The Poverty Tour Preview

With nearly one in six Americans living in poverty, next week’s series of shows will put a human face on the alarming newly released data about life in the U.S.

Each night will feature video highlights from Tavis' 18-city, nine-state bus tour in August—"The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience"—during which he spoke to everyday Americans about their struggles in today’s economy. He'll also have a nightly conversation with leading poverty advocates, including: Vicki Escarra, president of Feeding America; economist Jeffrey Sachs; HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; public theologian Jim Wallis; and Princeton professor Dr. Cornel West.

[Funders for this special series include: the AARP Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.]


Tavis: Next week on this program we’re devoting all five nights to the issue of poverty in America. Recently I traveled around the country to meet the real people behind the latest poverty numbers – numbers that show an alarming rise in the ranks of the poor in this country, particularly among children.

As the housing crisis grows ever more dire, those who once strived for the American dream now find themselves poor and homeless.

[Begin video clip]

Woman One: We are at Camp Take Notice outside of Ann Arbor, located in between I94 and highway M14.

Tavis: How many folk are living in this particular –

Male One: Well, there are right now around 48 people.

Tavis: About 48 people?

Male One: Yeah. We’ve been at this location for one year. We don’t have permission to be here, explicit permission to be here. We’ve been evicted. This is our sixth location. We’ve been evicted from five, five, from five previous locations.

Cornel West: Wow.

Male One: This is (unintelligible) transportation.

Jackie Starkey: I went to the shelter first and there was no room in the inn, per se. They referred me out here, and –

Tavis: The shelter referred you out here?

Jackie Starkey: The shelter referred me out here.

Tavis: Wow.

Jackie Starkey: And I –

Male Two: They’re having budget problems too.

Tavis: You’ve lived in your own home and you end up living in these conditions, it does what to your spirit, your soul? How do you –

Jackie Starkey: You really get – you feel frustrated.

Tavis: Right.

Jackie Starkey: You get so frustrated. It’s like, why couldn’t they help me when I was out there? Why did I have to be homeless to get help?

Male One: Ann Arbor’s predominately white, middle and upper-class, so we don’t have, of course, the upper class here, but we do have a predominately white community. We do have some African Americans and some Hispanics as well as other ethnicities here.

The age group tends to be people in their forties, fifties and sixties. A lot of times it’ll be people that had at one time done a physical job for their livelihood and are no longer able to do that.

Jackie Starkey: I have found a part-time job – actually, I had two part-time jobs but got laid off of one.

Tavis: With a part-time job now you live here still because you have to or at this point because you want to?

Jackie Starkey: Because I have to.

Tavis: So a part-time job still doesn’t allow you to make a –

Jackie Starkey: No, it does not. Not at minimum wage.

Tavis: – make a monthly apartment – yeah, yeah.

Jackie Starkey: No. It’s going to take me a long time to save up enough money.

[End video clip]

Tavis: Like so many of the people we met along the way on our poverty tour, those who once called themselves middle class now rank among the poor. Next week we’ll introduce you to so many Americans of all races, genders and ages in our week entitled The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience.

In addition to highlights from our tour itself we’ll feature in-depth conversations about poverty in America with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, economist Jeffrey Sachs, Princeton Professor Cornel West, who took the tour with me, theologian Jim Wallace and Feeding America CEO Vickie B. Escarra.

I hope you will join us all next week, all five nights, as we expose the new face of poverty in America during The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience.

“Female One:” Every community has a Martin Luther King Boulevard. It’s the cornerstone we all know. It’s not just a street or boulevard, but a place where Walmart stands together with your community to make every day better.

“Announcer:” Nationwide Insurance supports Tavis Smiley. With every question and every answer, Nationwide Insurance is proud to join Tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. Nationwide is on your side.

“Announcer:” And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

Last modified: October 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm