Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Speaker on World Hunger and Peace

The week before the Thanksgiving Break, I attended a couple of campus events. This one was the speech given by Mr. Jew Don Boney, Jr. on the topics on world hunger and peace. Mr. Boney spoke on the UHD Campus on Tuesday November 15th, 2005. Mr. Boney, a political consultant and activist, is the assistant director of the Mickey Leland Center on World Hunger and Peace at Texas Southern University. He is also a former Houston City Councilmember and an ordained minister. The Mickey Leland Center is dedicated to carrying on the work and legacy of Mr. Mickey Leland, Texas State Legislator and United States Congressman for the 18th District (Houston). According to the biography on the center's Web site, "in 1988 Mickey was becoming increasingly active in international human rights and world hunger issues. He worked endlessly to solve the problems of domestic and international hunger and malnutrition. On August 7, 1989, Leland was leading another humanitarian mission when a plane carrying Mickey, members of his Congressional staff, State Department officials, and Ethiopian nationals to a United Nations refugee camp in Ethiopia crashed in a mountainous region. There were no survivors." The mission of the center then is to serve as a resource locally and internationally for information on the problems of world hunger and peace.

The speech was prefaced by a member of the UHD Democrats, who gave some basic remarks on hunger in the United States. As an illustration, she had placed small bags of rice on the audience's desk to illustrate how little people around the world actually had to eat in a day, if at all. She also provided a fact sheet, which can be found here. I think it is important to note the figure for Americans that were food insecure, or hungry, or at risk of hunger in 2001: 36 million Americans. Mr. Boney would later go on to remind us about the poor we often encounter on the streets, "there, but by the grace of God go I." The key quote from the young lady was when she said that "hunger is not a foreign face. It is the face of your neighbor." She then introduced Mr. Boney.

Mr. Boney opened with the following fact: extreme hunger killed 30,000 people yesterday. It kills 30,000 today, and it will kill 30,000 tomorrow. The extreme poverty in the world means deaths by hunger and preventable diseases. A set of numbers like this is not seen as newsworthy.

Mr. Boney then asked where are we in terms of our beliefs and the times that we live in. He mentioned Macolm X's cycle of the poor neighborhood. He also recalled W.E.B. DuBois's ideas of the problem of the 20th century being the race line and of the talented 10th. DuBois had high hopes for the small talented group at the top of Black society. However, as Mr. Boney observed, these today seem to disconnect from others and turn inward rather than look at the world around them. And yet, the world comes back to us for we are part of the human race. The discussion of these issues then is transformed by our individual actions. The problem is that not too many care about these issues. The poor are invisible.

The danger, according to the speaker, is the lack of hope in the poor, seeing there is no chance to get ahead or improve. The question no one asks about the terror war is why? Why are they willing to kill themselves and others? The answer is hatred, nothing to lose, a lack of hope. You cannot address the issue without asking and answering this question, and it is clear the powers that be in this nation are not even considering the question.

We need to deal with the now ("I am hungry now") as well as the long term (to get that poor person out to work and continue feeding himself and his family. This refers to the systematic issues). To this end, you need the social services such as the food pantries and soup kitchens, but you also need the long term social services for education, job training, housing, etc.

"The times and spirit of now demand the best of ourselves. Nothing less will do," said Mr. Boney in closing.

Mr. Boney recommended the book End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs.

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