The Poverty Report
Urban poverty affects too many people to ignore. Weave blogger Steve Peraza is exploring the problem's many dimensions and thinking through possible ways to solve it.
|Feb 26 2010||Follow the Movement...|
In 1948 the United States signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The document represents an international effort to define the relationship of nation-states to their citizenries; that is, to set a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.” Among these are articles related to “economic human rights,” as specified in Articles 23, 25, and 26 (cited below):
|Feb 23 2010||Addressing Causes not Consequences|
Urban poverty is a structural problem, not a personal one. And a city’s failing schools, violent crime, and poor health indices are all consequences of poverty, not causes. This much Karen Heller of the Philadelphia Inquirer got right. Her column last week was a much needed invective against attempts to treat the symptoms of poverty but not the disease itself.
Unfortunately the medicine she prescribed to poverty-stricken Philadelphia couldn’t fight a cold. Her recommendation: Improve parenting. The logic is as follows: If kids stop having kids, and parents work harder to improve their families, then students will not only go to school but also get better grades, and there will be fewer hoodlums roaming the streets looking for trouble.
If only I had a dollar for every time I heard poor families get blamed for perpetuating poverty!
|Feb 20 2010||Touring the 'Hood|
On January 16th L.A. Gang Tours made its first trip through the ganglands of South-Central Los Angeles with a busload of tourists seeking insights into the netherworlds of America’s most notorious street gangs. Yesterday, February 20th, the company took its second sold-out tour of the “‘hood.” Given the success of the first two trips, and the likelihood that the third scheduled for March 6th will follow suit, it is probably as good a time as ever to consider the advantages and disadvantages of this business as a strategy to alleviate poverty in the low-income, crime-riddled inner city of Los Angeles, California. While I understand why critics see L.A. Gang Tours as an effort to glorify gang violence, drug wars, and the poverty that underlies them, I contend that the good outweighs the bad. That is, the company is creating economic opportunities where there previously were none, and are converting profits into educational and entrepreneurial programs to improve the inner city communities that they tour.
|Feb 08 2010||History as an Underreported Story (Part III)|
When I began this blog I knew very little about urban poverty. In fact that was the challenge. It was one thing to experience poverty growing up; quite another to treat it as an intellectual, academic problem. And I promised myself to learn the issue, study it, and keep a web log to chart my journey. The idea was that others could learn with me, perhaps teach me along the way.
With that said I’ve tried to answer two questions. First, what are people currently saying about poverty in the news? Second, what have historians said about poverty throughout American history? In the blog I’ve mainly addressed the first question, because America needs change more than it needs a poverty historiography. Poverty is a problem for millions of Americans in the *present*. By reporting on current issues I feel we can transform our awareness into informed decisions about how we organize and mobilize, what solutions we propose, and who we entrust with our votes when poverty-related policies hang in the balance.
|Feb 04 2010||Yuppie Food Stamps|
Do you remember your first credit card? I remember mine. It was a grey, black, and red MBNA Master Card with a $1,000 limit. It felt like gold in my wallet…
I got it way back in ’97, when Guess jeans were in and every dude in the ‘hood had to have the beef’n’broccoli Timbs. I was sixteen with no job and no sense – so your boy put his Master Card to work. In no time I was in debt. Deep in debt. I bought whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. New discman. New beeper. New cds. A nice little necklace for my high school sweetheart. Dates at the movies, the ice skating rink, the steakhouse. Truth be told, it was one of the best months of my life.
|Jan 27 2010||History as an Underreported Story (Part II)|
To my mind journalists too often eschew the past in their reports. In so doing the current issues and events that they write about enter the public domain as if they had no antecedents, no context within which they developed—no historical contingency.
I feel the problem acutely when I write about urban poverty. I often try to raise awareness of the struggles of the poor in America’s cities. So I comment on food, clothing, and shelter, as well as employment and the cultural representations of the poor in the news. Rarely, however, do I bring up the history of poverty in America; not one of my posts has been about how the poor have gotten to where they are today. I’m not even sure that I’d even know where to begin…
|Jan 26 2010||History as an Underreported Story (Part I)|
In more than a few history seminars I’ve heard the claim that “Journalism is the first draft of history.” This is in fact a much distilled version of the idea from which it came. Speaking to Newsweek magazine’s overseas correspondents in 1963, Philip Graham, former publisher of the Washington Post, delivered the now clichéd remark. His exact words were: “So let us drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of history that will never be completed about a world we can never understand.”
What bedeviled journalists, Graham thought, were their attempts to explain a world in motion; that is, to write about present phenomena without the benefits of hindsight. In the race to publish a story journalists could *only* write a “first rough draft of history” and then move on. The rest was for the historian, for whom the journalist left traces of the past. Indeed newspaper and magazine accounts offer historians at least two insights, a view of the phenomenon under investigation, and the perspective of at least one witness.
|Jan 18 2010||Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution|
One of my intellectual and spiritual inspirations has been, and will continue to be, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. To my mind the best way to commemorate him is to revisit and reflect upon his words, some of which speak directly to issues this blog attempts to address. Below is an excerpt from Dr. King’s sermon, “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution,”
which he delivered before the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on March 31, 1968, less than a week before his life was taken:
".…I remember some years ago Mrs. King and I journeyed to that great country known as India. And I never will forget the experience. It was a marvelous experience to meet and talk with the great leaders of India, to meet and talk with and to speak to thousands and thousands of people all over that vast country. These experiences will remain dear to me as long as the cords of memory shall lengthen.
|Jan 12 2010||The Sunny Acres Controversy|
Let me propose a scenario:
You’re a juror in a county court. In the case that you’re deliberating the county is prosecuting a local resident who willingly provides shelter to the county’s rapidly growing homeless population. According to the sheriff’s department several residents have complained about the crowds on the defendant’s property, reporting public intoxication, theft, battery, and disturbing the peace, among other problems. Additionally county officials have cited several housing code violations like missing fire detectors, faulty wiring, and flammable sheds used as bedrooms for the poor. Would you convict this man of a crime?
|Dec 20 2009||Murder on the Upper West Side|
Early in the afternoon last Thursday (12/17) New York City's 20th Precinct responded to a triple homicide on Amsterdam Avenue between 83rd and 84th Streets. The details were grizzly: A gunman armed with a .380 caliber pistol shot and killed three family-related men in a third floor apartment. The gunman himself died, adding a fourth body to the crime scene. He apparently tried to escape out of an apartment window but fell three stories to his death in a backyard alleyway. The New York Times headline read, "Four Men Dead in West Side Shootings."