They intend to share with the public the findings of their recent 18-city bus tour designed to place the spotlight on America’s poor.
Media giant, Tavis Smiley, and Princeton Professor Cornel West will hold a Town Hall meeting to discuss, “The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience,” their nationwide 18-city tour that shined a spotlight on the plight of the nation’s poor of all races, colors, and creeds, so they will not be forgotten, ignored or rendered invisible during this difficult and dangerous time of economic deprivation and political cowardice. In essence, they will put a human face on the alarming new data about poverty in America with special programming on both of Smiley’s national public television and radio programs. They will be joined by Rabbi Steve Leder.
Smiley spoke with the Sentinel so that the public will gain some insight into his bus tour experiences and what to expect at the town hall meeting, and on his radio and television show the following week. He said, “At the Poverty Tour, we’ll be talking about poverty in America and these numbers that have been coming out lately from the census bureau to the Depuy Research Study. The number of the poor in this country is more than alarming, it’s more than unsettling, it’s unacceptable.”
According to Smiley, “There are more than 50 million people in this country living in poverty – disproportionately Black, Brown and children – almost 50 million people living in poverty,” he reiterated, “so we took the poverty tour this summer, nine states, 18 cities on this bus tour called the Poverty Tour, talking about this particular issue, and that is culminating this Sunday here in L.A. at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple from five to seven (5p.m. to 7p.m.) at a free town hall, talking about poverty in America.”
Following the town hall Smiley continued, “Then next day, Monday (October) 10, to Friday 14, for five straight nights, on my PBS show, we are going to be showcasing footage … experiences that we’ve had on this tour. Never before in television, has a TV show spent five consecutive nights talking about poverty.”
Furthermore, Smiley suggests that there is an obvious connection between the alarming poverty rate and the Wall Street (New York)/Boston/Los Angeles mass protests against banks and corporate greed. “Of course, there’s a connection,” he said, “people can only stay down for so long. Fannie Lou Hamer said, ‘I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.’ The people have had it. I think we’re going to be seeing more of these protests in the coming months, and these poverty numbers are growing so fast and for Black folks, especially.”
Smiley continued, “It hasn’t been this bad for Black folks since the Great Depression. The Arab Spring has led to an American fall.”
Prior to the town hall on Sunday, “The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience” will kick off with a roundtable discussion on The Tavis Smiley Show from PRI on Friday, October 7. To start the conversation, Smiley will sit down with poverty experts including: Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association (NEA); Emily Allen, vice president of the AARP Foundation; Vicki B. Escarra, president of Feeding America; and Patrick McCarthy, president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
And during the unprecedented weeklong series on poverty, Tavis Smiley on PBS will feature video highlights from Smiley’s nationwide August 2011 poverty bus tour with his Smiley & West co-host, Dr. West. Stopping in 18 cities across nine states, Smiley spoke to everyday Americans, including children, about their struggles in today’s economy. Each night, following highlights from the tour, Smiley will speak with a leading poverty advocate.
“What I witnessed firsthand during The Poverty Tour was both inspiring and heartbreaking,” said Smiley. “Americans who were recently middle class are now considered the ‘new poor’ and they live in our cities, suburbs and rural communities. But in the darkness, we also saw rays of hope in programs that are working on the ground, right now. The federal government has to find the will to continue to fund those programs in honor of a better tomorrow.”