A Journal of e Voices . A Window to The South 25c THE OR OF THE SOUTHWEST Tucson, Ariz. Who are the pcjor? Why are they poor? What is it like to be poor? Questions posed by Gov. Samuel Goddard Jr. of Arizona at the opening of the National Conference on Poverty in the Southwest in Tucson last week. “You’re going to have the poor appear before you,” said Dr. William Fowler, a Negro educator and a consultant to the Los Angeles county school superintendent. Indeed they were, and something about the way Fowler expressed the fact suggested at once the drama and the doubtfulness of the event and the spectacle. That very night some of them were seen and heard on national television. “I know something about poverty,” Fowler said. “Almost all Negroes who are living do. Since others are going to do it, I don’t want to talk too much about what it’s like, too. If you lived in it, you clawed your way up, too. Let me speak instead abbut a more positive thing. . . .” There was a differencethe difference between thought and fifebetween the idealistic seekings of many of the speakers at the conference and the plain stories that the poor here told. In our haste, we tend to equate material poverty with spiritual and cultural poverty. . . . As we undertake to rid the Southwest of poverty, let us not be too grim about it. We will be working in a land of great beautyamongst people of great beauty. We must be sure that our efforts in no way erode the great gifts of diversity we enjoy herea diversity of language, art, dance, ceremony, religion. The Anglo must learn to take his appropriate place in the history of this regionthe last to arrivein every sense, the newcomer. We owe to ourselves an obligation not to overcome difference, but to preserve and honor diversity, for Anglo affluence itself badly needs the cultural enrichment of the ancient peoples of the Southwest. Paul F. O’Rourke, a medical doctor and the special assistant to the governor of California for anti-poverty planning. Mrs. Rachel Ashley of Denver is a Crow Creek Sioux Indian. When she grew up, she said, many of the Indians did seasonal work, but they led a quiet life and did many things together on the reservation. Attracted by a government relocation program, she, her husband, and their child moved to Denver and her husband went to work in a can factory at $2.05 an hour, which seemed a fabulous lot to them . then. Soon they learned that they could not make ends meet on it in the city. “We felt very alone and strange,” she said. “We sought out Indian people . . . but even that became so difficult, because we had to go so far. . . . Our Indian people are different: Their values are different. They fall apart when their large, close-knit, extended family life patterns are torn apart in the city. Our people, most of them, can’t take the fast pace, the radical changes, and the hard ways of the city.” Her husband is studying accounting with federal help; she is a social worker now in Denver. The poor have as much or more to give than to getinsight into culture, spontaneity, insight into many human values. Sargent Shriver, director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity. Mrs. Chaucey Fuller of California, mother of five, separated from her husband, Negro, not employed: “There are many people in the neighborhood who are living on a budget who nobody seems to realize. I feel that there is too much talk being done and really no action. There are so many people who feel that life is at a standstill, because they have had it so hard, they don’t know where to turn.” People in the relief agencies have never lived in poverty; they can tell you what your maximum is, but “they don’t know what you eat and how you sleep.” They set up a program and tell you to take this and that study, then don’t help further. Is it better, Mrs. Fuller asked, to prepare a mother for a trade while her house fills with juvenile delinquents, or to have a mother? She works volunteer in a neighborhood club, the Girl Scouts, a public health clinic, and a community center. Why, she asked, can she not be paid for some of.. these things? If she got a job, she said, she would lose her public assistance, or else part of her salary would be taken. “This is one reason why we poor people can never make progress, because as soon as you move one foot up, they pull the other one out.” Poverty can be conquered . . . and the victory can be thoroughly relished, because there are no victims who require our sympathy. Mayor Lewis Davis, Tucson. Clifton Melonzon of Miami, Ariz., the Latin-American father of eight, earned $5200 a year as a miner until automation wiped out his and a large number of his co-workers’ jobs with the Miami Copper Co. He had worked for them 13 years, but they did not give him any terminal pay when they fired him. He had not been active in the union. The new mining method was very profitable and productive, “but that is of no consequence to me,” he said. He was a war veteran but that didn’t help, either. A high school graduate, he had no skill but copper mining. His unemployment compensation dwindled and he found himself standing in a long line to receive free food, enough for two meals a day for his family. Then his wife got with twins, their third set of them. He took three jobs janitoring at three different places and makes $60 a week. Had he sought federally subsidized job training? He had those three jobs and had to hold on to them, he replied. Last year he found himself .with two kids in high school; he didn’t have the money for shoes for some of his kids. “If a man is unemployed when he is over 45 he might as well consider himself a living corpse. If private industry will not accept eQnference Photograph Mrs. Alire: ‘Is this just one more political exploitation?’
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