Remaking Marginalized Communities

Remaking Marginalized Communities - Brittany Thomasson...

Info iconThis preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: Brittany Thomasson Poverty can be about place as much as about people. 94 Chapter 3 I Bread for the World Institute Chapter 3 Remaking Marginalized Communities into Gateways of Opportunity IN TIMES OF HARDSHIP, PEOPLE TURN TO THEIR NEIGHBORS FOR HELP. It’s the very essence of community. In healthy communities, networks of friends, family, and neighbors are assets that individuals can lean on for advice when times get tough or for help in finding jobs and advancing their careers. But networks don’t function this way in communities where unemployment is the rule and most people are struggling. The disadvantages of living in a poor community pile up in configurations that analysts with little experience in such places have a hard time seeing and understanding. Policy solutions frequently miss the mark because they aren’t designed to deal with problems that affect a community as a whole. For example, when policymakers look for ways to reduce poverty, it’s easy to see only problems within the household. Not enough food in the home? Enroll the family in nutrition programs. Jobs don’t pay enough? Apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Too poor to afford health insurance? Get on Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). But none of these solutions gets to the heart of the daily barriers that confront families in high-poverty communities. A poorly educated child is rarely an isolated case; groups of poorly educated children attend underperforming schools fourths of all children drop out of high school.1 Detroit’s problems are legion. Joblessness, crime, substance abuse, broken families, substandard housing, food insecurity, and poor health: these are all common in high-poverty communities. I A Just and Sustainable Recovery 95 Brittany Thomasson in neighborhoods with a host of other problems. In Detroit, for example, three- Mark Fenton Missing the Mark In poor communities, healthy alternatives to cheap junk foods are hard to come by. 96 Chapter 3 I Bread for the World Institute Poor and Left Behind Figure 3.1 High-poverty Census Tracts in Metropolitan Areas, 1970-1990 No. of tracts with 40%+ poverty 3000 2726 1970 2500 1980 2000 1990 1767 1500 1177 1000 890 555 576 500 | Total U.S. 672 625 460 215 164 0 1021 | East 126 127 | Midwest | South 234 | West Source: Jargowsky, Brookings Institution, 2003. I A Just and Sustainable Recovery 97 Richard Lord The casinos of Atlantic City, shown in the background, have had little effect on reducing persistent poverty in neighborhoods nearby. 98 Chapter 3 I Bread for the World Institute Lessons Learned BOX 3.1 SEEDS OF HOPE IN PERRY COUNTY 15-minute call-in show, “Body Love,” that she hosts on a local station, she takes calls from listeners and dispenses information about preventive health care and good eating habits. Callers ask her questions about anything from how to read food labels to how to cook soul food in more healthful ways. In one exchange, she encouraged a caller to try baking her catfish instead of frying it and asked her to call back next week to report to other listeners on how it tasted and whether the seasoning stood up as well as Ford said it would. In another, she invited listeners to join her in a group fitness walk or to drop by the clinic for free blood pressure screenings. CBF Frances Ford is determined not to let Perry County, AL, go without health care. A registered nurse, Ford lives in Marion, the county seat, where she grew up. She attended local Judson College, as did her daughter. In 2001, Ford left her job at a hospital in Selma, an hour away by car, to work for the Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as the coordinator of its Sewing Seeds of Hope project in Perry County. Sewing Seeds of Hope is part of the Together for Hope effort, which operates in some of the poorest counties in the United States, all of them rural places like Perry County, places where hope has been hard to come by. With the Sewing Seeds of Hope project, Ford is able to connect her professional skills with her faith to serve the community she loves. One nurse by herself can’t make up for the loss of Perry County’s only hospital, but Ford knows the people in her community, and they know her, which multiplies her effectiveness in ways that may be impossible to quantify. Based on her own back-of-the-envelope estimates, she believes she touches 7,000–8,000 people per year with her nursing skills, advising and cajoling people to take care of themselves. Ford says that if each year she helps to prevent just two diabetes patients from entering end-stage renal failure, the Sewing Seeds of Hope project has paid for itself. End-stage renal failure entails costs for hospitalization, medications, and