All Articles Tagged "poverty"

Thousands Of Black & Latino Kids Saw Their Schools Closed In 2013

January 2nd, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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You’d think schools would be protected by government cuts, but thousands of black and Latinos lost their schools in 2013. And this happened all over the country.

In Philadelphia, a slew of school closures over the summer meant a longer, and often less safe, journey to other elementary and middle schools further away.

According to city officials the closed schools had been underutilized or were underperforming, and their closure, students have an opportunity to attend better-equipped schools.

Chicago closed about 150 schools over the past 10 years and in the city, 88 percent of the students affected by the school closures are African American. Philadelphia is just as bad–81 percent are black. In the city’s more than 93 percent of the affected students are from poor families. “The numbers have played out much the same way in Detroit, New York, Newark, NJ, Oakland and Washington, D.C. Parents of school children in each of these cities have filed federal complaints under the 1964 Civil Rights Act to fight school closings,” reports MSNBC.

The closures have forced students to have to travel longer to schools, often through unwelcoming neighborhoods. Plus, classroom sizes have gotten so large that students don’t have desks to sit in.

Despite this, officials have portrayed school closures has something that would improve education. Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter said in June that the school board “made tough choices, but they made the right choice. We need to downsize the system.”

Some other school building now house charter schools.

This has opened up the debate on charter schools, which are basically publicly funded schools with private management that operate. In many of the cities with mass school closings, officials have invested in the expansion of charter schools. And supporters of charter schools say the schools offer parents a quality option instead of failing neighborhood schools.

School officials in Newark recently caused an uproar when they announced massive school restructuring that included closing some schools and placing a number of charter schools in current district-owned buildings.

Over in Chicago, the Public Schools proposed the addition of 21 new privately run charter schools. This after closing nearly 50 schools over the summer. The district is facing a $1 billion deficit, yet a recent analysis showed that 21 new charter schools could cost taxpayers as much as $225 million over the next decade.

Race has played a major part in the closing.

With echoes of busing from the 1960s, the Missouri Supreme Court earlier this year upheld a ruling that allowed thousands of mostly poor black students to leave their failing school districts and attend better schools in far-off, affluent communities. White parents were angry about the decision, saying they feared that black students from poor communities would bring with them drugs and violence. Those fears never materialized.

“We get calls from black kids in jail every day, saying, we need some help. They all have three things in common that are consistently true: they are black, they come from a poor socioeconomic strata and they’ve had a poor damn education,” said Adolphus Pruitt, head of the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP.

Nationwide, 1,929 schools were closed during the 2010-2011 school year alone, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Being Poor Leads People To Make ‘Bad’ Financial Decisions

November 26th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Being poor can hurt a person’s ability to make sound financial decisions, or make choices about school and life in general. A landmark Science study has concluded that poverty is basically similar to losing 13 IQ points.

So if being poor leads to bad decision-making (as opposed to the other way around), then giving cash should alleviate the cognitive burdens of poverty, all on its own, reports The Atlantic.

Neuroscientists Joseph W. Kable and Joseph T. McGuire examined time, uncertainty and decision-making and they found that virtues like patience and self-control weren’t as simple as other studies suggested. For example, a marshmallow study found that kids who are given the sweet treat and ate it right away were thought of as impatient and kids who waited had self-control. On the whole, those children who waited went on to lead more productive lives.

But that kind of self-control in the real world “isn’t so black-and-white,” Dr. Kable tells the magazine. Perhaps the inescapability of poverty weighs so heavily on the poor that they abandon long-term planning entirely, because the short-term needs are so great and the long-term gains so implausible. The train is just not coming. Maybe the psychology of poverty, which can seem so irrational to those not in poverty, is actually the most rational response to an unpredictable world.

Business Insider quotes a despairing comment left on the Kinja site to illustrate the point:

It’s not like the sacrifice will result in improved circumstances; the thing holding me back isn’t that I blow five bucks at Wendy’s. It’s that now that I have proven that I am a Poor Person that is all that I am or ever will be. It is not worth it to me to live a bleak life devoid of small pleasures so that one day I can make a single large purchase. I will never have large pleasures to hold on to.

“None of this is an argument against poorer families trying to save or plan for the long-term. It’s an argument for context,” notes The Atlantic. Science study author Eldar Shafir told the magazine, “All the data shows it isn’t about poor people, it’s about people who happen to be in poverty. All the data suggests it is not the person, it’s the context they’re inhabiting.”

Can America End Poverty By Giving People ‘Free’ Money?

