Being Thankful: Life Back Then and the Complexity of Now

So much has changed over the years. I can remember Thanksgiving celebrations reflected more of an inner rest from a year of very hard work trying to make ends meet up with other ends.  Considering family economics as a dynamic to determine whether it was worth celebrating or not, was cast an intrusion upon what it meant to be family. Everyone chipped in. There were pies and cakes, potato salad and collard greens. Then there was turkey and stuffing and laughter and prayers of thankfulness.

There was something incalculable about hard work and a commitment to a set of values that held at bay really tough times. Thanksgiving celebration was a time to express real gratefulness. It was not about the amount of money made, or not made over a year’s time, but about the quality of the effort to make it.

Public policies back then took advantage of the demand for products and services at the end of World War II with veterans flooding the marketplace. Yet, there were few who paid attention to the thousands that were rural, colored and female and poor- their numbers were staggering. They did not bask in the new America that was finally enjoying a bounty created by a bustling economy. Yet, when it was time to give thanks, they did just that. Food, shelter and clothing were debatable legislative matters that had not yet been figured out. The complexity of poverty was taking form out of the view of those gaining power. It was charting a course for America that with fierce disdain, cast the poor as her worse nightmare to be banished from its shores.

The poor back then refused to be marginalized. They had little as evidence that they were citizens of a democracy that believed in God’s order of humanity- “created equal”, but what they did understand was that the same God that spoke into existence the universe, with its magnificence of galaxies and stars and the sun- flinging it against a barren and dark sky, did so to enlighten a single world of a “single” people created in one image.

Thanksgiving is a celebration of this understanding. The poor, as it was back then, are still with us now. The difference presents a compelling case for action. Poverty has become more complex. Neighbors no longer share cups of sugar or bags of flour. Treks to the corner store at the nearest market cost more than the groceries swiped then bagged and carried. Black birds don’t seem to gather like they use to and home grown pork and sausage along side fresh eggs from a coup in the back yard account little for the demand that exist.

So much has changed since Thanksgiving back then and then again, so much remains the same. Neighbors still face food insecurities and the need to move the poor out of poverty into self sufficiency has never been more urgent. While most of us are enjoying a meal fit for an American, let us be reminded that there are others sitting  patiently hoping that this Thanksgiving, someone remembers they too, are American.

 

 

 

So Much Time In Between – Too Much, That Is

The last time I blogged, has been too long. My challenge has been with my online work.  Launching a blog is more complex than I had imagined. There are technical declarations needed to ensure there are not interruptions.  Now, continues the task of changing the status of my online work to that of a blogger. I applaud Google and Internet providers for safe guarding the exchange of information across cyberspace. In my case, I have provided them the information requested to ensure them I am a blogger, now, all it takes is a “little” more time for them to iron out the wrinkles made with my daily blogging to all of you.

Nonetheless, I remain as passionate about advocating for the poor as I ever have. The number of bills passed, blogs written, talk shows hosted and everyday people talking about all of this, since I last blogged, have been many. Since that time I’ve also seen too much, read too many op eds and heard too many stories that contradict the reality of survival in poverty. The monthly aid, food stamps, health care and habits of daily living by some, adds to the legislation and conversations that continue to be had but it does not change a simple reality… the poor will always be with us. The larger question is how to balance spirited conversations that have led to disheartening legislation while the poor seek survival without shelter.

As I prepare to relaunch my daily blog, there is one theme for sure; the poor is still in needs of a compassionate constituency. Why? The times are not kind to those who depend on assistance.

Keep checking County impact for the next blog- if it’s not in your Inbox- join me  “on site’- www.countyimpact.com! In the meantime- keep advocating for the poor!

 

Cutting Food Stamps to Low Income Families: Feeding the Poor Has Just Got More Complicated-1.7 Million Will Need Our Help

The news that 1.7 million North Carolinians will see a cut to their food assistance is alarming. North Carolina already ranks among the top 15 states for food insufficiency adding to this mix, the dramatic cuts to other family needs, places low-income families in a predicament that is unsettling.

How do families already struggling to make ends meet survive substantial cuts to basic human needs? The notion that if you cut their unemployment benefits, decrease the number of eligible weeks, make cuts to Head Start, employ dramatic social service qualification standards while at the same time negotiating marijuana as a viable “medical option” and restricting voter rights, should somehow inspire” the poor to promote personal self-sufficiency while both hungry and in need of medical care that the state leadership opposes and has rejected, is difficult to understand.

The belief that the poor are poor “on purpose” is mind boggling. The poor would have to have tremendous political clout, long-standing relationships with capital outlets wielding tremendous power and access to brokers of information and public policy giving them favorable nods  by pushing their agenda. The poor have access to neither. Their collective will go unnoticed and no matter how hard they work to “rebrand” themselves; this too takes incredible power and access to mediums of public policy, private intent and outlets of media sources wielding their influence. It takes intentionality of the powerful to do such a thing.  This is when accountability can be applied and appropriately. The poor can dream a dream and actually stand a chance of it coming true. They  commit to bettering themselves and their families ending generational poverty and life on public supports.

But, to say all persons are due a decent human right to chase dreams and then cast blocks that make them stumble or build systems that are insurmountable, is just not fair. It contradicts intent thereby annuls the offer to help rid people of poverty. You cannot continue to enact laws that disproportionately harm the poor and dress it up as a need to be fiscally accountable with that accountability being defined according to a party’s platform and not according to human need.

Understood are very basic principles. In times of fiscal challenge, great care must be taken to “protect” the poor. Why? It becomes too easy not too. They lack political power, and fiscal might. They are least capable of defending their interest. Therefore, the tendency to cut, dissolve or minimize their survival needs is exercised with little pause. Their needs are labor intensive, strategically intentional and requires advocates on both sides of the aisle to see them first as living, breathing beings. Observations from any other perspective have a creative force that’s lopsided, prepped to be toppled- over and beyond what can be a balanced approach to personal accountability and self-sufficiency.

To cut food aid to poor families is not the way to balance budgets or use them as fodder in political exercises to get legislation passed- kicking them down a field of sorts, so a particular party can score. Food is a necessary substance. It is life. No one with a clear conscience can take already fragile frames that the poor have to work within, and diminish its strength without considering its impact, and then expect their performance to move them off of public support into self –sufficient.

Now is the time for a collective voice to be raised opposing legislation that targets cuts to food.  Having access to “enough” food on a daily basis, is not a Democratic or Republican right, it is a human right. Families expect more of a democracy that has beckoned its tired and poor and disenfranchised to its teeming shores, promising refuge while figuring out all the complexity of all the other semantics of survival.

Grappling with the Potential of HB589:Voter Suppression Bill in North Carolina General Assembly Theatens the Voting Rights of Black and Brown People

Below is an article by Scott Keyes of “Think Progress” that was written a couple of days ago. It captures the temper of the North Carolina General Assembly on voting rights. If you have not been following the language, the conversation, the debate or the potential impact of HB589, this is an URGENT read.

Please contact your state and federal representative opposing this repressive voter bill that targets black and brown people, as well as the young and the elderly. Record numbers of nontraditional voters have been voting over the past two Presidential elections and there is a concerted effort, to “restore” denial and the apathy in voting that has plagued communities of color, in particular, historically. The present is never the time to exclude groups of people from a fundamental right…the right to vote.

If you have never taken a stand to protect voting rights, now is the time to do so. By contacting your elected representatives and  making it a priority to follow HB589 is an imperative.

North Carolina On Cusp Of Passing Worst Voter Suppression Bill In The Nation

Voting in North Carolina may soon change, much in the same way a wrecking ball changes a building.

The highly-conservative North Carolina legislature just released a new voter suppression bill that would enact not just voter ID, but a host of other new initiatives designed to make it more difficult to vote. A significant roadblock to the legislation was removed last month when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, making it easier for states with a history of racial discrimination like North Carolina to enact new voter suppression laws.

The Senate will consider substituted language for HB 589 on Tuesday afternoon. Among the dozens of changes, these are the most onerous for North Carolina voters:

 ·         Implementing a strict voter ID requirement that bars citizens who don’t have a proper photo ID from casting a ballot.

·         Eliminating same-day voter registration, which allowed residents to register at the polls.

·         Cutting early voting by a full week.

·         Increasing the influence of money in elections by raising the maximum campaign contribution to $5,000 and increasing the limit every two years.

·         Making it easier for voter suppression groups like True The Vote to challenge any voter who they think may be ineligible by requiring that challengers simply be registered in the same county, rather than precinct, of those they challenge.

·         Vastly increasing the number of “poll observers” and increasing what they’re permitted to do

·         Only permitting citizens to vote in their specific precinct, rather than casting a ballot in any nearby ward or election district. This can lead to widespread confusion, particularly in urban areas where many precincts can often be housed in the same building.

·         Barring young adults from pre-registering as 16- and 17-year-olds, which is permitted by current law, and repealing a state directive that high schools conduct voter registration drives in order to boost turnout among young voters.

·         Prohibiting some types of paid voter registration drives, which tend to register poor and minority citizens.

·         Dismantling three state public financing programs, including the landmark program that funded judicial elections.

·         Weakening disclosure requirements for outside spending groups.

·         Preventing counties from extending polling hours in the event of long lines or other extraordinary circumstances and making it more difficult for them to accommodate elderly or disabled voters with satellite polling sites at nursing homes, for instance.

Each of these changes, on their own, would be a significant step away from increasing voting rights. Taken together, this is the voter suppression magnum opus.

Republicans currently hold strong majorities in both legislative houses and control the governorship, leaving Democrats with little recourse to block HB 589. In the last few weeks, Republicans have passed conservative legislation on a range of issues, from a major anti-choice bill to tax cuts for the rich paid for by the poor.

If passed, HB 589 will almost certainly have a disastrous impact on voting in North Carolina. As Ari Berman notes, 56 percent of North Carolinians voted early in 2012, including a disproportionate number of minorities. In addition, more than 155,000 voters registered to vote at the polls last year. And with 10 percent of North Carolinians — 613,000 people, a third of whom are black and half of whom are registered Democrats — lacking photo ID, it doesn’t take Encyclopedia Brown to figure out which party will be helped by HB 589.

In December, the Center for American Progress released a report detailing 11 specific pieces of legislation state lawmakers could enact to strengthen voting rights. This North Carolina bill is what you would get if you looked at that report, then did the exact opposite.

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/07/23/2340941/nc-voter-suppression/

A Woman’s Choice: The Real Choice to be Made is Whether Either Camp Can Move from Conflict to Collaboration; the Possibility of Hosting Real Dialogue to Create Communities of “Choice.”

When does a woman have the right of choice? As a Christian, wading through heated discussions around women’s rights and a woman’s right to choose, is a very unpleasant experience. On one hand, you have Christians who are adamant about the right of a woman having an abortion, as an “abomination.”  The argument is life begins at the moment of conception. Then you have women who believe in God as well, see as an extension of their faith, their “right” to decide.

A few days ago, a woman’s choice got even stickier. The North Carolina General assembly voted to restrict a woman’s right to choice. The NC Senate has proposed regulatory changes to abortion clinics. If passed, it would require them to meet new legislative requirements; clinics would have to be equipped as surgical units.

I too agree that life begins at conception. I also believe a woman should have the “right” to make her own choice. Legislating morality has and never will work.  The real choice to be made is whether either camp can move from conflict to collaboration; the possibility of hosting real dialogue to create communities of “choice.”

As a woman, the daughter of a single teen mom, and a resident in a community of persistent poverty, I see first-hand what happens when a young woman is faced with having or not having her baby. Poverty often masks the pain that is experienced. Just because she is poor doesn’t mean she pays less attention to what others think of her; she cares and cares deeply. The public humiliation that takes place is almost unbearable. When you see her or meet her, she puts on a determined demeanor that gives the appearance that she is careless and reckless with her body, when instead, she dies inside when she faces her family and community, but also her peers and more importantly, when she faces herself. She has to decide.  Her options are terrifying. Providing for the baby after being born is the toughest. If the real issue was simply deciding to have the baby, there would be no need for pro-life or pro-choice  movements. The larger issue is the aftermath; how does she care about a life that will demand and need so much?

