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We need the Poor People’s Conference to unify across Chicago

Andy Willis  |  Issue: February | March 2018
Carlos Castro

Carlos Castro


I spoke with Carlos Castro from the Chicago neighborhood of Humboldt Park about the upcoming Chicago Poor Peoples Conference. Carlos is a longtime community organizer and activist. I asked him why we needed such a conference.

Carlos Castro: With all the abuse from the police department in the city, lack of housing, with the homelessness in Humboldt Park and throughout the city, the only way we are going to make some changes is through addressing our problems in an open forum. The Poor People’s Conference would be made up of organizations within the city that are working with the same problems.

We must educate ourselves that we are not the cause of the problem, but are victims of the super-rich and the “middle class,” who are only an inch away from being poor themselves. So eventually we are going to all have to pull together. If not, we are all going to end up in concentration camps.

Now that might seem far away, but it’s not, because in L.A., Florida, even in Chicago, you get locked up for the simple reason that you don’t have a place to sleep – you don’t have a home. We have a right to live as a person not as an animal. You get locked up in prison for sleeping in the park – OK, then give me a place to sleep.


Protester at a march

Protester at a march and rally against a proposed law that would criminalize homeless people.


The Poor Peoples Conference is to unify us before the mayoral election, before the presidential election. We must organize politically. We must organize within the ward. Power recognizes power and we have power, we just don’t exercise it. We need the Poor People’s Conference to unify ourselves across the city. This is not a Latino issue; this is a poor people’s issue.

Another priority is about the police. Unless the police officer feels the pain in his pocket, he doesn’t care what he does. We need representation from the people on those police committees that reflects the different districts and communities. We need to feel comfortable that there is somebody on that committee who feels what we have felt.

We need a voice, not appointed, but elected to those committees by the people themselves.

You look at the newspaper and see a guy who did 20 years for something he didn’t do, yet the police continue making money and retire. Look at that commander at 11th and State – Burge (a known police official who tortured confessions out of people). Since I was the age of 10, we were complaining about the frame-ups, the mistreatment, and nobody believed it.

He retired to Florida with his pension. We cannot continue rewarding corrupt police departments that work for a corrupt system with a group of corrupt politicians who we elect. We never elect corrupt people – they become corrupt when they join the system. Because the system itself is corrupt.

We have to go back to the power that poor people have that they have been made to believe they don’t have. We need to organize ourselves not as victims, but as a powerful group of people. And we can do it out of this Poor People’s Conference if we have the right message.

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