November 14th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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The idea of  the government giving every adult a basic income has sparked a lot of discussion in recent weeks with a proposal of a free money giveaway from The Atlantic‘s Matt Bruenig and Elizabeth Stoker. Then Annie Lowrey revisited the concept recently in the New York Times. They contemplate whether we could cut poverty with these measure.

According to a September Census Bureau report , 15 percent of Americans (46.5 million) live below the poverty line. Even though government benefits like food stamps help lift some of them above the line, millions still live below it.

For this program, people would literally get money in the mail that they can use to improve their situation. “The government would mail every American over the age of 21 a check each month. That’s it. Everyone is free to do what they like with it,” reports Business Insider.

While it sounds simple, the money still has to come from somewhere.

“In 2012, there were 179 million Americans between the ages of 21 and 65 (when Social Security would kick in). The poverty line was $11,945,” reports Business Insider.  When adding this up, it would mean it will cost $2.14 trillion to give each working-age American a basic income equal to the poverty line. In comparison, U.S. GDP was nearly $16 trillion in 2012 and $700 billion was allotted to the defense budget.

A minimum income would also allow the government to eliminate benefits like SNAP and housing vouchers. A 2012 Congressional Research Service report revealed  that the federal government spends about $750 billion annually on benefits for low-income Americans; this figure rises to a trillion when state programs are factored in. If the government eliminates all of those, the net figure comes out to $1.2 trillion needed to pay for a universal basic income.

There are other ways to pay for the “free” money. “The CBO found that a carbon tax would bring in nearly $100 billion a year for instance. Revenue would also increase automatically since everyone would have a basic income on which to pay taxes,” reports Business Insider.

With a basic income and the security that comes with it, we could also see other changes in society. For instance, workers would have to courage to demand better wages and working conditions. But there are also fears that a program like this would encourage some not to work.

Of course, all of this is just talk right now since it would require Congressional approval. “Congress can’t even keep the government open or pass a budget, much less revamp our entire benefits program into a basic income,” reports Business Insider.

What do you think of the basic income idea?

NJ’s Poor Overlooked In Superstorm Sandy Recovery, Many Still Waiting One Year Later

October 31st, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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A Staten Islane vigil for the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. Getty Images

A Staten Island vigil for the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. Getty Images

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Superstorm Sandy. Hard to believe because some of the devastated areas still haven’t recovered. Superstorm Sandy left billions of dollars of damage in its wake up the East Coast. Today, there’s a $26-million ad campaign declaring New Jersey “stronger than the storm.” And on many occasions during the recovery, Gov. Chris Christie and federal officials, including President Barack Obama, have toured the state’s ocean-side tourist attractions and communities with single-family homes. “But beneath the state’s seemingly happy story of storm recovery lies what a group of fair-housing and civil rights advocates say is a series of ugly but important truths,” reports The Root.

“Sandy shattered lives all over the state, up and down the income ladder,” says Mike McNeil, who is chairman of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference Housing Committee. “The people hit — and I mean hit hard and still hurting — don’t all own homes and businesses at the shore. But they aren’t getting much help.”

According to an analysis released last week by a New Jersey nonprofit, the Fair Share Housing Center, a disproportionate share of disaster-relief funds have been funneled to the state’s moderate- and upper-income households and homeowners. Renters and low- to moderate-income families — in the state, who are mostly black or Latino — haven’t experienced anything similar.

“I think we can say without question that officials in the states affected by Sandy did a lot better job getting people out of harm’s way,” says Kevin Walsh, a lawyer with the Fair Share Housing Center. “But I think in the recovery, the subsequent trauma, the disregard for the needs of so many poor and working families, and how many of those people happen to be black or Latino, is certainly similar to Katrina — disturbingly similar.”

There have been complaints, of course. In April a group of nonprofit organizations — the Latino Action Network, the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP and the Fair Share Housing Center — filed an official discrimination (fair housing) complaint against the Christie administration. The complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A second complaint followed this summer from the Latino Action Network, and in October it formally lodged its concerns with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

There have even been lawsuits. In September the Fair Share Housing Center also filed a suit to force the administration to share what it believes should be additional public information about the people who have applied for, received and been denied storm-recovery aid.

The Housing and Community Development Network’s own data found that about 47 percent of those affected by Sandy were renters — a disproportionate share of whom are black or Latino. However, New Jersey officials initially submitted much different information to the federal government in the state’s initially request for storm-victim aid. For one thing, state officials used a method that counted a storm-damaged 100-unit apartment complex as just one or two addresses, instead of a place where hundreds of people may have lived before Sandy. So the government missed potentially hundreds of  mostly poor people–leaving them literally in the cold when it came to recovery funding and housing.

The Reality Of Child Poverty: The Nation’s Poorest Are Children Of Color

September 20th, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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In 43 states, child poverty has increased significantly since The Great Recession settled across America. The only states that saw a decrease are Texas and Illinois. African-American and Hispanic children under six, according to The Children’s Defense Fund, have suffered the most through the nation’s slow-moving economic recovery.

Thirteen states have a child poverty rate higher than 25 percent, according to data pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau. In Mississippi, 34.7 percent of toddlers live in poverty and 29.3 percent of New Mexico’s children live with hardship. Both states have the highest rates of child poverty.

These statistics will be sure to rise if the proposal to cut $40 million  SNAP benefits over the next 10 years is signed into law. (More on that in a coming story.) “How is it possible when millions of children are poor, Congress could for one minute consider cutting their food assistance,”asked Marian Wright Edelman in a press statement, president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Elise Gould, an economist, would agree: “Now is no time to be considering cuts to the safety net.” Gould’s analysis using data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the important of federal assistance for curbing poverty. “In 2012, 1.7 million people were kept out of poverty by unemployment insurance and 15.3 million elderly Americans were kept out of poverty by Social Security,” Gould added.

“All Americans including those in Congress have to recognize that Black and Hispanic children already are a majority of our babies and are the face of our future. We need them to be productive,” Edelman said. “Every year we keep over 16 million children in poverty we are losing hundreds of billions of dollars. Children did not cause the recession and they should not have to suffer from the recklessness of others.”

Between 2009 and 2012, only the wealthiest five percent saw income gains. For more than a decade now, poverty levels have been on an ascending trajectory. “The poverty rate increased between 2000 and 2007 from 11.3 percent to 12.5 percent, then continued to rise through the Great Recession,” according to Gould’s report.

With the recession leaving 24 states with a quarter of impoverished children (under the age of six), Edelman concludes,”[c]hildren’s ability to survive, thrive and develop must not depend on the lottery of geography of birth. A child is a child and should be protected by a national floor of decency. We can and must end child poverty.”

Reporter Natalie Moore Speaks On The Real Issues Behind Chicago Gun Violence

August 1st, 2013 - By Brande Victorian
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When it comes to gun violence in Chicago, there’s been a lot of finger pointing and little analysis done to determine the root causes of such behavior and solutions to stop it going forward. Moguldom Films is currently working on a documentary to do just that, and in the midst of filming they came across reporter Natalie Moore. The native Chicagoan is all too familiar with the issues plaguing young people in her city and in the clip below she addresses just a few of those that have seemingly been overlooked.

Check out her comments and tell us what you think about the issues she brought up. Are they legitimate points or excuses in the war on gun violence?

For more on the up coming documentary about gun violence, follow @MoguldomFilms via Twitter, Instagram, and subscribe on YouTube.

Economic Insecurity Rises: 80 Percent Of All American Adults Face Unemployment

July 29th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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It’s a disheartening statistic: four out of five U.S. adults will be struggling with joblessness, near-poverty or relying on welfare during some period in their life, according to a new survey.

Survey data, which was exclusive to the Associated Press, found that the increasingly globalized U.S. economy is experiencing a widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs are spurring on this trend.

More and more President Barack Obama is saying his highest priority is to “rebuild ladders of opportunity” and reverse income inequality.

white house working americans

“As nonwhites approach a numerical majority in the U.S., one question is how public programs to lift the disadvantaged should be best focused – on the affirmative action that historically has tried to eliminate the racial barriers seen as the major impediment to economic equality, or simply on improving socioeconomic status for all, regardless of race,” reports the Huffington Post.

Whites are becoming concerned as well, so much so that pessimism among whites about their families’ economic futures has increased to the highest level since at least 1987.  The most recent AP-GfK poll found that 63 percent of whites said the economy was “poor.” Government data also shows economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60. This is according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press. And when measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity jumps to 79 percent.

“Nationwide, the count of America’s poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15 percent of the population, due in part to lingering high unemployment following the recession. While poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics are nearly three times higher, by absolute numbers the predominant face of the poor is white,” reports HuffPo.

In 2011 that snapshot showed 12.6 percent of adults in their prime working-age years of 25-to-60 lived in poverty. But measured in terms of a person’s lifetime risk, a much higher number – 4 in 10 adults – falls into poverty for at least a year of their lives.

