Race, Poverty and Nonprofits in Atlanta

The June 16, 2013 edition of the Atlanta Progressive News has an interesting article about Race, Poverty and Non-Profits in Atlanta.  I am no fan of Atlanta, but Matthew Cardinale has a "devastating critique" of the city and the leading non-profits.  He makes the point that Atlanta Georgia is the "birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement" with the King Center a wealth of history in the new Capital of the South, but is also the city that has led a war on poor people.   He lists an amazing resuscitation of crimes against the poor by the City of Atlanta including prioritizing both the public hospital and the schools, destroying public housing, and making it illegal to be visibly homeless.  

Cardinale asks why the King Center is not more involved in fighting injustice in the City?  He asks why the majority African American City Council allows corporate interests to control the city and push out minority groups.   Cardinale wonders if Dr. Martin Luther King were alive today would he be "shunned...by the powers that be in Atlanta."  He talks about how the mainstream non-profit organizations have turned away from a social justice agenda, and do not try to engage the population in teaching public policy democracy.  Cardinale talks about his issues with the War on Poverty created Community Action Agency, which has lost its "action" part of its mission.   They do the HEAP program similar to the CEOGC program in Cleveland. 

Many of these issues are universal in big cities throughout the United States.  When was the last time anyone voiced an advocacy position from a Community Action Agency?  When was the last time we heard from African American leaders about the injustice of a disproportionate number of African Americans who lose their housing and live in local shelters?  When was the last time a United Way funded organization spoke out about the injustice of a public policy decision?  It is much easier for groups, politicians and the public to not say anything.  After all, you only get your head chopped off if you are willing to stick your neck out to protest.  It is easier to deal with criticism for saying nothing than having to answer to the big money interests behind most non-profits.   It is a good narrative lamenting the achievement of power by many African American leaders, and how they have not fulfilled the living wage, equality at the voting booth, fair housing or health care parity dreams expressed so eloquently by Dr. King in the 1960s. 

Brian Davis

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