A campaign by the New York State Community Action Association to change perceptions of poverty was launched last week in Albany. The "From Poverty to Opportunity Tour 2014" is running in conjunction with a series of speaking events around the state that will feature people sharing personal stories of their experience of poverty.
Karla Digirolamo, CEO of the New York State Community Action Association put together the anti-poverty tour to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Economic Opportunity Act or as it's more commonly known, President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty.
“We think it’s really important that we sort of confront the myths of who poor people are and that we wanna see their faces and we want to hear their voices.”
She says it’s become all too common for people to blame those at the bottom of the economic ladder for their circumstances.
“If you are responsible for being poor then you should just stand up and get un-poor, and that way I can distance myself and I don’t have to help you because I’m not responsible. And so I think it really is a very selfish and self-centered way to say, I don’t have to worry about this. I’ve got mine and if you worked hard like me you would get yours.”
That’s why personal accounts of poverty will be such a big part of this anti-poverty campaign.
The Poverty to Opportunity kick-off event included an impassioned key note address from Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby.
She says Americans need to have a serious conversation about work and wages and how they affect the necessity for a social safety net.
“The folks at the bottom are desperate and so they take whatever they can get and are grateful for it. The fact is that when wages keep you in poverty, that’s wrong. That’s just plain wrong.”
While the anti-poverty tour is unaffiliated and apolitical the group hopes it will spark challenging conversations about inequality, especially in an election year.
To find out the exact stops and speakers on the New York State Community Action Association’s anti-poverty tour visit their website at nyscommunityaction.org.