any complications. That’s in addition to dialysis, which can cost more than $100,000 per year per person. Ford conducts health fairs and, less formally, talks about the importance of diet and exercise with everybody she sees. At the clinic she runs in Marion, she screens patients for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, helps them get the medication they need, and helps people arrange transportation to visit specialists in Selma or further away. Ever since she started working for Sewing Seeds of Hope, Ford has been lobbying local, state, and federal officials to open a dialysis treatment center in the county. One of her most ingenious efforts so far has been to use the radio to reach members of the community. In the Frances Ford of the Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in summer 2009. Overall, Ford thinks she has been successful in convincing people to start taking their health seriously. After visiting Ford’s clinic, one woman told her doctor (one of Perry County’s three family practitioners) that she wanted a colonoscopy because she had turned 50 and Ms. Ford said people of that age should get a colonoscopy as a preventive measure. The doctor told her she didn’t need the procedure because she wasn’t having any problems, but the patient responded that her father had died of cancer, she had seen what that was like, and she didn’t care to wait for trouble to start. I A Just and Sustainable Recovery 99 Figure 3.2 High-Poverty Neighborhoods and High-Poverty Neighborhood Population, U.S. Metropolitan Areas, 1970-2000 High Poverty Neighborhoods 9,000 3,000 8,000 7,000 2,500 6,000 2,000 5,000 1,500 4,000 3,000 1,000 2,000 500 1,000 0 1970 I High-Poverty Neighborhoods 1980 1990 Source: The Bookings Institution. I 0 High-Poverty Neighborhood Population (thousands) Based on metropolitan areas as defined in year of census. 100 Chapter 3 2000 Bread for the World Institute High Poverty Neighborhood Population (1000s) 3,500 iStock In earlier generations of public housing policy, high-rise estates contributed to the concentration of poverty. Getting Places: Transit-Oriented Development I A Just and Sustainable Recovery 101 BOX 3.2 THE HARLEM CHILDREN’S ZONE by Cristina Sepe Todd Post In a speech on urban poverty given by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, he described the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) in New York City as “an all-encompassing, all-hands-on-deck anti-poverty effort that is literally saving a generation of children in a neighborhood where they were never supposed to have a chance.” In Harlem, 61 percent of all children live below the poverty line. Because poverty is a disease that infects the entire community, Obama explained, “We can’t just treat those symptoms in isolation. We have to heal that entire community.” The HCZ serves more than 8,000 children and their families who live in a 97-block area, providing them with an interlocking system of education, social service and community-building programs from birth to post-college. Researchers Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer, from the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard, call the HCZ “arguably the most ambitious social experiment to alleviate poverty of our time.” Parents attend “Baby College” where they receive counseling on how to care for newborns and what to expect in the first months of parenthood. Early childhood 102 Chapter 3 I Bread for the World Institute education includes an all-day pre-kindergarten program with a 4:1 child-to-adult ratio. Quality child care is also provided, allowing parents to work and young children to socialize and learn during a critical development period. Innovative charter schools are supplemented with afterschool programs and summer programs. The HCZ also offers free preventive health services to help children stay healthy and medical services when they get sick. In addition, families gain access to affordable healthy food, job counselors, free tax assistance, technology training, and crime prevention. “Today our children in Harlem are doing better than they have ever done before,” said Geoffrey Canada, founder of the HCZ. Parents are reading to their children more frequently. All students in the HCZ’s pre-kindergarten program are school-ready. Almost all students tested are performing at or above grade level in math. African American students in the charter schools have practically eliminated the black-white achievement gap on standardized test results. The prospect of higher education is a reality for these children—in fact, 91 percent of 2008’s graduating seniors went on to college. Researchers Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer concluded in their study that the HCZ is enormously effective at increasing the achievement of the poorest minority children. Most school reform