Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
– from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet at the base of the Statue of Liberty
Lately it has begun to feel like our country has gotten off track and lost sight of the horizon. Our Constitution’s limits are being tested daily. Stories fill the airwaves of re-instituted policies and procedures that were once thought to be inhumane. Good character and strong moral judgment seem like fading relics from a bygone era. How did this happen? It’s a lot to process. Too much, really.
When individuals feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable, we often retreat to the sidelines in order to cope. This can be accompanied by a feeling of resignation; one person cannot make a difference. Yet it’s precisely times like these when we must push past our reluctance, step out of our comfort zones, and come forward. We must stand up and speak out, not just for ourselves, but for those whose voices may have already been silenced.
At the food bank, we are concerned about the well-being of our community and the people we serve. Even though many of our clients are employed, their low-paying jobs do not provide enough income to elevate them out of poverty. Things that most of us take for granted like transportation, health, work, school, hygiene, paying bills, and eating, are daily challenges. And now they are facing a new, insidious challenge brought on by the uncertainty of our times: fear. Fear of being caught and separated from their families, fear of being locked up, and fear of being deported back to their dangerous homelands and corrupt governments. This crippling fear is prohibiting some of our clients from seeking food for themselves and for their family members. This goes against everything our country stands for.
Fifty years ago, during another tumultuous time in our history, the Poor People’s Campaign was organized by Dr. Martin Luther King and his followers to address the moral and fundamental rights of the poor. At the time of his assassination in 1968, Dr. King was organizing a poor people’s march on Washington. Just two months later, Robert F. Kennedy, another civil rights leader who had been committed to the Poor People’s Campaign, was also assassinated.
Today the Poor People’s Campaign is being revived in an effort to once again bring attention to the issue of poverty in the United States. Additionally, the Campaign calls upon our leaders to govern with moral dignity and respect for all people. We encourage friends of the food bank to get involved. Let your local, state and federal representatives know where you stand on these issues. You can see how to contact your representatives on this site. Let them know what you support. Join groups whose missions you believe in because there is strength in numbers.
Some actions you can take right now are contacting your Congressperson and letting them know that you are concerned about the proposed cuts to CalFresh in the current Farm Bill, which just passed in the House and is heading to Congress. While speaking with them, you can inform them of your stance on Zero Tolerance policies.