While the nation awaits the September 12 release of the latest numbers on poverty from the U.S. Census Bureau, broadcaster Tavis Smiley and Professor Cornel West, co-hosts of the nationally syndicated public radio program "Smiley & West" from Public Radio International (PRI), once again bring national attention to economic injustice with "The Poverty Tour 2.0."
Coming to Tenth Memorial Baptist Church from 10 a.m to 1 p.m. Friday Sept. 14, "The Poverty Tour 2.0" is free and open to the public and continues the "moral crusade to make the eradication of poverty a top priority in America — a clarion call to President Obama and Governor Romney as the race for the White House heats up."
In a recent teleconference, Smiley and West discussed why they felt compelled to follow up their 2011 "Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience" with their latest endeavor.
"Today, the jobs numbers came out, and they are not good at all. They dropped from 8.3 to 8.1 (unemployment)," said Smiley. "But the primary reason for the drop is that more Americans have stopped looking for work. Wednesday, the twelfth, the day we start the tour in Ohio, the official poverty numbers will come out, and Doc (West) and I are of the mind that when you put these two numbers together, what you're going to conclude is that poverty is the new American norm. That's why we're going on tour again."
Smiley and West believe that their series of town hall meetings will open up dialogue and find solutions for this rapidly growing problem in America.
"It's going to be a wonderful format," said Smiley. "It's going to be a mix of interviews — there will be a number of persons that we'll be announcing later — we're still shoring up the list.
We're talking elected officials, but we're also talking organizations that are working on poverty — we have some leaders. We're obviously going to be talking to poor people themselves about how they're navigating this economy and this environment, and we're talking to the audience, of course. They're going to have a chance to heard and seen nationally. So it's a mix of interviews, it's a mix of conversations, it's a mix of engaging the audience.
“Dr. West and I will have some words to share with the audience. It's going to be very interactive. People aren't going to sit and be lectured to for three hours. It's going to be very interactive because we want to hear what they have to say. We want to address their concern, address their questions, and let the experts that we bring in answer some of these questions."
In addition to personally reaching out to American citizens in the "battleground" states of Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida, Smiley and West hope that their efforts will impact poverty on a national level.
West stated, "If we can get a commitment from the White House that there is an attempt to eradicate poverty in a serious way, to make it a major priority, and then bring together all the greatest minds in all the greatest sectors of our society to say, 'We're going to hit this dilapidated housing, we're going to do away with this low quality education, we're going to do away with these levels of unemployment, then I think Brother Tavis and I will be ready to breakdance!"
For those who are unable to attend the event at Tenth Memorial Baptist, there are a number ways that you can still participate.
"This tour is really viral," Smiley said. "The first tour was televised, and we always try to mix it up. For this tour, our primary media partner is "The Huffington Post," so this tour is being streamed live everyday on "The Huffington Post." It's also streamed live on The Root.com. So we're really making this campaign a viral campaign. We're, of course, recording this for our radio show, 'Smiley & West.' We're doing a live podcast everywhere, so this tour, by design, is meant to be viral, because that's what everybody is paying attention to right about now."
For additional information on "The Poverty Tour 2.0," call (215) 787-2780 or visit www.povertytour.smileyandwest.com. Tenth Memorial Baptist Church is located at 1328 N. 19th Street. Reverend William Moore is the pastor.