(Plain Press, November 2017) The movement to End Poverty Now continued its efforts in Greater Cleveland with a Cleveland Truth Commission on Poverty held at Franklin Circle Church in Ohio City on October 14th. The Truth Commission on Poverty was billed as “putting poverty on trial.”
A statement in the program for the event, offered a description of the Truth Commission: “The Truth Commission on the Right Not to be Poor is part of the broader effort to revive the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign by bringing together the struggles of the poor and dispossessed today. As part of this New Poor People’s Campaign, the Truth Commission understands poverty and the devaluation of human life to be the bedrock of the multiple social crises we’re facing, including the crises of racism, militarism and ecological devastation.”
Larry Bresler of Organize Ohio spoke of the three tasks faced by the Truth Commission: 1) to expose lies about poverty 2) develop a moral vision and 3) to develop a platform.
A six-person panel of commissioners was tasked to listening to hours of personal testimonies from low income individuals and their advocates telling stories grouped by categories. The categories of testimony included the right to housing, the criminalization of the poor, the right to quality education, the right to health care, the right to living wage jobs, and environmental degradation.
Commissioners were tasked with collecting and recording the testimonies and coming out with findings. Commissioners in attendance were: Reverend Brooks Berndt, an environmental justice minister with the United Church of Christ; Reverend Sala W. J. Nolan Gonzalez, Minister for Criminal Justice and Human Rights with the United Church of Christ; Maria Smith, Supervising Attorney at the Cleveland Legal Aid Society; Marian Kramer, Co-Chair of the National Welfare Rights Union; Edward Little, Team member of the Collaborative for a Safe Fair and Just Cleveland; and Chris Knestrick Director of Operations for the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.
The testimonies will be posted on the Organize Ohio website www.organizeohio.org. Once in the website click the heading End Poverty Now go to the heading Cleveland Truth Commission and click Personal Testimonies. As the Plain Press was going to press not all the testimonies had been posted to the website.
Organizations sponsoring the Cleveland Truth Commission on Poverty include: CLEAN, Cleveland Peace Action, Cuyahoga Progressive Caucus, For Our Future, Greater Cleveland Immigrant Support Network, Homeless Congress, InterReligious Task Force on Central America, Move to Amend, Neighborhood Connections, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, Northern Ohioans for Budget Legislation Equality, Organize! Ohio, Peace in the Hood, Single Payer Action Network of Ohio, Stop Targeting Ohio’s Poor, and United Clevelanders Against Poverty.