Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in EBR, The Walls Project has been hosting weekly video calls with leaders of nonprofits, foundations, city government, and local businesses from a
cross the parish. The intention of these weekly community check-ins is to share information and resources to help the Baton Rouge community respond and recover from the pandemic. Weekly topics range from access to basic needs such as food, medical care, and safety to thought-leaders' insights on equitable opportunities for youth enrichment, nonprofit financial solvency, surge in unemployment, and the disproportionate impact on impoverished neighborhoods in regards to accessing fresh food.
Poverty and Systems
Meeting Notes Prepared by Samantha Morgan (Walls Project)
Dr. Andrea Boyles (Author and Professor Sociology & Africana Studies, Tulane University)
I thank you for your service to the broader community. One of the things I stress time and time again is our lives are interdependent and interconnected. Although I’m not directly involved in the work you do, I appreciate that there’s an indirect effect for me and all of us, particularly as we talk about poverty this morning. I do a bit of social justice work. I just run a gamut in terms of inequality and what that means socio historically. One of the things I challenge you to do this morning is think about the things I bring up and situate them within historical context. History matters. People like to discount it. There should not be picks and chooses when history masters. We don’t argue when history matters with purchasing power. Credit history for example. People are examining a pattern of our financial habits. They want a full picture. LIkewise if we’re thinking about medical history. We don’t pick and choose, we just accept the fact that if we’re going to get care, we need to share that so doctors can have a full picture to address our needs proactively and reactively. I challenge you to think about that in how it relates to poverty. Poverty is an age-old ranking system. It is not by coincidence that people are impoverished. It’s not something we casually fell into. There’s a deliberate arrangement that has always been that made way for poverty. There is also alongside of that happening, centuries old arrangement that solidifies wealth. We can also think about that arrangement from one extreme to the other is global, not just local. It has trickled down to the local level. Let’s begin with U.S. history: Imperialism and colonialism. Those are all political maneuverings and systemic policies that have created an economic flow and agenda rooted in all of those things. Enslavement and other things needed to stabilize this country as a leading power. Not just as a competing power, but a leading power. The fact that we have this system we can think about, doesn’t just exist on coincidence. It’s very deliberate political maneuvering. We can think about the fact that not only crafting a poverty system, there has to be a crafting of a wealth system. We can think about 1, 2, 3rd place. The significance of being a champion matters a great deal because there’s a distinction between first and last. We can think about life in that way. There’s not only an economic definition but a social definition that is built into these political maneuverings that determine how people become to be champions economically. On a global level, our first world position doesn’t just happen. First world matters nothing if we have not distinguished second and third world powers. There's no significance in a top layer cake if you don’t maintain a second and third layer. This ranking from bottom to top sustains the next. When we work with impoverished communities, those are not individual traits. These ideas, these irresponsible ideas, suggests that people are impoverished because they are lazy. There’s a culture of poverty. That’s unfounded. What we do know is there’s deliberate maneuvering for people to be enriched and that comes at the cost of maintaining people who are impoverished. Those number don’t just occur. It’s constructed. Whether someone is sitting on or below the magic number, that doesn’t change that they are impoverished. They’re still impoverished. The consequences of that. We’re not countering poverty in regards to individuals. Countering poverty is about working at a system, not necessarily working to counter or deal with these individuals. There are domino effects that continue decimating and are chronic. There’s a deliberate arrangement. What people will say is that they are working to solidify their wealth and you cannot do one without the other. I challenge you to consider how to counter these systems.
If we build wealth and maintain poverty, this notion of making poor people and making them rich doesn’t solve the challenge. I wanted to pause for a moment to
It has been a great journey being part of the FIC. I came on with the Three O'clock project for three years, but a couple major disasters along the way. Being part of a community that can inspire change that not only makes us feel good, but actually changes things systematically. When I was asked to be part of the leadership of where the FIC is going, I was nervous, but excited. That is why recently we have spent time together to rebrand from the Food insecurity coalition to CAFE (Capital Area Food Equity).
I want to start by celebrating that we’ve done this for 100 Fridays and grateful for the leadership that got us together in this room. I’m super grateful to be charged with my pal Dustin to work on the backbone of how all these things are linked together. For me and the work we do at the Baton Rouge Alliance For Students, we think this is one of the core things we have to get right. As we think about the structure of the One Rouge Education subcommittee is what will it mean to be well educated in Baton Rouge. What will we call ourselves successfully as an education committee. What are the measures of success? The other thing we’re thinking about is one of our newest coalitions to come online, what are the areas of impact and whole child wellness. Who are we going to gather and our stakeholder groups we’re looking to serve. We’re having those conversations on the front end.
