As our community reflects and celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Kids Forward would like to share our ongoing and steadfast commitment and energy to advocating for every kid, every family, and every community within Wisconsin.
Our reflections lead us to Dr. King’s “The Other America”, a profound speech, delivered at Stanford University in 1967 where he describes two Americas. One America “is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity,” but in the other America millions are “perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”
In Dr. King’s Other America, the unemployment rate for African Americans was more than twice that of whites, and the average income of African Americans was 50% less than the white population. Unfortunately, the Other America continues to persist today with similarly alarming racial and ethnic disparities within our nation. Wisconsin’s remains one of the worst places in America for African Americans. Nine percent of white children in Wisconsin live in poverty compared to 43% of African American children, 28% of Latino children, 23% of Asian children, and 41% of Native American children.
The disparities are alarming. As we work to inspire action and promote access to opportunity for every child, every family, and every community, we remain determined and hopeful. We continue to draw strength from Dr. King and other civil rights leaders.
After having won the passage of voting rights of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Dr. King began to organize around the collective need to begin a war on poverty so that every family had a livable wage and a safe home to sleep. Through courageous leadership with the Poor People’s Campaign, Dr. King demanded economic justice: guaranteed employment, better homes, better education, and better overall quality of life for all Americans.
In the decades since, progress has been made because of the creation and expansion of programs and policies that seek to address economic injustice. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a political climate where state and federal governments are now refusing to invest in protecting working families and providing affordable housing. When one cannot find a job that provides livable wages or they cannot afford a home to keep their family warm, their basic human dignity is chipped away.
Today many working families find themselves devoting nearly 70% of their income to rent and living expenses. Working parents are forced to make stressful choices between making rent or feeding their children. These tragic conditions are leading to kids either being hungry or homeless—in the most heartbreaking cases—both.
At Kids Forward, we believe there is no better time than NOW to honor Dr. King—to vigorously advocate and organize so that every kid, every family, and every community can have full participation in the American Dream. There is no doubt a great deal of work has to be done, but we are committed to advocating for effective, long-lasting solutions that break down barriers to success for children and families.
We leave you with words from Dr. King’s last sermon:
We are coming to demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty. We read one day: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists … We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago. And we are coming to engage in dramatic non-violent action, to call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment; to make the invisible visible.