Tuesday, 11 March 2014 13:46

It’s easy to find literature, statistics, and media headlines highlighting the academic underperformance of our nation’s students, especially students of color (commonly mislabeled “at-risk”).  While these statistics do point to a serious problem, what’s often not so visible are the stories of students of color who are excelling, and the people and organizations that are encouraging and supporting their achievement.  The United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the nation’s largest minority education program, was founded in 1944 to help students of color go to and through college.  UNCF has raised more than $3.6 billion to help address the disparitiesin education resources for students.  They have helped more than 400,000 students receive college degrees at UNCF-member institutions and with UNCF scholarships (find out more: http://www.uncf.org/).

Saturday, January 25th, my son, one of his best friends, and I attended one of UNCF’s newest endeavors – Empower Me Tour at Clark Atlanta University.  The event was free and open to all.  As mentioned on its website, the Empower Me Tour was “created to empower a movement among young people, motivating them toward academic excellence, personal responsibility and fiscal health through relevant program content and celebrity engagement.”  The energy in the Bishop Cornelius L. student center was electric!  The event was kicked off by members of Clark Atlanta’s drum-line, dance team, and royal court.  The building was packed with high school students (even a few middle school students), college students, and parents; all eager to learn more about college and career preparation.  Workshops included:

  • Planning and Saving for College
  • What’s the Right Fit (choosing a major)
  • The Power of Internships and Mentors
  • Building Your Personal Brand
  • Success through Scholarships
  • Girl Talk: Imagine a Future (all women)
  • Tied To Greatness (all men)

These are just some of the workshops that were offered.  They all provided valuable information on various aspects of college and career planning. 

Navigating toward college can be quite a stressful venture; however, the more knowledge and time you give yourself to plan, the less intimidating this journey becomes.  As a single-parent of a 9th grader, the financial aspect of college planning is very important to me, but just as important is having my son make the connection between the academic decisions he makes now and the impact it will have on his opportunity for college (or whatever his post-high school plans are) and beyond. Getting him to and through college is a shared responsibility, and the Empower Me Tour helped him better sense of that, more than what my nagging could. 

I’ll let him share his experience:

“The EMT was a very fun experience for me. I enjoyed the ‘You Are a CEO: You Run the Business of You’ workshop the most. It taught me important components of being a CEO, which, someday I plan to pursue. Also, I learned some common fears of why people drop their dreams. Knowing these common fears, I can start early and create a plan to avoid them. Another very important factor of becoming a CEO I learned is to focus, set goals, and plan my direction. I appreciate all the EMT had to offer.”

I made sure not to force my son to attend workshops I thought he could benefit from, rather I gave him the freedom to make his own choice and attend the workshops he was most interested in.  In doing so he chartered his own course and the information he gathered was much more valuable to him.  While all the workshops I attended provided great information, the segment that resonated with me the most was when Clark sophomore, Amber Davis, a graduate of Atlanta Public Schools and Gates Millennium scholar (that’s 10 years of scholarship money folks!) took the stage.  Her stature was small, but her presence was magnifying.  She delivered a powerful message detailing her progression toward college.  In a nutshell, her advice “If you want it, go get it!” 

Overall, the Empower me Tour was a wonderful experience and a powerful tool to help young people get to and through college.  With the majority of media and research being focused on the negative aspects of students of color academic performance, it’s important that we “pan out” our focus and recognize the students who are achieving.  UNCF’s Empower Me Tour was a great opportunity to help young people and their families know that “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste” and that college is accessible…start early.

Contributors

Nicole Corley & son, Jalen Corley

Wednesday, 19 June 2013 03:04

SNAP, colloquially known as food stamps, is facing up to $20.5 billion in budget cuts. The proposed cuts would worsen food insecurity hunger in millions of Americans, hitting the most vulnerable the hardest, including children and senior citizens. Here’s what you need to know:

  •            The 2013 version of the farm bill, which greatly influences the nation’s food policy, passed the Senate last week with $4 billion in cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)
  •          The bill moves on to the U.S. House of Representatives this week, where they are considering cutting $20.5 billion to SNAP.
  • ·      The proposed house cuts are five times of those in the senate proposed Farm Bill.
  • ·      The cuts would take effect in October and will lower the average SNAP benefit from about $1.50 per person to $1.30 per person.
  • ·      Low-income children who receive food assistance have better health outcomes than low-income children without such benefits.
  • ·      In the House Farm Bill, half of the savings in the entire bill are coming from SNAP.

