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Understanding Poverty

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What Is The Anti-Poverty Soldier?

Community Action Executive Director Dr. Clarence Hightower launched the Anti-Poverty Soldier in 2014 to address inequity and elevate the public discussion surrounding poverty, to increase awareness of the root causes of poverty, and to foster new and innovative solutions to overcome it. One of Dr. Hightower’s main concerns is that the Twin Cities has recently gained the reputation as one of the most livable metropolitan areas in America despite its staggering disparities between white residents and its citizens of color, particularly African Americans. 

The fight against poverty has always been central to both Dr. Hightower’s professional career and personal principles. He has spent 35 years providing executive leadership to the Twin Cities nonprofit sector and has presided over a number of agencies designed to reduce poverty and deliver employment, education, housing, and other critical services to low-income residents.

The Anti-Poverty Soldier Column


Forty-six years ago this month, an oil embargo targeting the United States resulted in what is today remembered as the 1973 Oil Crisis.

In August of this year, The New York Times launched “The 1619 Project” marking the fourth centennial since the first documented slaves were captured and brought from modern-day Angola . . .

In response to the Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education—which partially overturned Plessy v. Ferguson and outlawed segregation in public schools . . .

As a native of the Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois (birthplace of Miles Davis), I remember the City of St. Louis as being essentially a stone’s throw away from my childhood home.

On the heels of the previous Anti-Poverty Soldier column (August 15-21) — which highlighted the work of two Stanford University professors who revealed that America’s income and wealth disparities are only getting worse . . .

There has been a lot of talk these past couple years of America’s booming economy.

In the spring of 2018, a Minnesota man made quite a splash when he testified before State representatives that — in spite of being a millionaire — he was able to secure benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for well over a year.

On the heels of the most recent “Anti-Poverty Soldier” piece (June 20, 2019) — about a Duke University study that chronicled the systematic plundering of more than $3 billion in wealth from Chicago’s African American homeowners from 1950 to 1970 . . .

In a recent installment of this column (March 28, 2019), I highlighted the Twin Cities Public Television documentary, Jim Crow of the North.

Four years ago this week, the first of 79 lawsuits was filed against the State of Michigan, claiming the water from the Flint River posed a significant health risk to the approximately 100,000 residents of Flint, Michigan.

In the last two installments of The Anti-Poverty Solider (from MSR issues April 25 and May 9), I began to introduce the findings from Community Action’s latest Community Needs Assessment (CNA).

In the previous column [April 25 issue] I referenced Community Action’s most recent triennial Community Needs Assessment (CNA), which yielded six major findings plus one central theme.

Every three years the agency that I lead, Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties, conducts a thorough Community Needs Assessment (CNA), a process that takes the better part of an entire calendar year.

In 1990, Vincent Fanelli published his one and only book, The Human Face of Poverty: A Chronicle of Urban America.

There have been a number of themes covered over and over again during the life of this column, including the examination of the Twin Cities’ rampant racial disparities, which have consistently ranked among the worst in the nation.

The previous installment of this column explored, in part, what many scholars and activists have long termed “the criminalization of poverty.”

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to take a lunch meeting with Ramsey County Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo.

A little more than a century ago, German sociologist Max Weber famously put forth a theoretical model which, when translated to English, become known as the “iron cage.”

There have been a multitude of reports in recent years about how poverty can negatively affect
the health of its victims.

On behalf of the board of directors, staff, volunteers, partners, and participants of Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties (CAPRWC), I wish to express our collective appreciation to the state’s lawmakers as they pledge unity on plans to mitigate the detrimental effects of the federal government shutdown on Minnesota’s most vulnerable populations.

In spite of what we hear about record-low levels
of unemployment, persistent job growth, and other positive economic indicators, food insecurity remains one of the pressing issues in the nation.

As we reflect on the passing of another year and anticipate the unfolding of the new one, I want to strike a somewhat different tone in this first column of 2019.

A constitutional democracy is in serious trouble if its citizenry does not have a certain degree of education and civic virtue.

Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of the minority . . .

Prison is the only form of public housing that the government has truly invested in over the past five decades.

Fewer than half of children younger than 5-years old are read-to daily in our country.

Today, the lines are blurring between the middle class, the working poor, and those unable to find work.

To empower people and strengthen their political voice, we need to help them gain access to the sources of power in any society.

To get away from poverty, you need several things at the same time.

Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed.

It is our moral failure that we still tolerate poverty.

The long-standing and partisan debate over the subject of climate change ramped-up even more recently at the news of America's decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord.

We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.

The message is not if you are poor, then your brain will be smaller and there is nothing that can be done about it. That is absolutely not the message.

In the group that has been here longer, white Americans dominate both the FTE sector and the low-wage sector.

A federal study last year found that about one in four US households skirts banks and relies on such services as check-cashing and payday loans.

Contrary to popular belief, my experience has shown me that the people who are exceptionally good in business aren't so because of what they now but because of their insatiable need to know more.

I was raised to believe we all have a civic duty and a responsibility as Americans to improve our neighborhoods and our nation.

In 2011, following the release of the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, Minnesota Compass published a statistical profile titled "Poverty in St. Paul."

In the 1930s and the 1940s Rondo Avenue was at the heart of St. Paul's largest black neighborhood.

When you allow racial disparity and institutional inequity to affect one part of the country, eventually it's coming back to get everyone.

The relationship between transportation and social mobility is stronger than the between mobility and other factors . . .

Thought leadership should be the entry point to a relationship.

Without question, the stars of Class Divided and perhaps the foremost reason for any hope at in this neighborhood, are the young people whose daily lives straddle the same one block stretch of 10th Avenue . . .

The disposition to admire and almost worship the rich and powerful, and to despise, or, at least to neglect persons of color is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.

The failure of political leaders to help uplift the poor will be judged as a moral failure.

Minnesota has some of the worst racial disparities in the nation.

Even before the start of "The War on Poverty" more than 50 years ago, there was a dedicated push to establish innovative volunteer programs that addressed social and political inequalities . . .

Our Impact This Year

  • People Who Received Energy Assistance

    55,886

  • Children Enrolled in Head Start

    1,218

  • Low-Income People Registered to Vote

    1,320

  • Volunteer Hours

    31,317

© 2019 Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties

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