Reginald Jones-Sawyer (File photo)

Every year the United Nations (UN) asks world leaders to reflect on the issue of social justice and create programs that focus on eradicating poverty in their respective countries. The UN’s Annual World Social Justice Day (every February 20) is a day to remind ourselves at the local level that inequalities in poverty, exclusion, gender equality, unemployment, human rights, and social protections exist and are on the rise.

National numbers indicate poverty is hitting every community with Native American (25.4%), Black (20.8%) and Latino (17.6%) communities being the most affected. Studies indicate children in particular are living in poverty with one in every six children at or below the federal guidelines for poverty. Over 2.5 million kids, 16.2 percent of the U.S. population, were homeless in 2015.

One major cause in the rise in poverty rates has to do with the great dollar divide.

Economic inequality is a major concern in the battle for social justice. Blue-collar working Americans have not seen a wage increase in years as the national hourly rate has been stagnate at $7.25 per hour for the last decade – even as the national economy has expanded.

Getting a slice of the American pie is becoming more difficult every generation as more wealth is being concentrated with fewer individuals and corporations.

There are solutions on the horizon, however, including providing greater access to higher learning via no cost college tuition programs and student loan forgiveness legislation. Rethinking our taxation approach on multi-billion dollar corporations is another way to help support job training programs and infrastructure development to provide pathways to, and the creation of, high paying jobs.

We must be willing to rework old and outdated programs and laws that have suppressed communities of color for decades. These changes include providing fair treatment under the law, access to a quality public education and offering top-line training programs to help individuals transition into new careers or pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions.

As voters, we must look to leaders who are willing to take on the status quo and challenge oppressive norms. Preserving our rights to an equitable life, liberty and the pursuit of individual happiness can only happen through the election process.

The fight for social justice remains at the ballot box; your part to effect positive and progressive change starts with your vote. This World Social Justice Day register and become an active voter.

There are many fronts in the battle for social justice; I encourage you to fight on!