 

Call 1-855-488-2253 to urge your local representative to protect SNAP!

 

Wednesday, 29 May 2013 14:41

This Friday, May 31st, help the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB), and Kroger “strike out hunger” at the Braves vs. Nationals Game.

From 6:30-7:00, you can benefit the ACFB by donating 20 food items or $20 and you will get a signed autograph from Braves Pitcher Luis Avilan. If you want to continue to collect autographs while helping our community, you will be pleased to find out that you can donate to the ACFB for an autograph of a Braves Pitcher at any Friday Braves home game during the 2013 season.

If you donate at the June 14th game you will receive a Craig Kimbrel autograph and at the June 28th game you will receive a Kris Medlen autograph. The Braves Pitcher autograph for the remaining games this season is still to be determined.

If you choose to donate food, please note that the items that the ACFB needs the most of are as follows:

  • Peanut Butter
  • Canned Tuna
  • Canned Beans
  • Canned Soups, Stews, and Pastas
  • 100% Fruit Juice
  • Macaroni and Cheese Dinners
  • Whole Grains and Low Sugar Cereals

The ACFB distributes food to over 600 nonprofit partner agencies in metro Atlanta and north Georgia counties. The partners include food pantries, community kitchens, childcare centers, night shelters, and senior centers. However, the ACFB does more than food distribution as they also work to eradicate hunger in the long-term by supporting community gardens, helping Georgians find economic security, and other projects that engage, educate, and empower the community.

Additionally, if you choose to support ACFB, you can feel confident that your donation is truly helping their mission, as 94 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to fighting hunger in the community.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 22:30

You can’t always judge a book by its cover. In our culture, the term “inner city” conjures images of condemned buildings and dilapidated public housing units as we mentally label “inner-city” as “poor.” We also often associate the term “suburban” with “affluent,” as we imagine idyllic neighborhoods with large backyards and quality schools.

However, a recent Brookings Institute study shows that poverty is rising faster in America’s suburbs than in its urban core. And Atlanta is no exception. Metro Atlanta had the fourth highest suburban poverty growth rate in the United States between 2000 and 2010.

Although Atlanta city dwellers are still more likely to be in poverty than those in the suburbs, with the urban poverty rate at 26.2% and the urban poverty rate at 16%, poverty is growing in the suburbs at 14 times the speed of that in the city.

What is even more telling is when we look at the sheer numbers of individuals living in poverty. 886,390 people in poverty live in the suburbs while only 246,229 live in the city, meaning that 78% of metro Atlanta’s poor lives in the suburbs. Although this statistic can largely be attributed to the fact that the Atlanta suburbs carry a much greater population than the urban core, we should still realize how this should impact policies for helping the poor in the area as social and economic programs are traditionally concentrated in the city.

To make matters even more troubling, the implications of living in suburbia hit Atlanta’s poor particularly hard as transportation from the outskirts of the city into the central business district can be extremely time consuming, if not impossible, without a car. This lack of mobility in the suburbs greatly limits accessibility to the safety-net services and job opportunities that the city offers.

Fortunately, cities across America that also faced this suburban poverty challenge offer a number of innovative solutions to Atlanta’s problem. Houston created 60 neighborhood centers throughout the metro region to reach both inner-city and suburban neighborhoods. The Seattle area developed a Road Map Project that focuses on closing achievement gaps in suburban schools. And in Chicago, suburban communities decided to look past their town borders and created regional initiatives that focused on shared success rather than competing with each other for resources.

