Poverty Outlaws

The World’s Poor Gather in New York City

That appearances may be deceiving is only mildly surprising to this group, who are used to being stereotyped as lazy, or looked upon with disgust or pity ("that benign form of hatred," one participant said). Efforts to climb out from beneath a crushing system are often disregarded in countries like the U.S., where tax breaks favor the rich, the media crow about an economic boom without asking, "For whom?" and society ignores the yawning gulf between rich and poor. What's important to recognize is that the poor people's summit, while it has traditional trappings—workshops, stump speeches, networking, communal luncheons—stands apart from other global gatherings about poverty because it is poor people working on behalf of poor people.

KWRU and other grassroots poor people's groups plan to build on this first summit by organizing three days of global action in 2001 (visit kwru.org for updates and details), including a worldwide march for economic human rights. Poverty, the advocates insist, is a violation of human rights. And somebody has to do more than just talk about it.

"We thought it important that we bring together people that are actually living in poverty," says Honkala, "not because we think it's a nice thing to do, but because we think there's a strategic importance." History, she says, has shown that change comes for people when they take an active role in a movement themselves.

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