Tammy Rojas

Tammy Rojas stands along College Avenue in Lancaster across from the former UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster hospital Thursday, May 9, 2019.

It’s time for the poor and dispossessed to stand up for themselves, Tammy Rojas says.

Rojas, 41, is co-coordinator of the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee. She and her fellow members campaignedvigorously to stop UPMC Pinnacle’s closure of the former St. Joseph Hospital on Lancaster’s west side.

To their disappointment, the hospital closed as scheduled at the end of February. But Rojas is undeterred. The way City Hall handles the now-vacant site on College Avenue will show whether it stands with the poor, she says.

Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee is part of the grassroots organization Put People First PA. It in turn is affiliated with the Poor People’s Campaign, the revival of a nationwide initiative originally launched by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. just a few months before his assassination.

Put People First “is about organizing the working class,” Rojas said. Its leaders, like her, are drawn from the population it’s fighting for.

Rojas began attending the group’s events in mid-2017. At the time, she was feeling depressed and “about to give up for good,” she said.

The campaign helped her understand the barriers she and other poor people face and “gave me the hope that I needed,” she said.

She took on her current position in January 2018. She’s working energetically to grow the group locally, raise awareness and push for “systemic, fundamental change.”

First job: Delivering newspapers.

Current job: SoWe Clean Crew member, providing litter and trash removal in the SoWe neighborhood service area.

Someone you admire: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

What motivates you: I love my community and I want to make change happen in Lancaster. This is the way I really feel we can do it.

Hobby: I love writing. I used to do creative writing; now I like to write things based on the work we’re doing.

Why activism matters: I think one of the most important things that we’re doing is changing the narrative of poverty. It’s deeper than how much you make a year. It goes way beyond that.

The Poor People’s Campaign talks about fighting “the four evils”: poverty, racism, ecological devastation and the war economy. These issues are all interconnected.