Dear Welfare Queens,

I’m a Queen myself so it’s easy for me to identify other Queens.

I live in a little apartment on the second floor of a house with my son who is 15 and has two disabilities. I work doing deliveries during the day for Postmates when I can and the night shift at UPS. I can barely pay my bills and have been on and off welfare for most of my life. No, I don’t enjoy this life or wish it on anyone.

We Queens have always been hated, distrusted, and told that we will never amount to anything because we have poor work ethics, and choose not to go anywhere in life.

The fathers of our children have been called ‘deadbeat dads’ at best, sometimes ‘sperm donors.’ In order to get the little welfare or food stamps we have, we’ve had to cut our children’s fathers out of their lives and applaud when fathers are rounded up and sent to jail for not paying child support. This is a common thing that they do on Valentine’s Day here. It’s called the prison industrial complex.

Welfare Queens: listen up things are about to get even harder for you now!

People already don’t see you and they don’t know your life. Yes, sometimes they might be able to spot you when you pull out your Access Card and look down on you if you are buying ice cream for your kids but, by and large, you are ashamed and hiding it, or you have already experienced the consequences of being tracked by your Access Card and the state has already smacked you down for being politically active. Yes, we can pray for the poor but God knows you better not get involved in politics or speak out for yourself.

Yes, others might even say, I was poor once or on welfare but the goal really is to dismiss the inhumane conditions and life you are living right now, at this very moment. There’s a lot of money to be made in the anti-poverty world, but your life of misery they can’t be bothered with.

Poverty and hunger are not sexy issues to look at or work on in the social justice world. Hearing about how she gets up each day trying to figure out how she’s going to feed her daughter – they just don’t want to hear it or see it. It’s not sexy and this might cause them sleepless nights thinking about their comfortable world and their inability to share what they have. It’s just too disturbing. So it’s easier to create charts, hold demonstrations, use social media, and talk about it – but they must cut off your voice. It’s like fingernails to a chalkboard. They will parade you around when necessary but they don’t really believe that their plight is intertwined with yours.

Sometimes I know she just wants to give up. She works her two jobs and feels the guilt of never seeing her daughter. Each day it gets harder to get up and now she learns of the new work requirements in order to get affordable housing. She tries hard to stay away from the sedation offered everywhere in her neighborhood. Drugs and alcohol are everywhere. She sits in her kitchen and swats roaches and prays that the mice don’t go up on the bed. She longs to just escape, to disappear from all of this misery. But she continues on the ugly road knowing that at any moment they can lock her up or take away her child for being a poor single mom on welfare. She is the woman the nation and politicians have been groomed to hate. Better yet, she better not say anything or she will be known as a belligerent, angry woman with an attitude problem, a non-deserving poor Welfare Queen. Someone who, for some reason, thinks she should only have what you have, a full set of teeth, food when you’re hungry, the ability to wash clothes, heat in the winter, and, yes, a life of dignity and without fear. Because to be poor is to be criminalized. But she doesn’t have it and neither do the millions of other Welfare Queens.

I know the welfare office is the least of your problems these days. Now you have to deal with the social control from the non-profit industrial complex. You mention a problem and they will refer you to an agency that won’t solve the problem and then criticize you for not utilizing city services. But, my dear Queen, you know that our country has been perfecting the non-profit industrial complex. They must pretend that they have the situation under control, so they must buy their alliances.

Because they know there are millions of welfare queens who are working on becoming generals. Conscious Queen Generals. So, my sisters, you must educate yourselves. They are coming for us and we need you to become educated. We need you to follow the money of every organization and person that you meet. We cannot afford to listen to the fancy speeches and rhetoric. “Progressive Foundations” are funding the disunity of our class. These foundations are linking government and corporations in order to create the social control necessary to prevent us from building a movement led by the poor, independent of the two corporate-controlled political parties.

They are trying to cut off your voice and mine. We must stand strong in the tradition of Fannie Lou Hammer, Annie Smart, Dottie Stevens, Rev. Harris, Rev. Annie Chambers, Rosa Clemente, and many other sisters who dared to speak truth to power.

Women who were and are brave enough to speak out against the Democratic and Republican parties and who understood that the poor need more than pity. They need political power!

They will continue to turn us Welfare Queens and Deadbeat dads (the organized poor) into villains because we dare to be educated, organized, political, ethical, and ready to fight.

We will not participate in the isolation and the marginalization of other Queens. If someone tries to throw one of our sisters or brothers in the dirt we will say something about it and, no, we will not take the dirty money from the politicians, labor unions, and so-called “progressive foundations” that are aligned with corporations. We know that corporations are giving money to the “progressive” foundations right now to fund our demise. Let us learn from the history of the Ford Foundation and how it played a key role in the urban renewal program that assisted in moving tens of thousands of low-income families out of their homes between 1955 and 1974, to make way for buildings and convention centers. It’s everywhere now. Puerto Ricans are being thrown from their land. Going without water and electricity only to be called a Welfare Queen in my neighborhood after forced relocation. We see it everywhere. Who is really in charge of the road we are on if at the same time the very people you are up against are funding it? This is what is happening now in the anti-poverty world and you will not be funded if you talk about it or dare to build an independent, cooperative way of living, surviving, and organizing. But you will have something far greater… each other and the strength of our ancestors to stand on.

My dear Welfare Queens, you do have a choice. You can choose which road you want to take. Our road might be hard, ugly, and downright terrifying at times, but it’s a road that leads to political independence, freedom, dignity, and self-respect.

We need you on this road and we hope that you will join your fellow Welfare Queens and America’s hated poor on the March for Our Lives on June 2nd in Philadelphia when we will march to Washington D.C. to reconstruct Resurrection City. You can choose to not have the cat fund your mousehole. You can begin to join with other mice and Queens and build a cooperative economy and society. You can help us build the movement to end poverty, hunger, and homelessness, once and for all in this country and around the world. Another World is Possible! Another U.S. is Necessary and she’s on her way!

Sign up now to walk this road together and support our efforts by donating just $10 today!

Warm Regards,

Cheri Honkala

Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign