Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. kicked-off the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund 41st Annual Conference with the Pathways Out of Poverty Summit lead by community leaders from the Woodstock Institute, Institute of Agriculture Trade Policy, American Baptist Home Mission Society, Campaign for Better Health Care and Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County (CEDA).
The group announced the creation of a task force that will grapple with the issues of unemployment, housing, healthcare and food insecurity while constructing comprehensive solutions to stem expanding poverty in minority communities.
“A record number of Americans are currently living in poverty,” said Rev. Jackson. Approximately 46.2 million Americans lived in poverty last year. America’s middle and working class families and the poor are in a state of emergency. As people of conscience, we seek the moral center. We must ask ourselves: Isn't it time for a new War on Poverty, a new New Deal, a new Great Society plan similar to LBJ's? Dr. King's cry for a Poor People's Campaign has come full circle. We must demand that our political leaders take heed.”
According to a recent report in the City of Chicago, the rate of food insecurity is 20.6%; in suburban Cook County, 15.4%; 845,910 individuals in Cook County are food insecure, uncertain where they will find their next meal.
LaDonna Redmond, food and justice senior program associate for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, expressed her frustration about not being able to find fresh and affordable food in her Westside neighborhood. “Not being able to find healthy food has led me to really understand that it’s easier to get a semiautomatic weapon in my community than it is to get a tomato. What we need is a comprehensive plan to get food and jobs to people in our community. It’s one of the things that are missing in U.S. policy.”
Representative from the Woodstock Institute, a leading nonprofit research and policy organization in the areas of fair lending, wealth creation, and financial systems reform, presented information regarding communities of color and the importance of being able to safely borrow money, save, and build wealth in order to achieve economic security and community prosperity.
“The average amount of equity in predominately white communities is about $100,000 per home,” said Tom Feltner, vice-president for the Woodstock Institute. “In African-American communities it is just $6,000. We need federal policies to reduce principles and keep borrowers in their homes and make sure we can stabilize communities and stabilize housing values.”
The Washington Post recently reported that for blacks, the picture since the recession has been particularly grim. They disproportionately held subprime mortgages during the housing boom and are facing foreclosure in huge numbers. That is raising fears among consumer advocates, academics and federal regulators that the credit scores of black Americans have been systematically damaged, haunting their financial futures.
“When you look at poverty you look at all the needs of the family,” said Patricia Doherty-Wildner, executive vice-president for CEDA. “You have to take a look at the entire family from pregnancy all the way to seniors. Poverty is beyond just one issue. It touches the entire family.”
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity. The organization is headquartered at 930 E. 50th St. in Chicago. For more information about the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, please visit http://www.rainbowpush.org or call (773) 373-3366