“She began to do as she liked and to feel as she liked…She had resolved never to take another step backward.”
More strong opinions and good words created by other people.
It will be noted that I am white and this poem is about black experience. I fully acknowledged that I do not have her experience. Our differences do not diminish the power of her words or make it wrong (or improper) for me to include them in my list of good words and strong opinions. Additionally, there were points where she is definitely speaking to my own experiences as a poverty survivor – a few quotes:
- “You’re looking at me like I’m not supposed to be standing here next to you. Like we’re in the same class but your idea of advanced is to advance that my mind can’t match you.”
- “White people think they run shit because they got money to buy the source.”
- “As soon as I raise my hand for anything other than a bathroom break, I become a weirdo.”
- “Why would I use big words? So I can sound like you? You know what I sound like? Like I’ve read a book before.”
“Well I walked over the bridge
Into the city where I live,
And I saw my old landlord.
Well we both said hello,
There was no where else to go,
‘cuz his rent I couldn’t afford.”
We forget what we got,
Who we are.
Or who we are not.
I think we gotta chance,
To make it right.”
“You’ve got a woman who knows her worth
And ain’t prepared to compromise it
You better listen you better make it better
But don’t make me say
You can’t treat me that way”
Kate Earl by Kate Earl
Poverty Survivor Defined
A Poverty Survivor is any human being who has survived poverty. The individual may have been poor at some time in the past, in the throes of survival right now, or a member of a family that has (as far anyone knows) always been poor. It’s not about the duration or the cause, it’s about the ability to survive.
Why I Am A Survivor
There is no shame in being poor.
There is no shame in being born into poverty.
There is no shame in having family who is poor.
There is no shame in being homeless.
There is no shame in facing a serious financial crisis.
There is no shame in complete financial life change.
Poverty is a life experience.
I have faced this experience and lived to tell the tale.
I have gained skills.
I have made friends.
I have discovered inner strength.
I have successfully faced thousands of seemingly impossible challenges.
I have gotten through the worst, even when it did not seem possible.
I. Have. Survived.
Therefore, I am a survivor.
I have a right to my pride.
What Poverty Is NOT
It is not a crime.
It is not a sin.
It is not proof of God’s wrath.
It is not proof that a shameful/sinful/criminal act has been committed.
It is not proof of laziness or poor work ethic.
It is not proof of low intelligence.
It is not proof of poor money management skills.
People do not deserve poverty.
People do not choose poverty.
Poverty is not a ‘lifestyle.’
Poverty is not absolute.
Those with wealth may one day see poverty.
Those in poverty may one day see wealth.
Claim Your Pride
Discussions about poverty are to often overshadowed with shame and fear. The process of getting out of poverty frequently involves trying to pass as upper class while hiding both experiences and family connections.
There is no shame in being poor. Addressing the problems people in poverty face is a difficult process made more difficult by our own shame. Proudly declaring that you have survived poverty helps to break down that culture of shame.
We have the right to be treated with respect.
We have the right to aspire to better.
We have the right to hold our heads high.
We have a right to our pride.
“It’s not hard to say no. It’s hard to say it right. At the right time. For the right reasons.”
–Nein. A Manifesto by Eric Jarosinski