models attempt to lower racially- and ethnically-based student achievement gaps by quarantining the strongest students from the rest of the community. The HCZ takes a different approach, “contaminating” the community with hope to overcome despair, spreading effective practices, and engaging families through multiple local institutions. The HCZ acknowledges that “it is difficult, often impossible, to raise healthy children in a disintegrated community. Without local institutions that draw families and young people together around common interests and activities—religious, social, and recreational organizations; effective schools; safe and well-used public spaces—even the most heroic childrearing effort is likely to fail.” President Barack Obama requested $10 million in his budget to jumpstart his campaign promise to improve the lives of many more children living in poverty. He has proposed 20 “Promise Neighborhoods” across the country, modeled after the HCZ, that would target areas with high poverty and crime rates and low student achievement. But the HCZ model alone cannot transform public education. In 2008, the HCZ’s expenses for approximately 8,000 children were $40 million, funded through private contributions and government grants. The Promise Neighborhood initiative provides competitive one-year planning grants to nonprofit, communitybased organizations to support the development of plans for comprehensive neighborhood programs. Cities such as Baltimore, Boston, Charleston, Durham, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh are already preparing plans and building partnerships to compete for the federal money. “There’s no reason this program should stop at the end of those blocks in Harlem,” the president said. “It’s time to change the odds for neighborhoods all across America.” Rick Reinhard Cristina Sepe was an Emerson National Hunger Fellow through the Congressional Hunger Center in 2008-2009. She worked for part of her fellowship at Bread for the World. I A Just and Sustainable Recovery 103 Mass transit should be one of the lynchpins in the U.S. strategy to fight climate change. Figure 3.3 What Working Families* Spend on Housing and Transportation % Income Spent on Housing % Income Spent on Transportation 61% I 32% 29% 30% 27% 32% 30% 31% 29% 31% 25% 31% 33% 27% 28% 30% 31% 29% 27% 29% 28% 24% 24% 26% 29% 24% 31% 24% 23% 32% 31% 25% Miami, Fl Milwaukee, WI 55% Los Angeles, CA 59% Kansas City, MO-KS 59% Houston, TX 56% Honolulu, HI 56% Detroit, MI 56% Denver, CO 56% Dallas, TX 59% 30% Source: Center for Housing Policy, 2006, Center for Neighborhood Technology calculations. * Working familes are households with incomes between $20,000 and $50,000. 104 Chapter 3 57% Cleveland, OH 55% Cincinnati, OH 56% Chicago, IL 55% Boston, MA 59% Baltimore, MD 56% Atlanta, GA In 17 of the 28 areas, transportation costs are as high as or higher than housing costs. 60% Anchorage, AK Across the 28 metropolitan areas shown in the chart,the combined housingtransportation burden for working families averages around 57 percent of income. Bread for the World Institute 56% 56% 5% 31% 33% 27% 28% 1% 24% 23% 32% Houston, TX Kansas City, MO-KS Los Angeles, CA Honolulu, HI 6% 57% 56% 56% 57% 30% 30% 24% 29% 30% 33% 31% 28% 27% 30% 32% 33% 28% 30% 31% 25% 27% 32% 27% 27% 22% 28% 31% 35% 31% 23% 25% 32% 28% Miami, Fl Milwaukee, WI Minneapolis, MN New York, NY Philadelphia, PA Phoenix, AZ Pittsburgh, PA Portland, OR San Diego, CA San Francisco, CA Seattle, WA St. Louis, MO Tampa, FL Washington, DC Average of Met ropolitan Areas 59% 59% 55% 60% 54% 59% 63% 61% 55% I 58% 60% 57% A Just and Sustainable Recovery 105 Mark Fenton Figure 3.4 Cumulative Government Capital Investment in Transit and Highways Since 1956 Cumulative Capital Investment (millions 2006 dollars) $3,500,000 $3,000,000 $2,500,000 $2,000,000 $1,500,000 I Highways I Transit $1,000,000 $500,000 $0 Source: U.S. Congressional Budget Office, 2007. Hunger-Free: Community Food Security 106 Chapter 3 I Bread for the World Institute Mark Fenton Food pantries play a vital role in making sure communities remain hunger-free. I A Just and Sustainable Recovery 107 Jim Stipe Federal nutrition programs are finding ways to connect the people who rely on them with a healthy selection of foods. 108 Chapter 3 I Bread for the World Institute BOX 3.3 COMMUNITY FOOD SECURITY IN NEW ORLEANS When asked whether they had to travel miles to get to a grocery store, everyone at the Greater Little Zion Baptist Church in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward raised their hands. Access to nutritious food was a problem before Hurricane Katrina, and since then the number of supermarkets has decreased by half. “It’s ridiculous that I should have to go all the way uptown to buy groceries for myself and my daughter. This is an injustice,” says Jenga Mwendo, a longtime resident of the Lower Ninth Ward and organizer at the Lower Ninth Ward Urban Farming Coalition. The lack of access to affordable, healthy foods is a problem in many New Orleans neighborhoods, where it’s much easier to buy fast food than it is to find fresh fruit. Louisiana was ranked the least healthy state in the 2008 America’s Health Rankings report, in large part due to residents’ unhealthy diets. More than 60 percent of people in New Orleans are overweight, and one in three adults has been diagnosed with high blood pressure. People’s choices about the food they eat are influenced by their environment. For example, studies show that for every additional supermarket in a census tract, African American residents consume 32 percent more fruits and vegetables. New Orleans, like other urban areas across the country, has an extensive network of small food stores. A survey of low-income New Orleans residents found that most live within walking distance of a corner store, and they shop there an average of 14 times a month; these stores play a vital role in the food security of many families. Corner stores, however, tend to carry mostly snacks and drinks with low nutritional value. But because they are already present in most communities, partnering with corner stores can be a successful way to make healthy foods available to people. Store owners have indicated that if they know that customers will buy fresh produce, they would be willing to stock it. “Tell us what you want,” says Ray Khalaileh, the owner of Jimmy’s Grocery in the Bywater neighborhood, who recently expanded the selection of fruits and vegetables in his store. “Give us a chance to do something positive. If customers don’t tell us what they want, we don’t know.” Corner store owners, neighborhood and merchant associations, urban farmers’ groups, and public health institutions are beginning to work together in the city to make fresh produce available to more people. The city of New Orleans is introducing new grant and loan programs for fresh food retailers, and small food stores committed to selling fresh produce will be eligible for them. Hopefully, the community support and financial incentives will help overcome the barriers that keep some corner stores from selling produce. Access to nutritious and affordable food should be a basic right for all people. The reality is that many families in New Orleans find themselves in a barren food landscape. Where market forces do not ensure that healthy food is available, communities can take charge and change their neighborhood environment. Sarah Custer was a Congressional Hunger Fellow in 20082009. From September 2008 through February 2009, she was in New Orleans working on community food security in the Lower Ninth Ward. For the rest of the fellowship, she worked for the Alliance to End Hunger in Washington, DC. I A Just and Sustainable Recovery 109 Sarah Custer by Sarah Custer Rick Reinhard Career Builders: Community Colleges Community colleges are one way for people already in the workforce to gain new skills. 1 10 Chapter 3 I Bread for the World Institute Figure 3.5 Total Enrollment at Twoand Four-year Colleges By type of enrollment, 1970–2005 In millions 9.0 8.0 7.0 6.0 5.0 4.0 3.0 2.0 1.0 1970 1973 1976 1979 1982 1985 1988 1991 1994 1997 2000 2003 0.0 Fall of academic year Two-year full time Two-year par t time Four-year full time Four-year par t time Source: U.S. Department of Education, 2007. I A Just and Sustainable Recovery 1 11 Rick Reinhard On the Margins in Urban America: The South Bronx, New York City High poverty rates are a virtual guarantee of finding a high incidence of severe asthma. 112 Chapter 3 I Bread for the World Institute Todd Post Hunt’s Point neighborhood has some of the lowest air quality in the country. Green roofs, like this one, don’t need to be fancy to make buildings more energy efficient. I A Just and Sustainable Recovery 1 13 Todd Post Amilcar Laboy, a graduate of the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Program, now works at Sustainable South Bronx. 114 Chapter 3 I Bread for the World Institute Todd Post On the Margins in Rural America: Crow Creek Indian Reservation, South Dakota Ronda Hawk runs the Crow Creek Reservation Boys and Girls Club, a haven for hungry children in the community. I A Just and Sustainable Recovery 1 15 Todd Post Chauncey Long Crow lives on the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota. 116 Chapter 3 I Bread for the World Institute Figure 3.6 Percentage of Public Elementary/Secondary Students in High-Poverty Schools, by Race/Ethnicity and Locale, School Year 2006-07 Percent 50 47 46 40 35 33 33 30 26 24 20 18 25 18 10 10 4 27 9 2 3 0 White African American Latino American Indian/ Alaska Native Race/Ethnicity Total City Suburban Rural Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey,” 2006-07 Children and Their Communities I A Just and Sustainable Recovery 1 17 Rick Reinhard Key Points in Chapter 3 Two out of three black children born between 1985 and 2000 are growing up in a neighborhood with at least a 20 percent poverty rate. Transit-oriented development. Community food security. Community colleges. 