|THE VOICE OF POVERTY ATTRACTS 5,000
Sunday, November 23, 2008
DETROIT, MI -- Jobs, education, training and safe homes were among the top priorities participants of the 2008 Voices for Action Poverty Summit held on November 14, 2008 at Cobo Hall committed to addressing when they return home after Thursday's event that drew almost 5,000 people. One of the speakers, Martin Luther King III says there's more work to be done.
The second oldest child of the late civil rights leader gave a message full of contrast delineating America's greatness and its potential. Culminating a lifetime dedicated to the pursuit of civil and human rights, King founded Atlanta-based Realizing the Dream in 2006 to fulfill his parents' dream to defeat poverty.
King said the Voices for Action Poverty Summit is the first state event in recent years focusing on an issue of this magnitude.
"My father and mother worked to make this a better place," King said. "My father called the world he wanted 'a beloved community.'
"Their work isn't finished."
"How can it be done?" King asked, rhetorically, "when we (America) are the most unequal of the major industrialized nations?
"How can it be done when the top 1 percent (of Americans) earn more than the bottom 33 percent - 400 times as much?"
King issued a stern admonition to the 5,000 in attendance saying, "There comes a time when we must take a position our consciences tell us, even when the outcome isn't certain."
He pointed to the presidential election as a sign of progress.
"I wonder what my dad and mom are thinking today," King said. "I'm sure they're smiling down on us."
But even so, he repeated, "Their work isn't done." It's up to us to continue it.
Attendees committed to invest in solutions and programs that increase economic opportunities and reduce poverty in the state.
"Fighting poverty and helping families who are facing economic crisis is critical to improve Michigan's economy," Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm told summit participants. "Together, we can ensure that, as Michigan's economy recovers, our citizens are not left behind."
About 37 million Americans live in poverty, including 13 million children. In Michigan, one out of five people lives in or near poverty, including 500,000 children.
"Your Voice Matters"
Donna Beegle, a highly-sought national speaker and author of "See Poverty, Be the Difference," continued a sequence of training and discussion she started during the morning session of the Voices for Action Poverty Summit.
Beegle comes from multigenerational poverty where most family members are illiterate.
"I grew up in deep poverty," she said. "That teaches you no one cares. Everyone seems smarter; you understand they must be better than me; and you learn there is no one to help."
Why don't people care about poverty? Beegle says a lot of things contribute. She said systems keep people down just as much as circumstances and related a case in Arizona where prisoners exiting the system, who have a prison identification card, cannot use it to acquire a driver's license.
"Where do they teach poverty?" she asked. "They don't teach it in school. But what do you learn in history? If we don't know our history, what happens? We repeat it."
She also cited public sector programs for contributing to the ignorance on poverty.
"Far too often, programs and policies are developed without input from those living it. Two-thirds of the parents living in poverty work 1.7 jobs.
"Who are we setting up for success? If policies don't serve, they're not good policies."
Beegle told a story about life at home, where work hours were long and money was short.
"Dad would go out and work all week very hard and come home with a handful of money," she said. "He'd turn to mom and say, 'Should I give all this to the landlord or do you want some for groceries?'"
She said her four brothers learned the lesson of poverty. "They learn real quick - even if you work real hard, you won't make it."
Beegle is enthused by today's event, saying she has more hope today than ever.
"We need a new paradigm," she said. "We need to stand in awe of people in poverty.
"It's the summit today that can set up a system for authentic improvement," she said. "We have all the stakeholders: people living it, people working it, businesses serving it.
"We need to take a NASA attitude: failure is not an option."
Donna Beegle: Money spent on Hannah, Disney could provide healthcare for U.S. children
Donna Beegle knows a thing or two about poverty. She was born into a family stuck in poverty for generations. She dropped out of school at the age of 15 and is the only member of her family who has not been incarcerated. At 25 she set out to become an advocate for those living in poverty. She has now earned a GED, associates, bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees and is a national expert on poverty.
Beegle addressed several hundred summit attendees in a morning session in which she shared her personal story and emphasized the importance that those living in poverty not feel ashamed of their struggle.
"Personality is not the cause of poverty," Dr. Beegle said. "There are real causes for poverty and personality is not one of them."
She went on to emphasize that there is not a lack of money in the United States, but instead a lack of priorities. She shared that last year, Americans spent $33 billion on pet toys and supplies and $26 billion on Hannah Montana, High School Musical and Disney princess merchandise. These combined amounts, $59 billion, represent enough money to provide healthcare for every child in America for five years.
Beegle concluded her morning remarks by emphasizing that poverty is not solely the problem of those struggling with it themselves. We all live in an interconnected society and it is in the best interest of every community member to fight to eradicate poverty.
Source: www.michigan.gov/poverty. Go to www.tncp.net for a video of the event.
Click here for the all of the videos from the Poverty Summit