Tavis Smiley (left) and Cornel West (center) visit the DC Central Kitchen on August 10, 2011. (Flickr/DC Central Kitchen)
Next Thursday, at George Washington University in the nation’s capital—just four days before President Obama’s inauguration—broadcaster Tavis Smiley will bring together a bipartisan panel and an array of poverty experts in a nationally televised event, “Vision for A New America: A Future Without Poverty.”
Expect a heated debate, as a panel that includes Newt Gingrich, Cornel West, and Michael Moore discusses Smiley’s call for a national plan to cut poverty in half in ten years and to eradicate it in twenty-five.
It’s part of Smiley’s latest effort to bring attention to the more than 46 million Americans living below living the poverty line, on less than $18,000 annually for a family of three. Smiley is also calling on the President to deliver a major public policy address on poverty—which includes telling the American people what they can do to help—and to convene a White House Conference on the Eradication of Poverty.
“This is all about raising the profile of poverty in America,” Smiley told me. “It’s about gaining traction.”
While the aforementioned headliners will help fill the auditorium next week—along with Jeffrey Sachs, Jonathan Kozol, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge, and National Nurses United executive director Rose Ann DeMoro—there are a couple of less widely-known panelists that I am definitely looking forward to hearing from as well.
If you read this blog, you know Dr. Mariana Chilton, director for the Center for Hunger-Free Communities, founder of Witnesses to Hunger, and associate professor of Drexel University School of Public Health.
Chilton is one of the brightest, most creative people I’ve come across in an antipoverty field that is full of great thinkers and activists. Also, more than anyone I know, she touts the fact that the “real experts” on poverty are the people who are actually living in poverty—and Witnesses to Hunger is a testament to that belief. You can bet if Gingrich starts pushing stereotypes about poverty and hunger, Chilton will counter with facts, science, and the collaborative work she does with low-income citizens every day.