Friday, November 14, 2008

In Illinois, poverty is a seamless and never-ending tale.

so it has been quite a while, for many reasons. Writer's block, my creative genius is poured into my full class load at DePaul University, as I learn more through experience and life I sometimes question my ability to speak to these weighty issues so persistent in my life (poverty, Christ, racial issues, forgiveness, etc.)

As I learn, I realize how much yet I do not know and the resulting humbleness produces silence.

However, I came across this as I researched something for work (I work now at Lawndale Christian Development Corp on the west side). It something I have been thinking and pondering.

In Illinois, poverty is a seamless and never-ending tale.

It runs from the state's southern tip in emaciated Cairo and Pulaski,an impoverished rural community less than an hour's drive south of Chicago. Farther north it runs to a hobbled hamlet called Ford Heights — once deemed the poorest suburb in America. And farther north still to Chicago and its confederation of impoverished inner-city communities, where high-rise public housing complexes were for decades symbols of acute isolationism, America's warehousing of the poor.

Poverty. It is the perennial question. American Poverty — rural, urban and suburban poverty. Stubborn poverty, the kind that rises like the stench of polluted well water. Poverty. Its assortment of interconnected questions lingers, none more pressing than these: What is society's moral obligation to the poor? How can we solve this problem called poverty?

Is it indeed solvable? What to do about the poor?

From 2003 to 2004 there was an increase of 1.1 million people who are indeed impoverished.

According to the 2006 Report on Illinois Poverty, 12.4%, live in poverty.
Of those, 5.7% of the state's total population, live in deep poverty.

Among the report's most alarming conclusions was that, while it found Illinois to be the wealthiest state in the Midwest, it had the highest poverty rate.

The report concludes that "one in four people in Illinois lives near poverty, enough Illinoisans to fill the states of Montana, Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota combined."

Among Illinois' poorest communities are Cairo, Pembroke, Ford Heights and North Lawndale, where the poverty rate in each is nearly three times the national rate of 12.4 percent, U.S. Census figures show. In fact, the number of people living in poverty in Ford Heights and North Lawndale quadruples the national rate.

For me, no issue in the 21st century resonates more profoundly than the poor.

Perhaps the answer might be found in the stories and also in the voices of some Illinoisans who themselves live in the poorest communities in the state — among the poorest in America. Or perhaps poverty is too complex a question, and in the end, the answer too elusive, even after a journey that begins at the state's southern edge on Interstate 57 and ends hundreds of miles north.

The person who compiled this evidence shares this exchange with the readers:
Once, I was waxing on to my grandfather about some poverty expert whose book I had read when suddenly my grandfather, in his sometimes sobering dry wit, remarked:

"Hey, John, let me ask you something."

"Uh-huh," I said.

"This poverty expert … Tell me, uh, was he ever poor?"

"Uh-h-h," I responded, racking my brain for the answer. Finally, I gave up.

"I don't know," I answered, laughing out loud. "Probably not."

"Then how in the world can he be an expert on poverty if he was never poor?" Grandpa asked with a chuckle.

Another insight :

The problem of transforming the ghetto is, therefore, a problem of power — a confrontation between the forces of power demanding change and the forces of power dedicated to preserving the status quo.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Chicago Tribune concluded in its 1985 Millstone series that this so-called permanent underclass in North Lawndale "devours every effort aimed at solving its problems." That it is "a class of misfits." That it "resists solutions both simple and complicated."

Thats not exactly what I see here.

Most of this information in my post here is from excerpts from John Wesley Fountain essays, specifically his Paul Simon essay from Nov. 14, 2008.

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