited the office of U.S. Rep. Josh Brecheen, who represents Congressional Dist. 2 that includes McCurtain County.
The Congressman was in session but Watson said they spent about 25 minutes communicating with an aide who took extensive notes about the issues in county government here.
But the greatest value of their visit was the things they learned from people who for years – if not for centuries in U.S. history – have been advocating for low income persons, nationally and statewide.