Tavis Smiley and Cornel West Discuss Poverty in North Philadelphia
9 months ago
Both say "poverty is threatening our democracy"
Tavis Smiley and Cornel West spoke at a packed church in North Philadelphia on Friday, on the penultimate stop of their "Poverty Tour 2.0: A Call to Conscience."
The goal of the tour is to raise awareness about the plight of the poor in the country, and to get government officials, specifically President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney, to address the issue. Neither candidate spent much time speaking about poverty at their respective conventions, despite the dismal recently released poverty figures.
“Neither one of them have said enough about poverty,” said Smiley. “There are four debates ahead of us, and these debate moderators need to put the issue of poverty front and center. In 2008 there were three debates between McCain and Obama. The word poor or poverty did not come up one time in three debates.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 15 percent of Americans, or 46.2 million, are living in poverty. Just over 27 percent of black Americans, or 10.9 million, live in poverty.
Smiley and West’s Philadelphia stop, the third on their tour of four key election battleground states, was held at North Philadelphia’s Tenth Memorial Baptist Church and featured a number of speakers, including Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, and Jordan Harris, who is running for state representative for Philadelphia’s 186th district.
Harris says that many politicians don’t know how to properly address the issue of poverty because they are so far removed from the issue. Harris also says that many children are being born into poverty that stretches many generations back, so they grow up believing poverty is part of their identity.
“We believe this is who we are, this is the circumstance, this is the hand that was dealt to me,” said Harris.
While Smiley and West believe that the government needs to take swift action to address poverty, Smiley said that people who manage to escape poverty don't do enough to others.
“The reason why poverty runs amuck in urban areas is that those of us who make it abandon those urban areas,” he said.
West said that as a society, we have become so consumed with money that we do not fight for justice in the same way that civil rights leaders did in the 1960s: