Our good friend, community member and colleague Eliacin Rosario Cruz has just written a thought provoking response to an article published in Geez Magazine – one of my favourite publications. The original article Changing the Story of Change, raises some important issues.
Hosting visiting groups to New Jerusalem Now, a grassroots addiction treatment community in North Philly, is starting to feel like poverty tourism. The purpose of the day’s activities is to give the youth group an experience that will hopefully inspire them to care about “the poor.” I think that’s what ignites my anger – Shante should be the most important person in this little gathering, but she’s not. She’s a means to an end, the end being to inspire young, white, suburban Christian youth to be more conscious of poverty. They’re the most important people in the gathering; the day’s events are more about them than the people who live in the recovery community they’re visiting. The privileged suburban kids are at the centre of the narrative.
Eliacin’s response is even more thought provoking.
Growing up in my barrio I witnessed many acts of evil and wonderful deeds of love and compassion. I lived among the poor, I was one of the poor. We were poor together. We knew it but we didn’t pay much attention to it, because we had to live. We couldn’t sit around discussing how political, religious or other people’s movements could influence and inspire us in our desire for liberation from poverty. We worked, loved and tried to make sense of our experiences as people – not poor people, simply as people.