118 Chapter 3 I Bread for the World Institute CENTRAL APPALACHIA: THE BACK STORY People in Eastern Kentucky are tired of being portrayed as uneducated hillbillies unable to help themselves. In February 2009, the ABC television show 20/20 nourished this ugly stereotype with an episode on the region. Not surprisingly, large numbers of local people were incensed, their indignation pouring out in letters to the editor in regional newspapers and on You Tube videos like the one by Bob Allen, a high school math teacher in a town mentioned in the program. Allen chided the reporter, Diane Sawyer, for lack of sufficient curiosity to hunt for something more original.1 At the end, he apologized sarcastically for not including subtitles while he spoke. In the 20/20 episode, subtitles were used when people from the region were talking, yet there was no one whose speech was unintelligible. In 1964, President Johnson launched the War on Poverty in Martin County in Eastern Kentucky. The photograph of Johnson kneeling on local resident Tom Fletcher’s porch with Fletcher and three of his children in the picture is an iconic image in the War on Poverty. The focus of the camera is on the two men, Johnson’s profile and Fletcher’s worn face with hardened lines and rotted teeth. Johnson picked Central Appalachia for a reason. The deep and persistent poverty here presented a challenge in which a metaphor like war probably felt like the right language. More than 40 years later, we still find 29 of the 100 poorest U.S. counties in Eastern Kentucky.2 Materially, conditions here are better than they were 45 years ago, but in all this time, little has changed to give local people more opportunities to escape poverty. King Coal Eastern Kentucky, like other impoverished areas of Central Appalachia, carries another association: coal mining. The 20/20 episode discussed coal mining but missed a chance to educate the public about the close relationship between the presence of coal and poverty. The documentary represented coal mining as one of the few economic opportunities available to young people in the region. That may be accurate, but it would have been helpful to relate why there are so few other options and how coal is implicated in perpetuating poverty in the region. Jeff Goodel, author of the book Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future, describes Central Appalachia as more like the Congo than the rest of the United States.3 This would seem to be an exaggeration until you grasp what the Congo and Central Appalachia have in common. Both have been plagued by what’s known as the “resource curse.” Vast natural resources have made a small group of people extremely rich and left most of the local population very poor. In Central Appalachia, the spoils have gone mostly to outsiders in the mining industry who share the wealth with elites who control state politics. But it’s not inevitable for places endowed with a bounty of natural resources to follow this path. Greed, and complicit policies that permit it to continue, explain why coal companies are allowed to harvest the mineral wealth without paying severance taxes on it. Had the coal companies been compelled to put a higher share of their profits back into the region, Eastern Kentucky might have some of the best schools in the nation; but as anyone familiar with the area knows, it didn’t work out this way. I A Just and Sustainable Recovery 1 19 CENTRAL APPALACHIA: THE BACK STORY Master Blasters Ken Kessinger Everyday, bombs go off somewhere in Central Appalachia. It’s the mining companies blowing the tops off mountains. For the coal companies, this is an efficient way to get to the coal. Like most jobs that used to require a strong back and powerful arms, advances in technology have eliminated much of the human labor in mine work. Mountains can be blown up to reach the coal seams underneath with fewer than 10 workers. Deep mining, where miners tunnel into the mountains for thousands of feet, is still done; but it requires many more workers to retrieve the coal, since the enormous earthmoving equipment used in mountain top removal (MTR) is impractical in deep mining. MTR has destroyed hundreds of mountains, wiped out millions of acres of forestland, and contaminated air, streams and drinking water as debris is dumped into streambeds. Mining has always been a hazardous occupation for miners; with MTR, whole communities are at risk. Mining companies have lobbied to weaken the legislation 120 Chapter 3 I Bread for the World Institute that requires them to clean up their sites, and they have