The Marguerite Casey Foundation, a private, independent grant-making foundation, earlier this year started the Equal Voice for America’s Families campaign.
It is a coalition of the Casey Foundation and over 225 local, regional and national nonprofit organizations that work with families in the poorest areas of the country. The campaign goals include creating a national platform of family issues, a national dialogue about policies and attitudes that negatively impact families, making sure that these families are involved in such discussions, and increasing civic engagement among families.
Low-income families’ struggles aren’t new and when asked what makes the Equal Voice campaign different from similar past efforts, Chicago/Midwest Regional Coordinator Jawaaza Brian Malone explains, “We are at a very pivotal point in history where we have the potential to move from one regime to a new way of thinking.
“[Equal Voice] is not meant to belittle or demean anything that has taken place before,” he continues, “but as with anything, there’s progression.”
The campaign has held over 65 town hall meetings across the country, and a September 6 multi-city rally held simultaneously in Los Angeles, Chicago and Birmingham, Alabama, drew almost 15,000 people from various states and created the National Family Platform, which called for better child care, education, job training and immigration reform. “Communities all across the country have been galvanized and are ready to fight,” says Malone.
Such issues as housing and full employment “are either glossed over or just neglected altogether,” claims Malone. “It is the coming together of voices in preparation for real, calculated, strategic action.”
No family should live in poverty, and a community’s well-being is dependent on the opportunities families have to become self-reliant, the Equal Voice campaign fact sheet points out.
Social and economic equity for families is the campaign’s fundamental message. It is also promoting more participation of parents and community-based organizations in advocacy, activism and public education efforts. It is about “dignity and justice in our neighborhoods,” says Malone, a community organizer with the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations.
Furthermore, the campaign supports long-term social change. “This is something that needs to be taken seriously,” notes Malone.
Finally, low-income families who are most affected by these issues should be the main ones setting up agendas and policies, not politicians, believes Malone. “So when the policymakers get to the table, they aren’t just talking about what they feel is important from their vantage point or how policies should be written. It should reflect the needs of millions of people in this country.
“What this campaign, the town halls and the coming together of communities and organizations are all about is to build a policy platform,” Malone concludes. “This policy should not come out, not [only] from Washington, but [also from] state capitals as well.”
For more information, including a free download of the National Family Platform, go to www.equalvoice2008.org. Information from The Birmingham News and New America Media also was used in this article.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-record er.com.