The Poverty Report
Urban poverty affects too many people to ignore. Weave blogger Steve Peraza is exploring the problem's many dimensions and thinking through possible ways to solve it.
|Feb 04 2010||Yuppie Food Stamps|
Do you remember your first credit card? I remember mine. It was a grey, black, and red MBNA Master Card with a $1,000 limit. It felt like gold in my wallet…
I got it way back in ’97, when Guess jeans were in and every dude in the ‘hood had to have the beef’n’broccoli Timbs. I was sixteen with no job and no sense – so your boy put his Master Card to work. In no time I was in debt. Deep in debt. I bought whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. New discman. New beeper. New cds. A nice little necklace for my high school sweetheart. Dates at the movies, the ice skating rink, the steakhouse. Truth be told, it was one of the best months of my life.
|Jan 27 2010||History as an Underreported Story (Part II)|
To my mind journalists too often eschew the past in their reports. In so doing the current issues and events that they write about enter the public domain as if they had no antecedents, no context within which they developed—no historical contingency.
I feel the problem acutely when I write about urban poverty. I often try to raise awareness of the struggles of the poor in America’s cities. So I comment on food, clothing, and shelter, as well as employment and the cultural representations of the poor in the news. Rarely, however, do I bring up the history of poverty in America; not one of my posts has been about how the poor have gotten to where they are today. I’m not even sure that I’d even know where to begin…
|Jan 26 2010||History as an Underreported Story (Part I)|
In more than a few history seminars I’ve heard the claim that “Journalism is the first draft of history.” This is in fact a much distilled version of the idea from which it came. Speaking to Newsweek magazine’s overseas correspondents in 1963, Philip Graham, former publisher of the Washington Post, delivered the now clichéd remark. His exact words were: “So let us drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of history that will never be completed about a world we can never understand.”
What bedeviled journalists, Graham thought, were their attempts to explain a world in motion; that is, to write about present phenomena without the benefits of hindsight. In the race to publish a story journalists could *only* write a “first rough draft of history” and then move on. The rest was for the historian, for whom the journalist left traces of the past. Indeed newspaper and magazine accounts offer historians at least two insights, a view of the phenomenon under investigation, and the perspective of at least one witness.
|Jan 18 2010||Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution|
One of my intellectual and spiritual inspirations has been, and will continue to be, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. To my mind the best way to commemorate him is to revisit and reflect upon his words, some of which speak directly to issues this blog attempts to address. Below is an excerpt from Dr. King’s sermon, “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution,”
which he delivered before the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on March 31, 1968, less than a week before his life was taken:
".…I remember some years ago Mrs. King and I journeyed to that great country known as India. And I never will forget the experience. It was a marvelous experience to meet and talk with the great leaders of India, to meet and talk with and to speak to thousands and thousands of people all over that vast country. These experiences will remain dear to me as long as the cords of memory shall lengthen.
|Jan 12 2010||The Sunny Acres Controversy|
Let me propose a scenario:
You’re a juror in a county court. In the case that you’re deliberating the county is prosecuting a local resident who willingly provides shelter to the county’s rapidly growing homeless population. According to the sheriff’s department several residents have complained about the crowds on the defendant’s property, reporting public intoxication, theft, battery, and disturbing the peace, among other problems. Additionally county officials have cited several housing code violations like missing fire detectors, faulty wiring, and flammable sheds used as bedrooms for the poor. Would you convict this man of a crime?
|Dec 20 2009||Murder on the Upper West Side|
Early in the afternoon last Thursday (12/17) New York City's 20th Precinct responded to a triple homicide on Amsterdam Avenue between 83rd and 84th Streets. The details were grizzly: A gunman armed with a .380 caliber pistol shot and killed three family-related men in a third floor apartment. The gunman himself died, adding a fourth body to the crime scene. He apparently tried to escape out of an apartment window but fell three stories to his death in a backyard alleyway. The New York Times headline read, "Four Men Dead in West Side Shootings."
|Dec 16 2009||Every Good Idea Has Its Problems|
Sometimes well-meaning Americans do great things that have bad results. One example is Nicholas D. Kristof, who yearly conducts his Win-a-Trip contest in which he rewards an American university student with "a reporting trip to Africa to cover global poverty." While the lucky winner gains an unforgettable experience, what the contest says about Africa and America go unquestioned. In turn Americans continue to view Africa as a forsaken land and America as the land of opportunity-two stereotypes that mute the experiences of the people who live there.
|Dec 13 2009||Jobs: An American Dilemma|
Last Thursday (12/3) President Barack Obama hosted a job summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. He convened business and labor leaders to brainstorm recession-ending, job-creating strategies to recover the ailing American economy. Of the many ideas discussed few if any addressed the needs of the poor. Without a comprehensive plan to get the burgeoning underclass back on payroll no strategies will reverse the current downward spiral. The problem is simple: Men and women across America are losing their jobs. The unemployment rate in America reached a twenty-six year high in October, peaking at 10.2% of the American population. In November the rate dropped to 10%-a sign of hope, says the President. Many, quite frankly, do not share in his audacity. Americans have been losing jobs throughout the Great Recession, and there have been no sustained efforts to reverse the trend.
|Dec 07 2009||President Obama's Street Credentials|
Last week stories about President Obama’s race again made headlines. I read one article discussing threats to Obama’s safety, which have persisted since his election. I read another about how little President Obama has done to help out African Americans since he’s been in office. Let me tell you, the man can’t win…
|Dec 02 2009||The Stigma Fades?|
While at a lecture today my professor said something that hit home. In discussing the relationship between historical events and the people who experience them, she argued that landmark events don’t change history on their own. Perception, she explained, is equally important. To understand how people in the past perceived the events that they experienced is to look deeply into the minds and customs of historical actors—to understand the culture that both created and explained the event. For those who practice cultural history, as I do, to uncover the story that people of the past told about the worlds that they witnessed is the goal of every endeavor.