In 2016, the poverty rate in the United States was 12.7%, which was a drop from 13.5% in 2015. Poverty affected 40.6 million Americans in 2016, and with poverty affecting so many people, many are taking action for change. Jason and Joanie Williams, from Charlotte, North Carolina, have now moved to Winston-Salem, where they both advocate for poverty reduction and change in institutionalized poverty.
On Tuesday, October 24, Jason and Joanie held a Poverty Workshop here on campus, which included a meal, a simulation, and a discussion. Throughout the entire workshop, emotions were strong and participants really started to see poverty in a different light. Unfortunately, the majority of those in poverty lack the power to transition into a better life.
Jason made a profound statement that has stuck with me ever since. Jason said that “People don’t lack resources, they lack power.” Jason furthered explained that there are resources for those who are living in poverty such as non-profits, social services, the bank, churches, and many others. Their problem is that they do not have the power or the social status they need to succeed and achieve a better life.
Poverty is a vicious cycle and once you find yourself in it, it’s hard to get out. The poverty workshop evoked raw emotion and made me more aware of what poverty really is. So many Americans lack the power to change their situations, and the institutions with the power do not give them any. Poverty is institutionalized, and change needs to be made in order to help Americans succeed and create a life they want to live for.