succeeded. All of Kentucky’s lakes and rivers are under advisory for mercury contamination.4 Climate change legislation threatens the future of coal mining, because burning coal for electricity contributes to unsustainable amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. To avoid the worst-case scenarios of climate change projections, coal must be phased out and replaced by cleaner, renewable forms of energy. People living in Central Appalachia are, of course, concerned about what comes next. Not necessarily about how they will heat their homes and turn on the lights, but about what their local economy will look like once coal mining is gone. Coal companies, stoking this anxiety, have portrayed groups opposed to MTR as environmental extremists. But it doesn’t take an environmentalist to explain the case against coal. A study by the Institute of Health Policy Research at West Virginia University found that coal mining costs the Appalachian region five times more in early deaths than it provides in economic benefits.5 In Coal River Valley, West Virginia, the community is engaged in an epic struggle with Massey Energy, one of the largest coal companies in the country, which has a permit to blast 6,450 acres off the top of a mountain. A plan proposed by the community to build a wind farm on the mountain instead would generate 50 times more annual tax revenue and create more and better-paying jobs. Moreover, the wind farm could last indefinitely, whereas geological data show the mountain has less than 20 years of recoverable coal left. The county’s planning and zoning ordinance says that it will “protect the health, safety, and general welfare of the present and future population of Raleigh County; insure growth and development is economical and sound; encourage the conservation of natural resources and historical preservation.” Despite this, the community has struggled to get local elected officials to consider the wind-farm proposal. In the Hollows and Under Bridges In Floyd County, Kentucky, 60 residents of the same hollow stopped a mountain top removal project that had been planned adjacent to their homes. When Beverly May, who has a house in this hollow, first learned of the planned MTR, she said, “I took to my bed and cried for three days.” However, not one to easily give up, she rose to her feet and organized her neighbors for a fight. The legal battle lasted for more than two years before it was settled in 2009—in favor of the community. May and her neighbors fought the MTR project using a provision in the federal mining laws meant to protect public resources. The road in and out of their hollow was deemed a public resource since their hollow backs up to the foot of the mountain. Thus, the mining company wouldn’t be able to haul coal out of the hollow unless it built a separate road, which was an expensive proposition for them. The petition process was by no means easy for the community. They faced regular intimidation from the mining company. But community members stuck together and held firm. Quite simply, they wanted to remain a community more than they wanted the compensation package offered by the company. “What we have in Eastern Kentucky that people outside the area under-appreciate is community,” says May. “There are friendships and kinships here that go back for 200 years. I have neighbors in this hollow who knew my greatgrandmother.” These are not the kinds of stories about Eastern Kentucky that are often heard outside the region. The Shepherd’s Food Pantry in Lynch is another example of what makes Eastern Pauline White of the Shepherd’s Kentucky’s communities Food Pantry. stronger than they appear from their census data or on that 20/20 episode. The Shepherd’s Food Pantry operates out of a former union hall; the only remaining union tie is that many people who use the pantry are retired union miners. Pauline White, who runs the pantry, related a story about a young couple, a boy and girl in their late teens, who had been living under the bridge at the edge of town. The girl had to drop out of school and leave home to escape an abusive stepfather. The boy came with her because she was pregnant with his child. Wise made a call to a friend and helped the boy get a job at the Arby’s Restaurant in town. A couple of years have passed, and now he’s the assistant manager, she went back to school to get her diploma, and they are married and the parents of a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Their story may not sound important or particularly special, but in communities like this where people rely on one another literally to survive, these are the voices that deserve to be heard. I A Just and Sustainable Recovery 121 Todd Post CENTRAL APPALACHIA: THE BACK STORY ...
View Full Document

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

Ask a homework question - tutors are online