With the American Federation of Teachers, The California Endowment, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation and others, new initiative will engage individuals, communities, and organizations in addressing poverty

LOS ANGELES, CA (October 22, 2013) - Today, the Tavis Smiley Foundation announced the launch of ENDING POVERTY: America’s Silent Spaces, a $3 million, four-year national initiative to examine barriers and identify solutions to alleviate poverty in the United States.  The initiative will help advance action against poverty by engaging and mobilizing individuals, communities, and organizations to identify innovative and community-based solutions that will inform a meaningful path out of poverty for fellow citizens. 

ENDING POVERTY: America’s Silent Spaces will hold a Twitter Chat, moderated by Smiley, in the coming weeks.  An expert panel of some of the country’s top minds in the areas of poverty, education and philanthropy, including Dr. Robert K. Ross, President, The California Endowment; Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers; Representative Marcia Fudge, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman; and Thomas Saenz, President and General Counsel, MALDEF, have been invited to examine the broader factors that influence poverty.      

The divide between the top income earners and those on the lower rungs of the earnings ladder is the greatest it has been in almost 100 years.  2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” -- a perfect time to refocus the nation’s attention on the millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet.

ENDING POVERTY: America’s Silent Spaces town halls will take place in 25 cities across the country during the four-year initiative.  Footage from each town hall will be captured for a feature-length documentary about endemic poverty in America to be released in 2018, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Poor People’s Campaign.”

“The fight to end poverty is not a new one.  Our actions must be viewed as part of an ongoing historical effort to exorcise this persistent cancer. When Dr. King spearheaded the Poor People’s Campaign, he talked about issues that could have been pulled from today’s headlines,” said Smiley.  “Full employment, fair wages, housing and basic human needs will always be relevant and they must be available to all.”

Smiley added, “Like President Franklin D. Roosevelt before him, King called for an economic bill of rights to address economic inequality, even proposing a $30-billion dollar anti-poverty package to create a more equitable environment.  We must create our own specific agenda to dismantle poverty, and we must work together to achieve it.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 46 million Americans are under the poverty line.  That’s more than 15 percent of all Americans.  It’s the second year in a row that more than 15 percent of Americans are struggling in poverty and increasingly many of those affected by poverty are the so-called “working poor.”  African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately affected, but millions of white Americans are also struggling to survive in the "new normal" that sees economic opportunity distributed exclusively to the top one percent.   Last year, the top one percent earned nearly 20 percent of all household income, while the top 10 percent earned more than 48 percent of all household income.  This growing disparity is crippling the country.

The measurable outcomes for ENDING POVERTY: America’s Silent Spaces over four years include:

  • Activate.  Engage one million poverty fighters across the county.  An online portal will offer turnkey ways the public can make an impact on poverty.
  • Mobilize.  Fellow citizens will be encouraged to mobilize to end poverty by signing “Eradicate Poverty Commitment Cards” aimed at getting Americans to take action steps in their local communities to alleviate poverty.
  • Expand the Movement.  Engage corporations and nonprofit organizations over four years to commit to instituting business practice changes or community investments aimed at providing economic opportunity for individuals living in poverty.
  • Challenge.  Seek to directly increase sustained media coverage of poverty in America by 10 percent; nationally, regionally and locally via traditional and social media.

“It was President Lyndon B. Johnson who emphasized in his 1964 State of the Union Address that ‘…the war against poverty will not be won here in Washington; it must be won in the field, in every private home, in every public office, from the courthouse to the White House,’” said Smiley.  “It was also during that speech that President Johnson famously announced, ‘This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.’ 50 years later it’s clear that the war has not been won and unfortunately the battle is being lost.”

ENDING POVERTY: America’s Silent Spaces will culminate in 2018, the 50th anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign.  Reconnecting people with the historical roots of poverty and the fight to alleviate it will advance the movement into a productive future where endemic poverty is a thing of the past.

A key aspect of ENDING POVERTY: America’s Silent Spaces is its emphasis on collaborations to advance measures to alleviate poverty in the United States.  For foundations and other non-profits interested in joining forces with the Tavis Smiley Foundation and its partners, please contact Denise Pines at (323) 290-1182 or dpines@tavistalks.com.

About the Tavis Smiley Foundation
The Tavis Smiley Foundation is a nonprofit 501c3 organization founded in 1999 by Tavis Smiley to enlighten, encourage and empower youth by providing leadership training that will promote and enhance a greater quality of life for them, their communities and the world. The Foundation seeks to examine barriers and identify solutions to alleviate poverty in the United States across all sectors including youth, underserved communities and families.

For additional information about ENDING POVERTY: America’s Silent Spaces, leave your name and email below to be placed on our mailing list!

Paula Thornton Greear, 708-704-9565, pthornton-greear@tavistalks.com




tsg small footer