When legislators agree to cut benefits a woman or young girl needs to make a “real” choice such as denying her health insurance benefits, cutting unemployment assistance and child-care subsidies to include the earned income tax credits, pass Voter ID bills – a potential barrier stymieing her political voice, and cuts to education, in particular, affecting younger children, it becomes difficult to promote pro-life, even if you believe in such.

Make no mistake about it, I believe in life, and I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I also believe both camps together, must issue a unifying demand of legislative acts, laws, that demonstrate an understanding of what is needed by women to make a real “choice.” Calling her names, cutting her support and denying her aid BECAUSE budgets are out of whack while at the same time pushing pro- life, confuses the whole matter. You cannot promote pro- life without also promoting community supports. Communities equipped with the resources a woman needs to carry, and then raise a baby to be a willful contributor to the community will place unprecedented demands on both movements-pro-life and pro-choice.

 

 

Celebrating the Fourth of July

Fourth of July celebration in communities across the nation varies. Some look forward to the first vacation of the year while others scramble to prep barbecue pits and grills to savor the mouthwatering delights and comfort foods of a cookout. However, there are also those who reflect on the trials of communities at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Blacks were slaves.

They recall the history of the Fourth and then consider the loss of life of their ancestors building the economic might of this country; working the fields and farmlands in America without the rights expressed in the Declaration. They also reflect, at this time of the year, upon their own personal sacrifices that helped make this country great in spite of human rights injustices, and then agree; they have every right to celebrate the Fourth of July.

70,000 and Counting: Pray Today for the 70,000 Jobless North Carolinians and Their Families Whose Federal Unemployment Benefits End Today

 Today is Sunday. Legislative acts in the first few weeks of the newly controlled NC legislature defined the temperament of today. It was then; the track was laid to redefine what it means to be poor in North Carolina leading to the dismantling of unemployment benefits for 70,000 North Carolinians today, with another 100,000 in December. A record high of 170,000 citizens face a tomorrow they cannot define. The stories of already fragile lives being challenged to the brink of economic cliffs in homes across the state tear at the core of life. How do families provide when 4 million are unemployed vying for an estimated 1.4 million jobs? Doing the math becomes a simple assignment; mixed with those who can and do not work, are overwhelming numbers of those who can and want to work but cannot find work.

And what about rural communities and those with a history of persistent poverty? What is to be said in cases such as this? Luring businesses in communities where challenges have been persistent and where the generations have failed to swing the balance of poverty to prosperity, takes more than declarations of reform that punish those already living under the weight of poverty. It takes an administration dismantling poverty from all angles.

Asserting legislative might into the cause of poverty and a legislative will into reconfiguring public policy that thwart’s its persistence is the argument needing teems to hover over while local accountability is never dismissed. No one wants to live under the weight of poverty. It robs communities of potential, and it leaves empty spaces in residences that should be full of vision. Denying the poor aid does little to solve the real problem no matter how frustrating it can be.

In lieu of a plan to combat the loss of unemployment benefits in communities over the next few weeks, all of us can join in a simple act of caring. Hope is a priceless commodity. None of us know how families will survive, but what we do know is that they will. When neighbor upon neighbor from communities of all sizes and demographics from urban to rural remember the needs of neighbors, it can inspire hope. Hope too is an energy that can be detected in the worse of situations and in the direst of circumstances.  The adage if you see a need, then fill it…consider your neighbor. If you can help, please do. All hands are really needed on deck for this one; your ideas, fixing an extra meal, and if you’re employed, helping others figure things out, along with remembering them in your prayers.

Places of worship are the best places to be today. When your pastor or worship leader asks if there are prayer needs, please be reminded that your neighbor could be one of the 70, 000 today and one of the 100, 000 in December. Say a prayer for them and their families. Pray today they never give up on hope.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/search_results/nc%20unemployment%20insurance%20ends#storylink=cpy-

 

 

 

 

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