The One Where I Discuss Politics in Mixed Company
There is a side of me that I have not blogged about. Mostly because I'm not interested in creating a major debate, and I generally avoid talking about religion and politics in mixed company.
But today, on Martin Luther King Jr. day, I know the blogosphere will be littered with inspirational quotes and reflections on the life of a man that I greatly admire.
So I will out myself, today.
I am .... liberal.::gasp:: Okay, so you may have guessed this already. I mean, I am a "bleeding heart" social worker after all.
When I started in social worker, I wanted to avoid the profession I do now. I did not want to be a direct service provider. I wanted to be a community organizer. I wanted to work to make and change social policy. I refused to accept an internship at a social service agency, and I instead created my own internship with the support of my adviser/mentor. I worked with a poor people's organization - in that it was created and run by people living in poverty. It was called Portland Organizing to Win Economic Rights (POWER) and it was affiliated with the national group Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPERHC). I did A LOT of work with this group and created lasting memories and friendships. I went to Venezuela to the World Social Forum and talked to so many people about the healthcare crisis in the United States. We held rallies, educational forums, and held a forum for people to talk about how poverty has affected them. At the point, the group has dissolved, because of burnout, lack of money, and a variety of other things that cause small organizing groups to dissolve.
Most days, I feel guilty. Because I "gave in" to working in the direct service field, I have little invovlement in community organizing because I wanted to be able to pay my bills - and those jobs barely (if at all) pay a living wage - because they can't afford to. We live in a society that no longer values community and labor organizing. A society that works very hard to divide us. Some days my job only has a loose connection to the idea of social work, and only because I am working with those in poverty - but it's very hard to truly empower them within the current political and economical system. There are so many catch-22's, so many stigmas, so many barriers.
One way I continue to keep one foot in the policy world is by working on books with my former professor/mentor. We have a book due to be published in 2013, following homelessness as a social issue from the 1970's up through today. Now we are working on a book that is studying if poverty has lasting effects on people even once they get money (by studying celebrities that we born and raised in poverty). I hope that these books will be used in classrooms, as a testament to the lasting effects of poverty and as a critique of why homelessness is no longer a burning topic in the United States. I hope that these books will be read by anyone who is looking to learn, to change, to be a part of ending poverty.
I hope once I move to NC to head back to school for my Ph.D. and be able to pioneer a project that will make a social difference.
I talk to people about Universal Health Care, welfare reform, and things that I've learned from the "front lines" of working with people in poverty (and living in it for many years).
It never seems like enough. It's easy to feel swallowed up in a world that seems like it is going to youknowwhere in a youknowwhat. But if we give up, things will never change. And I think the one thing most of us can agree on is that things need to change.
Martin Luther King Jr was only one person. But he made a difference. Because he didn't give up. He kept going. He had a mission, a vision, yes - a dream. So whatever it is that you can do to participate in the world, do it! No matter what your political view! I believe wholeheartedly that apathy is even worse than conservative views ;-) I leave you now with a few quotes to litter the blogosphere with.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." --MLK JR.
All quotes obtained at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/martin_luther_king_jr.html