I’m going to warn you right now: this blog post is not about what products the hottest brand is dropping, what shows or open bar events are occurring this week, or what mixtape you would do well to listen to. If learning about the lives of millions of struggling Americans and what you can do to enact change in their lives doesn’t interest you, stop reading. This post is about poverty, the roughly 50 million American people living in hunger (16 million of which are children), and the strides that have been made to eradicate poverty and aid those struggling to obtain the basics.
This post is not about the plight of the poor and downtrodden, but their fight to regain their dignity and enjoy a better quality of life – a life that doesn’t include food insecurity (which according to the USDA refers to people who live in hunger and do not know where their next meal is coming from), a life where they have shelter and make enough money in 40 hours of work to (at the very least) subsist without government assistance.
This past summer advocacy journalist Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West traveled to some of the most impoverished areas in America on what they coined the Poverty Tour. Members of the Media Mobilizing Project, an organization dedicated to giving poor people uniting against poverty a voice, recorded the journey. Their footage as well as interviews with an economist, a government official, the C.E.O. of Feeding America and others comprised the 5-day “Poverty Tour” series that aired on PBS two weeks ago.
Each episode focused on a different aspect of the problem plaguing America. In five days of watching I heard people who used to have secure jobs, homes, cars tell what it means to have nothing and how they’ve coped with the loss of their livelihood and material possessions. I learned more about the housing crisis and listened to people speak about the homes that had been their family’s for decades being foreclosed even as large corporations were being bailed out. I heard the indignant voices of warehouse workers rail against the machine and decry their unlivable wages (some of these people spoke of working fulltime and having to pick between eating, filling up their gas tanks, and buying diapers for their children). And I saw people with no political ambition, but a strong belief in human rights and the power of individuals, standing together against a common enemy, empowering themselves and their communities and helping those around them disentangle themselves from the mire of poverty.
Some numbers I learned in my viewing of the Poverty Tour series, which may spur you to anger, empathy and I hope ACTION:
In the last ten years, 100% of income growth in America has gone to the top 10%. That is unjust. Plain and simple.
Over the past 40 years household incomes have remained stagnant for all but 5% of Americans. During that same time period, the income of the top 5% of Americans has skyrocketed. In a word: despicable.
42% of American children live near, on, or below the poverty line. That’s just disgraceful.
There are laborers who work 40 hours a week and still meet the requirements for food stamps and other federal assistance because they don’t make enough money to pay their bills. Unconscionable.
The dire circumstances have spurred working class people, the new poor (aka middle class people) and people who care people into gear. Groups like the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign (a coalition fighting to retrieve the homes of those evicted for economically motivated reasons), Take Back the Land Madison (a group that seizes and rebuilds abandoned homes in order to house the needy), Direct Action Welfare Group (known as D.A.W.G this group organizes the poor of West Virginia to stop poverty and the threat of poverty), Media Mobilizing Project, and more are on the ground actively fighting for human rights. According to the C.E.O. of Feeding America, Vicki B. Escarra, there is enough food produced in the U.S. to feed not only every citizen who lives here, but also the majority of the world. Economist Jeffrey Sachs has said that, “we could end poverty worldwide in this generation.”
We can do this if we reverse our priorities and aim to take care of the people less fortunate than ourselves. We can do this if we look past, religion, color, class, creed and unite against injustice. We MUST do this because America won’t be a great nation again until we do. No way America is allowed to call itself a “great nation” with roughly 50 million people living in hunger, 16 million of which are children. There’s just no fucking way.
I’m going to end this with the section of Matthew that Joe Scarborough is shown reading in the above clip, not because I’m especially religious (I’m not at all religious), but because I am so rarely moved by anything a Republican utters, “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; I needed clothes and you clothed me; I was sick, and you looked after me; I was in prison, and you visited me.’”
Do work, people. Do work.
@buccibandana over and out. . .