By Rhea Riley
Milwaukee’s Social Development Commission (SDC) and the Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) cohosted the state-wide Poverty Matters, Poverty Summit.
SDC’s CEO, George P. Hinton, stated the influence of the summit will have a positive impact when fighting poverty. “If we can learn enough and learn together we can come up with new innovative ideas that will allow us to be more successful in helping others and helping people help themselves,” said Hinton.
The statewide summit hosted every WISCAP organization in the state but was also open to community members. Hinton stated, that the summit was designed to give the local community the opportunity to learn and share their stories. According to Hinton, the summit was attended by many local organizations including local students.
“We had about 50 high school youth come and talk about their perspectives around poverty and what they would like to see in the future,” Hinton said about the young community members in attendance. “They could only be with us for a short period of time, but they really loved the session.”
The summit held workshops where attendees were able to share and discuss their resources and issues revolving poverty. This included presenters Daniel Smith and Evan Goyke who shared the impact of the automation of farming and how it is “killing economies” in rural communities.
The two-day summit also addressed various similarities in poverty affecting rural, urban and suburban areas around the state. This revelation was also brought to light by keynote speakers Tim Wise and Dr. C Nicole Mason who addressed the similarities that transcend location and race.
“Poor people have been feed the same stuff rich people have been fed, and middle-class people have been fed,” Wise said about similar mentalities used to validate or discredit one’s wealth and status. “We’ve all been fed the idea that wherever we end up is all about us and it’s about our own effort and the rich use that mentality to rationalize their wealth, the middle class use that mentality to rationalize our virtue, and the poor end up internalizing that belief.”
Members who have also made significant contributions were recognized throughout the summit. Awards were given to exceptional individuals who’ve made differences in their communities. SDC’s Louise McKenzie won the Courage Award which, recognizes an individual who has overcome barriers in attaining economic security. The Herb Kohl Helping Hand award recognizes an organization or individual that has demonstrated leadership and commitment to addressing the needs of people in poverty, in which MiKayla King, Julie Sadler and Kao Yer Thao along with North Central Community Action Program were awarded for their outstanding services. This award was given during the summit’s legacy dinner which honored the late local anti-poverty leader Donald Skyes and his work in the community.
According to the SDC, the summit produced positive networking opportunities where various community members were able to have access and knowledge to new resources by different attendees. Having access these different perspectives form members in locations and backgrounds from Wisconsin, provided positive alternatives for fighting poverty.
The SDC stated they achieved their goals for the summit but are still awaiting the results and an analysis. They look forward to working with local partners to continue fighting poverty. In the meantime, the SDC will be preparing for their next summit, the 2018 Fatherhood summit. The summit will be addressing the importance of fatherhood and their presence in the community and local families featuring keynote speaker David Banner. The summit will take place October 5th and from 7:30 am – 4:30 pm and October 6th from 7:30 am to 12 pm.