(Photo by AFP/Evaristo Sa — just love this. Amazing shot…the ripples of water and the light, with the balloon perfectly centered…just amazing.)
This week, I am honored to be participating in a national forum on poverty, inequality, race and the media that is sponsored by the Eisenhower Foundation. I was asked to participate, in part, because of my background in working with at-risk children in the legal system, but also because of some of the articles that I have written here at FDL on Katrina, on the mining tragedy here in WV last January, and other topics.
This list of people who will be participating in the forum is amazing…and a bit intimidating, to be honest. (You can take a peek at the agenda and participants here. PDF)
The Eisenhower Foundation was begun as an outgrowth of the Kerner Commission, which studied the race riots of the late 1960s in a lot of urban centers across the country and issued a thorough report of its findings (PDF), and their mission is to track progress (or lack thereof) on a variety of issues relating to poverty, inequality and race. This conference marks the start of a series of events they will sponsor — including a later one with potential Presidential candidates — to get both the public and political consciousness raised about the need to tackle so many of the issues surrounding all of this.
I am very excited to be a part of this conversation, and I cannot wait to bring back some of the discussion and ideas here for everyone once I get back from DC.
The Congressional Black Caucus recently sponsored a forum on some of these issues, and talked about ways to bring these to the fore starting in January. Since the horrible aftermath of Katrina unmasked so much of the issues of race and poverty while the entire nation watched in horror, I have been hoping for some real inititive on these issues — perhaps, come January, we might see the beginnings of that. (See here for the beginnings of an academic study already begun on Katrina. PDF)
In my legal practice, I felt far too often like a band-aid, just patching up a wound that kept growing larger and larger.
But I have hope that some political will might be brought to bear on some of these issues, with the Democrats in Congress already mustering strong support for changes in the minimum wage for the first time in twenty years. And that's just for starters — and this despite the craptastic mess that the GOP left for the Dems to clean up, having finished out the 109th Congress and gone home on vacation with 9 of 11 budget bills not even passed.
There are so many intertwined issues that need addressing. But for the first time in a long time, I get to be part of the conversation on the whole of them, and not just slapping a band-aid on individual problems in the courtroom and hoping it would hold (although most often it did not, due to the weight of so many underlying problems pushing out at the edges). And for the first time, in a long, long time, I have some hope that the folks who will hold the reins of power in Congress will be the kind of people who not only understand that these problems need to be resolved, but will also have the compassion and the will to try and tackle them.
That kind of hope floats.
And it is with that resolve that I will head out later today to this conference. In the meantime, though, I'd love to hear your thoughts on some of the issues that need tackling most — and solutions to some of these problems that may have worked in your own communities.
To get the ball rolling, take a peek at this article about the man who just won the Nobel Prize for his microloan idea — and how that has changed the landscape for people all across the globe in terms of working their way out of poverty with one piece of hope at a time. Brilliant, simple and highly effective.