The Poverty Initiative was established in May 2003. The founding mission remains the same: to raise up generations of religious and community leaders dedicated to building a social movement to end poverty, led by the poor.
The cornerstone of the Poverty Initiative is the Scholar-in-Residence Program. Willie Baptist has served as the Scholar-in-Residence since its inception in 2004. In 2006, the Poverty Initiative launched the expanded the Poverty Scholars Program
The Poverty Initiative's signature event is Poverty Truth Commissions inspired by Truth Commissions held in South Africa and elsewhere. Poverty Truth Commissions are organized to hear the stories of people from around the country whose lives are in jeopardy due to poverty. Prominent religious, academic, and community leaders hear and respond to these testimonies
In 2007-2008, the Poverty Initiative commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign launched by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In December 1967, King called upon all people of good will to “lift the load of poverty” in the United States and across the world. Today millions still bear the burden of poverty–without homes, health care or jobs
The Poverty Initiative has sponsored numerous educational and public events to mark the 40th anniversary including: immersion courses, a Truth Commission, a Symposium on Religions of the World & Poverty, arts events & exhibits, the Bonhoeffer Lecture Series, and partnership with leaders in Marks, MS who led the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968
In 2008-09, the Poverty Initiative continues to celebrate the Poor People’s Campaign as we work to finish the unfinished business of uniting the poor across color lines to build a powerful movement to end poverty.