Take Back the Land-Madison, the local activist group that grabbed headlines for homelessness issues (and incensed some people) with its bold occupations of housing vacated by foreclosure, is getting national attention.
Members of the group will be interviewed Aug. 6 for Tavis Smiley and Cornel West’s “National Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience.” Smiley, a nationally known talk show host, and West, a social critic and professor at Princeton University, have joined forces for Smiley & West, a weekly public radio show. The pair is embarking on a 15-city bus tour to shine a light on the lives of poor people “so they will not be forgotten, ignored, or rendered invisible during this difficult and dangerous time of economic deprivation and political cowardice,” as it says on the show website.
I was surprised to learn Madison would be part of a national look at poverty, because the city is pretty affluent, so I asked members of TBL-Madison to offer Grass Roots some comments on why the city belongs in a Poverty Tour.
“I’m glad they’re giving the real poverty issues of Madison a national stage,” Kimayana Johnson responds in an email. “We haven’t had folks gathering at the Capitol in droves to protect these issues before because it didn’t affect but a few handfuls in the state. Now that (Gov.) Walker has been cutting folks down at the knees with all of his ‘power’ moves, many working class, middle class and, once considered middle class, people are being forced into dealing with real poverty issues.”
So maybe that’s what a look at Madison will show – how in the changed economic and political climate, poverty is everywhere now. People who didn’t worry about covering basic needs just a few years ago worry about it now.
Of course, there always have been people who had to make do with less than enough.
The Poverty Tour is scheduled to start near Hayward with a visit to the Lac Coutre Oreilles Indian reservation, and continue to LaCrosse, Madison, Milwaukee and on to Chicago, Washington D.C. and beyond, wrapping up in Memphis on Aug. 12.
Wisconsin Public Radio doesn’t carry Smiley & West, but you can hear dispatches from the Poverty Tour online here.