Poverty and Our Community

The Tribune’s City Editor Matt Sanders presented the facts on the number of children receiving free and reduced price lunch in our schools in an op-ed Sunday.  He also outlined what the schools are doing to help children in poverty.  Several of those who commented on the article were less than sympathetic.

What kind of community do we want to be?  “Are We An Us?” was a question raised in our past forums and will be the topic of our next forum scheduled for next Thursday evening, February 11, at the ARC, from 7 to 9 pm.  Join us as we explore questions related to community here in Columbia, MO.

Another opportunity for information and dialogue directly related to the questions Matt raised occurs Monday night, February 8, 6 pm, also at the ARC, as the Cradle to Career Alliance screens the film “Wounded Places“.  This film explores the effects that chronic poverty has on children.  Members of the Minority Men’s Network and the Worley Street Roundtable will facilitate the post movie discussion.

And if you want to take Matt’s challenge to explore your assumptions about poverty, here is a place to begin: Poverty USA.

Addressing Inequities

Unequal opportunities and access to resources is another factor that strains community.  More than 40% of our school age children qualify for free and reduced price lunch.  Our school district is experimenting with different approaches to ensure that all children have the food they need to learn.  Many of our children also lack access to regular health care, including needed mental health resources.  In 2012 our county passed a tax to create a Children’s Services Fund, and recently launched a new Family Access Center to connect families to needed resources.  But a recent study also showed Boone County to be one of the least likely counties to provide a path out of poverty.  Much more can be done to reduce inequities in our community.  What would you propose?

A Bridge Begun

The healing power of music was evident on Saturday night as the Columbia Chorale, Columbia Youth Choirs and Community Gospel Choir combined for a community concert promoting unity at the Missouri United Methodist Church.  The choir was diverse, the audience was diverse and the music was enjoyed by all who packed the pews, both on the main floor and the balcony. The program notes for “Where Do We Go From Here”, composed by the Community Gospel Choir conductor Lamont Walker and featuring the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., included this statement:

Right now, the Columbia Community is in need of unity to usher in healing to the broken, hurting, wounded, and oppressed. Sincere, authentic, and unconditional love for mankind will break down all of the walls and barriers that divide us.  It is that love that will bind hate, pierce color lines, and demand justice for all.”

Judging from the attendance, there are many in Columbia looking to bridge that which divides us.

Are We An Us?

The Trib Talks forums to date have made it clear that the citizens of Columbia are concerned about where we are going as a community.  The rapid growth over the last 10 years has resulted in tensions and stressed existing divides of place and race, town and gown, “old” and “new” Columbia.  How can we as citizens heal the divides?  Key approaches discussed during the forums were to use more “citizen centered” planning,  address existing inequities, and build bridges between groups. We will consider each of these further on this blog, and on our February 11 forum.  Add your thoughts below, or take our survey.