If you feel passionate about alleviating suburban poverty in Atlanta, you can take action in a variety of ways. Raise awareness in your community by bringing up the topic at school board meetings, a chamber of commerce meeting, or even your Facebook page. Tell influential leaders how you feel. Visit your representatives in the Georgia State Capitol Building. If that seems too intimidating, express your beliefs to your faith-based leader or explain the problem to a local business owner. These people are more influential than you may realize. Finally, share your opinion with the media by contacting your local television station, writing a letter to the editor, or even by posting a blog article :).

Visit http://confrontingsuburbanpoverty.org/action-toolkit/ for more information on how to make a difference!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013 22:11

Football and God rarely clash in the South. But the neighborhoods surrounding the future $1 billion new Falcons' stadium may be forced to lose two of its historic churches due to the new stadium, scheduled to open in 2017.

Local officials claim that that the new stadium will revitalize the western portion of downtown that struggles with unrelenting crime, high unemployment, and poor school performance. Per The New York Times,

 

"politicians are also trying to portray the new stadium as a way to help redefine the beleaguered western flank of downtown, a civic jewel that would re-energize the core of a city that has long considered itself the glittering capital city of the South."

 

The new stadium comes with a $45 million fund dedicated to benefit the surrounding communities of English Avenue, Vine City and Castleberry Hill.

 

But neighborhood residents that attend Friendship Baptist Church and Mount Vernon Baptist Church, the two churches in the way of the stadium's development, do not agree with the city's priorities. After all, these churches offer more than a place of worship. Friendship Baptist is one of the most historically important black churches in the region. It was established in 1862, in the days after the Civil War, as the first independent African-American Baptist congregation in Atlanta.

 

Regardless, "We want what the Buckhead kids have," said Andrew A. Motley, pastor of Lindsay Street Baptist Church in the English Avenue community.

 

"Resources. Our children's needs are no less. They don't have options for resources. We need recreational facilities and green space. All they have are the drug deals and the users, the appearance of glamour from the drug dealers (and) police not as friends but as occupiers. We know the stadium will be built, but it is a luxury among all the needs around us."

 

The stadium will be both privately and publicly funded. Although Arthur Blank, owner of the Falcons, will cover $800 million of the stadium cost, the city will likely provide $200-300 million through city-issued bonds and revenue from the future hotel-motel tax.

 

If the public is going to fund this stadium, it should offer more than a flashy arena that will likely be used for fewer than 10 NFL games a year. Legislators should ensure that the future neighbors of the stadium, who will likely sacrifice a part of their history and identity in the loss of two of their churches, should benefit from the new stadium. There are already too many instances of promised revitalization from politicians that ultimately only bring commercial activity benefiting the larger city while ignoring the most dire needs of the neighborhood.

Friday, 10 May 2013 21:40

Politicians, advocacy groups, and even blogs love to use catchphrases such as "empowered citizenry" and "grassroots movement" to engage the public and inspire them to make a difference in their community. And like many others, I become motivated to make my voice heard but then quickly lose sight of my goals.  I believe that many people have innovative ideas and insights into how to improve their community but never take action because we, quite frankly, just don't know how. 

Although I certainly am not qualified to provide a formal framework for community organizing, I do know that it starts with meeting your neighbors, even if it begins by simply acknowledging them in passing. Get to know the community you live in.  Spend more time outside. Welcome new residents and attend community events. Join your neighborhood association if you have one, or create one if you don't. You might be surprised by how many people share similar ideas for the community. 
 
Apart from the social benefits of being active in your community, your opinions will have an outlet to be heard and received. Your voice, by itself, may feel like it is too small to matter. But imagine your voice echoed by an entire community!  Without connecting with others around you, you may never know that other people have the same feelings about an issue. But once you collaborate, you become part of a collective voice. And a collective voice is not easily ignored. You will have the power to influence policies and laws in your area. 

 

So, this Mother's Day weekend, I challenge you to at least wish one mother in your neighborhood a good day. Besides making her smile, you are also building a connection that might, just might, enable an empowered citizenry or incite a grassroots movement to truly improve the place you live. 