“The risks of poverty has increased in recent decades, especially among people ages 35-55.  By race, however, nonwhites continue to have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty,” reports HuffPo.

Looking ahead, by 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality, nearly 85 percent of all working-age adults in the U.S. will experience some economic insecurity.

“Poverty is no longer an issue of ‘them,’ it’s an issue of ‘us,'” Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who calculated the numbers, told HuffPo. “Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need.”

Selita Ebanks Gets Real About Her Poor Upbringing: ‘My Mother Relied On Food Stamps And The Food Pantry’

May 6th, 2013 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Source: WENN

Source: WENN

Former Victoria’s Secret model Selita Ebanks’ life is the epitome of a rags to riches story. The 30-year-old Cayman Islands native isn’t ashamed to tell her story either. During the Food Banks’ Can Do Awards, Ebanks chatted it up with the NY Post, revealing that when she was a child, her mother heavily relied on charity and government assistance to ensure that she and her seven brothers were fed.

“My mother relied on food stamps and the food pantry so we never went hungry. There’s no shame when you have children and you want to provide for them,” the 5’9 beauty revealed.

She went on to marvel at her mother’s ability to put her pride aside for the sake of her children.

“It says something about a woman that has no ego when it comes to her children. She did anything possible.”

“She was working the system to make sure we had everything. Sometimes we had two or three turkeys at Thanksgiving, and she would give them to our neighbors that weren’t qualified for the program.”

Selita’s mom is now able to enjoy the finer things in life. She’s retired and lives in Georgia.

“Now she is living with her feet up on the couch, living every day,” Selita expressed.

It’s sometimes easy to look at a successful person and think that they’ve always had it good, without considering that they probably had to struggle to get where they are. It’s great that Selita hasn’t forgotten where she came from and continues to give back.

Paradise Lost: Must See New Film Explores The Reality Of White Women And Sex Tourism With Black Men in Kenya

April 26th, 2013 - By Charing Ball
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In the Paradise trilogy, Australian director Ulrich Seidl divides contemporary European womanhood into three parts: Love, Faith and Hope.

As delightful of a premise as it sounds, this series of films is no Eat, Pray, Love. In fact, most startling, and controversial of the narrative is “Paradise: Love,” a film which follows the sexual misadventures of Teresa, a 50-year-old white Austrian single mother, who explores Kenya through – and on the bodies of – young African men. Unsurprisingly, the film has hit a nerve for some as it highlights another side to the real life sex tourism industry, in which young men in mostly the Caribbean and parts of Africa earn their livings from the fetishes of older and wealthier folks, and in this case, white women. While it is unknown for sure how pervasive this side of the sex trade has become, this article in Reuters suggests that as many as one in five single women visiting Kenya from rich countries are in search of sex: “Emerging alongside this black market trade — and obvious in the bars and on the sand once the sun goes down — are thousands of elderly white women hoping for romantic, and legal, encounters with much younger Kenyan men. They go dining at fine restaurants, then dancing, and back to expensive hotel rooms overlooking the coast.”

The old adage is that money can’t buy happiness, however, in Paradise: Love, we are shown how the subversive nature of capitalism can turn entire countries and its inhabitants into mere commodities for someone else’s attempt at happiness. Teresa, along with three of her other middle aged girlfriends, arrives in Kenya and are welcomed aboard a chartered bus, which will take them from the airport to their beach resort. It is in route to the hotel that the women are taught by an enthusiastic, smiling older Kenyan guide a few key Kiswahili words, which will make their stay in the tropical “paradise” more pleasant: “Djambo,” which means “hello” and “Hakuna Matata,” which we all recall from The Lion King, loosely translates into “no worries.” A few hours after their arrival (as well as some drinks at the bar with her girlfriends and a quick wardrobe change into a swimsuit), Teresa finds herself alone on the beach, surrounded by barefoot hustlers carrying cowrie shelled necklaces, hand-woven bracelets and pocketbooks. The young men rush her, shoving their goods in her face, while vocally clamoring over each other with sell pitches peppered with the familiar salutations of “Djambo” and “Hakuna Matata.” The situation is very well-known to anyone who has traveled outside of the Western World, particularly to places which are economically marginalized. The hard sell. It is chaotic, unnerving and very bothersome. Yet at the same time, being surrounded by extreme poverty – even in places deemed as paradise – can bring a certain level of empathy and understanding. In a country like Kenya, where 45 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and is classified as low-income by the World Bank, everything is a hustle and everything is for sale.

