Marginalised in America?

A short story of two restless beings.

Restless Beings is an organisation concerned about the dignity and wellbeing of those on the margins of mass media, those on the margins of our minds, and those on the margins of society in general. It is with this in mind that I want to write about another marginalised community, but one that may be a surprise to read about, even in the context of an alternative news network.

According to CNN Money, the poverty rate in America rose to 15.1% in 2010, at its highest level since 1993. This fact, or even the phrase 'Poverty in America' might not be one you hear often, whether on the radio, or an energetic campaign speech by the many candidates of next year's Presidential elections.

Just recently, 'The Poverty Tour', a nine state, 18 city tour came to an end in which PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley, and legendary intellectual and Princeton Professor, Dr Cornel West aimed to bring to light the tears and the sufferings of the poor in America. The inspiration for the tour, comes fittingly in the shape of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. It stems from these two courageous personalities wanting to keep alive his legacy in a time of despair, political disenchantment and high unemployment. Smiley is not a mouthpiece for mainstream media, as his job title might suggest, nor is West a member of the academic elite cooped up in an ivory tower afraid to get his hands dirty. On the tour the public see Smiley and West eating, drinking and sleeping side by side with poor and working people of all colours. It just so happens that the poor in America, are disproportionately black, brown and red; and so this tour must be seen within its wider political context. A context in which both West and Smiley have been among President Obama's strongest critics regarding his stance and policy vis-à-vis black unemployment and the issue of poverty in general.

I have followed West for some time now, and something he has spoken about repeatedly are the 'corporate plutocrats' and the 'Wall Street oligarchs' whom he says President Obama is a black mascot of. He spoke passionately and sincerely about a "top down, one sided class war against poor and working people". He is a flag bearer for courage, having the courage to be a critic of someone he loves in the face of calamity striking the people he so dearly loves too.

Tavis Smiley on 'Democaracy Now' spoke about the tour and how they wish to "raise the level of debate and conversation about the plight of the poor in this country". This fits almost seamlessly into the mission of Restless Beings. To speak out, work for and aspire to change the lives of those on the margins, whether they are on the border of Bangladesh, or in a housing project in a chocolate city in the land of the free.

The man who inspires these two heroes sums up the mission so eloquently. "...I choose to give my life for those who have been left out of the sunlight of opportunity..." Perhaps with more courageous individuals, academics, politicians, students and others, we can work towards the day of opportunity where the sunlight is for all to enjoy.