Wednesday, 08 May 2013 21:23

The public health crisis in the United States is typically illustrated with alarming obesity rates and images of super-sized fast food portions. However 50 million Americans, or one in four of the nation’s children, are food insecure, meaning that they do not always have access to healthy foods to sustain them throughout the day. The nation is caught in the crosshairs of obesity and food insecurity, and somehow we have managed to have both too much and too little food at the same time.

As Magnolia Pictures’ A Place at the Table points out, hunger in America is not actually caused by a food shortage. When most people think of hunger they think of utter starvation without realizing that the obesity problem that plagues their nation is another, albeit, different sign of hunger. In the United States, the problem is not that the next meal never comes, but that the meal is often full of a lot of empty calories. Thus food insecurity and obesity are linked because nutritionally weak and high-caloric foods, such as French fries or potato chips, offer the most caloric bang for the buck.

Undoubtedly, children are hit hardest by the plague of food insecurity in the United States. Nutrition deprivation for children under the age of three are at risk for limiting their physical and mental potential as undernutrition in these children can lead to reduced cognition and increased susceptibility to infectious diseases. And regardless of greater school funding and pressure on teachers to improve students’ performance, a hungry child may struggle to focus and succeed in their classes regardless of change in education policy. A nation is only as strong as its youth and hunger is ultimately weakening this nation.

Despite its relative lack of attention, hunger is not a new issue in America. A 1968 CBS documentary, Hunger in America, highlighted the fact that hunger is a basic human need and should also be a human right. The documentary inspired Americans to demand action. Policy makers listened and passed legislation to expand the Food Stamp program, an elderly feeding program, and a the school breakfast program. Regular Americans rose to the challenge and demanded a solution and hunger was greatly eradicated by the end of the 1970s.

However, that success was short-lived. A Place at the Table explains that The 1980s and 90s brought a different public sentiment regarding food insecurity and the  issue of hunger in America shifted from being a public problem to a private problem as we began to rely on charities and churches to provide for the hungry. But charity food banks are not sustainable enough for long-term assistance, as they are intended to provide emergency support rather than chronic usage. People should not be forced to rely on these food banks for their day-to-day needs as charities cannot eradicate systemic hunger as they struggle to provide foods of significant nutritional value.

A Place at the Table also discusses how the price of produce has gone up since the 1980s while processed foods have remained cheap largely due to the agricultural subsidies that go to corn and wheat and largely ignore fruits, vegetables, and meat. These subsidies, which totaled $26 billion in 2000, are outdated as they date back to the Great Depression. FDR passed the Agriculture Adjustment Act in 1933 to provide emergency relief for families who risked losing their farms by purchasing their excess grain. But now the farming industry in America has changed, and consolidated and profitable corporations now dominate the agricultural landscape and have much less need for financial assistance. As the purpose of the current subsidy is no longer relevant, the film implies that America should consider making nutritious foods more affordable rather than focusing on corn and wheat production.

We need to tell our senators and representatives that if they are not with us on hunger, then we will not be with them for reelection. The problems in America are often unsolved due to political inaction and the bickering between blue and red ideology. But unlike many of the current hotly debated issues in congress, keeping our children properly fed is a bipartisan issue. Unfortunately food insecurity does not get the same level of media coverage as the nation’s more contentious issues. But as we have learned from the anti-hunger campaigns in the 1970s, the public can rise up, influence legislators, and ultimately alleivate or eliminate food insecurity in America. Now is the time to act.

Fir more information on how to fight food insecurity, text  the word “food” to 77177 or visit A Place at the Table’s action center at http://actioncenter.takepart.com/apatt.

Tuesday, 02 April 2013 23:38

"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We Atlanta area residents have a lot in common. Though it is often easier to see the differences in the challenges that we all face, we all want our community to thrive. 

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Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE) pushes for policies and actions that promote equity and shared prosperity in metropolitan Atlanta. Through forums, research, and organizing efforts, PSE brings together the regional community to lift up and encourage just, sustainable, and civic practices for balanced growth and opportunity.

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