Yet Teresa is not as empathetic or unfazed by the dire circumstances of the hustlers, and actually follows a couple of them back to their homes for paid sex and romance. The romance part is purely subjective. While the Kenyan men guide her around town, teaching her how to do the local dances, treating her to local edibles and whispering expressions of undying love in her ear, the reality is that the men she encounters don’t know how (or want) to be romantic. In one awkward scene, Teresa tries to instruct her partner for the night the proper way to caress her breasts. “You have to first see through me to my heart,” she tells him. But the Kenyan man looks on confused about what exactly she means. Teresa is annoyed but plays into it; mainly for the adventure, which is illustrated by the scene in which she takes a picture of the young man’s private parts as he sleeps. After their late night romp, Teresa falls asleep undressed under a mosquito net. Her young Kenyan lover stands around, smoking a cigarette, watching and waiting for her to rise.

The waiting game is probably the most striking element of the film. In one of the most haunting scenes in the film, Teresa and her girlfriends join a line of middle age white Europeans bathing in the sun on the beach. They lay mostly still and silent out on chaise lounges, half unclothed with their pinkish, pale skin glistening in the sun from a combination of sweat and whatever oily application they applied to get a more even tan. They are massive and look like beached whales. Their size is most marked when compared to the throng of young Kenyan men who stand at attention waiting to serve them. The men stand on the other side of a diving rope, which is guarded by an older Kenyan man in an oversized military uniform. They stand silent and undisturbed, waiting. Like servants dutiful to their masters, they wait. Or like patient hunters stalking their prey. It is really hard to tell at this point who is being exploited here: the people looking for cash or those looking to purchase fulfillment? But we do know that only when the white Europeans rise from their sun-basking do the men come alive again.

This same scenario is repeated several times in the film, including in one scene, which transports the once sun-bathing white Europeans into the resort’s lounge. Now fully dressed, they sit around small nightclub tables, smiling eerily as they listen to a Kenyan band play them some traditional local music. The band, whose members are dressed in matching Zebra stripes, in turn clash horribly with the Zebra striped stage curtains. The music is both beautiful yet performed with little emotion. It is that scene, which reminds me of a childhood birthday party I once had at Chuck E. Cheese’s. I stood around continuously feeding a bunch of quarters into a machine, which when fully compensated, would make the Animatronic robot mouse band come alive and play a birthday song for me. I remember being a kid feeling amused and then eventually disenchanted as once the time on my money ran out, the stage lights went dim, the music stopped, and the once smiling and chipper robotic mouse band slumped over into motionless inanimate objects again. In Paradise: Love, Kenya is Chuck E. Cheese’s and its inhabitants will sing, dance and cater to your every whim – just as long as your quarters don’t run out.

In the ’90s, French filmmaker Laurent Cantet released Heading South, a film about wealthy white women and their hired Haitian suitors (for those interested in watching, this film is currently streaming on Netflix). One of the most compelling characters in Cantet’s film is Albert, the head waiter at the resort. He is from a long line of Haitian patriots who fought probably against the American occupiers, for whom he called animals. In one part of the film, Albert is discussing the shame his long deceased grandfather would feel if he found out that he was serving whites. However, as he poignantly states of his dire situation, “This time the invaders aren’t armed; but they have much more damaging weapons than cannons: dollars!”

The ending of Paradise: Love is not as jaded as Albert in Heading South. I won’t spoil it for you (because I do think it is well worth the watch), but it’s clear that there are some things that money and privilege can not afford. Moreover, even through oppression, the oppressed do have their limits and will exercise their right to resist.

For those in the NYC area, the Paradise trilogy is now screening at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam). Tickets can be purchased at both the box office and online at


‘If A Woman Tells You She’s 20 And Looks 16, She’s 12:’ Chris Rock’s Most Hilarious Quotes

February 7th, 2013 - By Iva Anthony
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Happy birthday to Chris Rock who turns 48 today. In honor of one of the funniest, most thought-provoking comedians of our generation, we take a look back at some of Rock’s most memorable and hilarious quotes.

In 2005, Rock snagged the job as host of the Academy Awards ceremony. During the opening monologue and throughout the show, Rock poked fun at many of the famous movie stars that were in attendance and Nicole Kidman wasn’t safe from Rock’s wrath:

“The only acting you ever see at the Oscars is when people act like they’re not mad they lost. Nicole Kidman was smiling so wide, she should have won an Emmy at the Oscars for her great performance. I was like, ‘If you’d done that in the movie, you’d have won an Oscar, girl.’”