Joann Castle | 0616/18
A Report from People’s Action, 6/11/18: “A new U.N. report says the United States has the highest income inequality of all Western nations. On the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy, we remember his words on the role of government in ending poverty.
“I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil. Government belongs wherever evil needs an adversary and there are people in distress.” – Robert F. Kennedy.
“Today, 40 million Americans live in poverty; 13.3 million of these are children.”
THIS PAST SUNDAY MORNING, The Detroit Free Press, 7/10/18, ran a front page story by John Gallagher, on barriers to work for Detroit residents: “In the city of Detroit, 53.4% of working-age residents aren’t even looking for a job…Detroit has the lowest workforce participation rate in the nation… a symptom of poverty and poor education attainment.”
It’s not that there are no jobs, Gallagher says, but our disenfranchised communities of color do not have the education, the skills or adequate transportation to participate in the job market. Sometimes it’s lack of child care or elder care. Sometimes young men have been incarcerated and employers are not willing to give them a second chance. Many of these folks want to work but they can’t get hired. There are many reasons for this disparity. Most are related to continuing racism in Metro Detroit, which hasn’t changed much in the last half-century.
Many folks are talking about Detroit’s rising but we need to look at the full picture including the impact of gentrification in poverty stricken communities. There is a greater disparity in wealth in our city now than there was in 1967, during a similar effort for urban renewal. The outcome of that short-sighted change and the rebellious response by the black community caught many people by surprise, especially the mayor. I can’t imagine what the new welfare work requirement will do to folks who want to work but can’t get hired.
As citizens of privilege, who benefit from the services provided by our local government, we have an obligation to people in our communities to assure that essential services are available to those who are still fighting for full citizenship in our society.
In my new book, WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING, I analyze lessons learned from my early activism, consider our present conditions and seek to inspire young activists to get involved. “We live in the midst of a great struggle between those who control our resources and those who have essential needs but lack the power to attain them… From the ground up, we need to be an army at work demanding and participating in efforts to improve life in our neighborhoods.”
Lessons Learned from my book offer positive steps to improving your community:
Step 1: Get involved. You live there-take an active interest in your community. Understand the issues your neighbors are facing and stand up for those who are in need of support. Your community rises or falls in relation to the involvement of those who live or work there.
Step 2: Vote and encourage others to do so. If your community wants power from the ground up, VOTE in the August primaries and the November midterms. Local election participation helps communities.
Step 3: Dialogue. Share your community building ideas with others in a newsletter or a blog. Perhaps your group can be a model for other communities to learn from. Protect your most vulnerable citizens.
Step 4: Coalition building. There is a critical need for coalition building across all strata of society, but none is more crucial than between different racial and ethnic communities. America is more segregated than in the 1960s. We’ve grown estranged from one another, making it all the easier for the things that divide us to settle into the gaps between us.
Step 5: Partner Up: Establish alliances with communities unlike yours and learn to understand each other. Many colleges, libraries, churches and cultural institutions offer opportunities to connect.
Step 6: Turn the Negative into a Positive: Stop complaining and focus on small things that can move your community forward.
If anyone would like to guest blog on my site to share positive things going on in your community, please reply at the top of this blog.
WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist by Joann Castle is available for order on line at Amazon.com and The Seattle Book Company. Also available in Detroit at SOURCE Booksellers, Pages Bookshop and Bookbeat in Oak Park. In Seattle, at Third Place Books, Elliott Bay Book Company and Left Bank Books on Pike Street, across from Pike Place Market. Ask your local book seller to order it from Ingram.