Widespread and all encompassing, poverty affects over 43 million men and women, of all ages, in every corner of the country, every day. It was that theme—that poverty knows not one race, not one place, and fits no one mold—that drove the discussion at a recent Justice Dinner hosted by Kym Abrams.
The founder of Kym Abrams Design, