5 Ways People Are Fighting Poverty In Urban America
Groups focus on prosperity, wellness and mentorship to build up communities
It’s fitting that this week the nation is not only celebrating the upcoming second inauguration of the nation’s first African American president, Barack Obama, but also the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
King, of course, was better known for his fights to achieve racial justice. As the nation’s leaders continue to debate over matters that will affect the socioeconomic status of all Americans, it’s civil rights activists who say lawmakers should look again at King’s work.
“All of [Dr. King’s] work wasn’t just around race; he had a poverty piece in there,” said Judith Brown Dianis, co-director for D.C.-based civil rights group, Advancement Project. “We can’t go into any of this debate about gun control, education or immigration and not talk about poverty.”
Brown Dianis added that addressing poverty has to be a “real piece” of what President Obama does while in office.
For Growing Power, Inc. founder Will Allen, addressing poverty has to include talk of expanding access to healthy, affordable produce. He runs Milwaukee’s last working farm inside city limits and has led an urban farming movement.
“We’ve been able to change the economics in these communities,” says Allen, who was named one of the world’s most influential people by Time magazine in 2010. “There are hundreds of different jobs connected to new food systems. There are renewable energy jobs, need for engineers and architects.”
Allen says the mayors who want to reduce poverty and make their communities environmentally sustainable by 2020, as many have pledged to do, won’t achieve that without a building up a local food system.
“Food is the most important things in our lives and we have a lot of unhealthy communities,” he said.
According to the University of Michigan’s National Poverty Center, 15.1 percent of Americans lived below the poverty line in 2010. That’s the highest rate since 1993. Children make up 36 percent of the poor population. Broken down by race, African Americans were the most impoverished group in the nation, at 38 percent, followed closely by Hispanics, at 35 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Whites have a poverty rate of 12.4 percent.
Lots of work to combat poverty happens everyday, much of it unnoticed. In the gallery above, find more examples of groups fighting poverty in urban America.