Community Organizer Reflects on March to End Poverty

March to End Poverty

Held in Cleveland on July 18, 2016

 In the words of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, “a change is gonna come!'  America has a long history of economic and social injustice.  We’ve come a long way as a people by overcoming substantial hardships, but we have a long way to go.  The struggles of the past made the changes that have been made to this day possible.

 Today, we have a broader view of what is going on around us and better tools at our disposal in terms of technology.  Everything that was put in place in the past is to help us to move forward, yet we seem to be going backwards.  Why is that?  Because we need the government to work with us as citizens, not working against us and destroying everything that was put in place.  An example is not funding vital programs such as women's shelter or renovating abandoned buildings in Cleveland.  We do know, one way or another, a change is going to come!  We would like for it to be a positive one, and not a fight against a government that is supposed to protect.  We want to put forward solutions that are in the best interest of our nation as a whole and not one group over the others.

The Call for a March to End Poverty was in response to Cleveland hosting the Republican National Convention (RNC) for four days.  It addressed a lot of the problems that we still need to overcome as a nation. The first one being the fact that “Northeast Ohio is one of the most segregated regions in the country, while its largest city, Cleveland, is one of the poorest.” Cleveland won the bid to host a celebration, according to organizers on the End Poverty website, “for a political party that has distinguished itself over the past generation by rolling back the gains of the Civil Rights and anti-poverty movements, and has done everything in its power to de-fund and disempower residents of Cleveland."  A lot of the residents that I spoke to in Cleveland were very upset about the convention being hosted here because they feel the money could have been put to better use by spending it to address the poverty and hunger issues in Cleveland.  Many wanted that money to go to address homelessness in Cleveland.  I agree and think that there should have been some long standing outcomes from the RNC like a new shelter or new affordable housing built that would improve the City after the delegates go home.  Many I talked to feel that all the abandoned buildings in the city could have been renovated and the numerous potholes could have been filled in so that we are left with something we can use.  All in all, they feel that money could have been used to address the problems we have in the city at the same time we are raising millions of dollars to host a party.

Organize Ohio! is the organization that enforced the call to End Poverty Now! with a march on the east side of Cleveland.  The priority issues that they feel need to be reformed to help to alleviate poverty are:

  • human rights,
  • economic justice,
  • racial justice,
  • criminal justice
  • and immigrant rights.

Some of the key issues for the march were: “a minimum wage that is a living wage, equal pay for equal work, the right to water for all, the right to affordable and decent, safe housing for all, universal health care that is affordable for all, and an end to mass incarceration of minorities and the poor." These are just a few, but I should also add one of the other key issues they said must be addressed “voting in the United States that is free, fair, and accessible for all Americans. I agree with all of these and that is the reason I marched.

They also acknowledged that “Cleveland is the city that launched the Welfare Rights Movement” and the United States has ignored “Articles 23, 25, and 26 of the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights signed in 1948” which endorses “the right to food, housing, healthcare, education, and living wage jobs”.  The fact that there is a 37% poverty rate and 53% of its children in poverty” proves that these endorsements are not being met.  It also states that “our country has turned its back on the economic human rights that the country committed to uphold”.  It seemed strange since the Republican Party is not really that popular in a city dominated by Democrats. 

In my opinion and many on the organizing committee believed that the March was an attempt to push back against those who believe that the US laws are being used to increase the wealth of a few and holding back the rest of us.  There are many being pushed into poverty and income insecurity because of the fundamental injustice of wealth creation, debt associated with higher education, racism, and the criminal justice system.   So, having the RNC in Cleveland was insulting to a lot of the residents that don’t have access to these rights or being denied these rights.  The March to End Poverty was to address the issues and an attempt to get people to pay attention to poverty and homelessness.

On July 18, 2016, the first day of the RNC, approximately 2,000 activist met at a preplanned rally and marched from East 45th and Superior Ave. to East 12th and Chester Avenue where there was a second rally.  The group was trying to call for a change in our society and shout to the media, other Clevelanders, and the Republican delegates that: “No more complicity with the crime of poverty!  No more building your political career on the backs of the poor!  No more silence from those you have stepped on!  We demand to end poverty now!”

*The quoted material is from the Call for a March to End Poverty documents posted on the front of the website.

by Ramona Turnbull

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