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Listening to the Unheard

Up until now I've waited until after the City Council meetings where I speak to post the text of my comments on here. However, considering that the next Council meeting takes place on the night before Election Day, I want to give you, your friends, your family, and our neighbors a chance to read what I will be saying this Monday. So, here you have it:

"Some of us are used to being ignored. Day in and day out, the struggles of the downtrodden are dismissed as a consequence of each poor soul’s personal failures. Society has – at times – gleefully disregarded the scourge of poverty because its solutions require a cultural shift of which we are desperately in need. My primary plea and calling in life is for these unheard voices to be given a microphone to speak and an ear to hear what they have to say.

How often do we truly listen to one another? Are we satisfied with the sound of our own voice and the cacophony of those which tend to side with us? Does it suffice that our attention is given to friendly praise but is conspicuously lacking at the moment that criticism rears its unpopular head? I dare say that we’ve become complacent with respect to the conditions of working people – including the men and women who would like to work but are having difficulty pulling themselves up – since it is much easier to point the finger at them and assign blame accordingly for their lack of fortune.

Even so, there is a desire to succeed among these supposed takers in our midst. They do not want a life to be given to them on a silver platter. No, what they want is a shot at the same happiness that their more affluent brothers and sisters have enjoyed for so long. What they demand is recognition of their human dignity and a social contract which regards their plight or triumph as a fate shared by the whole of our community.

Here lately, Council has taken some actions deserving of applause for lifting a few of the obstacles trapping us in a cycle of relentless economic despair; namely the vote to “delay the box” on city job applications. Still, more can and must be done and the path forward is dependent on the participation of the least fortunate in concert with others who are dedicated to fighting poverty. The band-aids can no longer suffice for a problem which has harmed countless men, women, and children for generations. What we need is a strategy to win the war on poverty by seeing the impoverished as partners in waging such as opposed to mere pawns on a political chess board.

Listen for a moment, and I promise that we will see the emergence of amazing solutions to the many challenges facing the poor. Don’t dismiss the answers they may have for affordable housing, rental registration, job creation, curbing homelessness, improving transportation, and whatever other matters may come to mind. After all, they are the ones living in these conditions. Is it so difficult to believe that some of them may have thought – at length - about how society can help lift them up?

Poverty is not an individual struggle, because its consequences infect the rest of society. For that reason, combating this plague can not be left to the impoverished alone to fight on a person by person basis. Choosing to separate ourselves from the life experience of others is not an appropriate response to the cries for help that regularly emanate from them. We owe it to one another, especially to our children and their children, to pull out the ear plugs and prepare to work hard – as a unit – for a remedy to these ills.

An election is at hand. Regardless of its outcome, I am pleading with the members of this – our city government – to remember the people without a lobby. Their success is your success and the same must be said of their shortcomings. Illuminating the future of Newark – not unlike setting up the lights on a beautiful Christmas tree - is dependent on ensuring that every man, woman, and child receives equal treatment and ultimately has a chance to shine."

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