Transportation mural transportation unveiling
1824 Highland Road.
The new website is https://www.onerouge.org/
The one rouge coalition it’s not them, they, it’s not those people, those guys, those people on the calls, that group, any outward facing identifier. The One Rouge coalition is all of us and many others who are not a part of this call yet. It’s all of us mutually agreeing to align our respective work to the collective impact. This notion of mutual agreement, Casey invited, we showed up. Many of the people if not most of the faces on this regularly are here on a regular basis and no one forces us, it’s not a requirement, it’s not a condition, it is by mutual agreement. In spaces where there’s mutual agreement there’s mutual expectations. We agree that there’s something we aspire to and we can add to to make that happen. What we agree to do is to align our work. I emphasize those words, the One Rouge coalition is not about a new work. It’s not about something else we need to do, it’s about how we align. It’s about how, not what. It’s about how we come together, how we organize ourselves, how we amplify impact. We have this belief that we are better able to make a difference in the community by organizing and aligning our impact. It is this notion of mutually agreeing so that equity becomes a real thing in this community. It’s also important to understand the Friday space. Friday calls are the lecture portion of the coalition. All of these people who have come into this space and dropped powerful nuggets of knowledge in this space. There’s this knowledge that gets dropped in volumes here. If we want to speak to things we can. We don’t always have to agree, but then the coalitions are the labs. They are where we take the valuable information we experience here and put it into practice so the impact in the community is even greater. I’m thankful about how this coalition has grown. The coalitions are the laboratories. You’ve heard about the three that are emerging. There are 9 of them. We are either wise enough or something else to try not to lift all nine at once. As we lift these three, what are the next three. We want to hear from you.
I operate in three coexisting spaces. Areas of mass incarceration, but also asset development and asset mapping and creation and depletion. We have systemic programs that take. Transportation isn’t just where do I need to go, it’s is it safe for me to leave the house. We’re not thinking about always who we have literally locked into cages either physically or individually. There is a challenge for people whose children struggle with severe mental illness. Those diagnosis are a B line to poverty. Many times the lack of access to special need services ends up causing people to medicate in inappropriate ways. Both the caretaker and the individual. We have lots of programs we work in. I’m in the courts every single day. The legislature is in right now. Next week the metro council will be honoring those who are doing second chance work. And yet we have 500 bills that are building new obstacles to people who have essentially done their time. It’s a permanent state of incarceration. All of these intersections of the work has made me so appreciative of this space. I want to end with this example because it’s so Rodneyna has given me so many ways to amplify and express the people I serve. So things like the green book display, but it’s this idea of new ideas and new partners, give you a way to change the system that you never thought possible before.
We have learned the USDA waivers are going to expire in a few weeks so this is the chance to advocate for that. We have a portal that will take you 30 seconds to send this waiver. You will not be solicited. We have recently met with community partners and learned how deep of an issue this is on our community level and this is your opportunity to take action now.
It was Jan Ross who found me and brought me into this group. That first conversation I was invited to was what the housing first alliance was doing at the time. It was trying to complete a housing market segmentation study. We had a document with data about the different markets in the Baton Rouge area. In lower market areas it’s about blight and in higher market it’s about creating more affordable housing. The bulk of my work at this moment is about a healthy housing forum, which happened because of these calls. We are in the third month of implementing this forum. We have a lot of landlords participating in this study and they are the ones coming up with the documentation and so I’m very inspired by what is coming out of this group. I’m really excited about how this forum is expanding.
This group has informed so much that the office of community development strategies around. All of those work we’re pouring into is part of the mayor’s safe…
It’s a collective ecosystem focused on public safety. Rev Anderson talked about so many things that are plaguing our community. In this work we have four key pillars. Support individuals, youth, family and community. Leverage entitlement dollars to build solutions with community partners like you. We’re not trying to build anything new, but we are trying to build a foundation in city parish for more solutions.
I got pictures of the donated building materials, we’re finally rebuilding. We will have camp this summer at Camp Walker. I’m happy we have donors who are filling in where insurance doesn’t.
October - As you know I believe we should be creating intersectional spaces. We do a disservice to our community if we’re not uplifting communities that have been suppressed or intentionally erased or just not been given the spotlight. Right now we are working on our exhibition in October. We’re working with our BR poet laureate is preserving Louisiana Creole. It’s specific to our region. The exhibition is Louisiana mythologies The Universal understanding of how we carry on our cultures through mythological cultures. We’re using a lot of self taught artists and have ties to Louisiana. We’re amplifying native american and indeginous people. I’m extremely excited about bringing that here. We’re doing all the fundraising for that now. We are creating an exhibition fund. With the new administration it’s something that has become essential. We have made the third Thursday free during the day. And then that night we do a program. I’m always looking for partners. I always want to find people who are looking to amplify their voice. This is a new program and this museum is just starting to get on the radar. We are partnering with the Livingston Parish library. You can check out a membership. If you bring the book to the museum you can get free access to the museum that day. We have so many wonderful things happening. Jr. cultural ambassadors program.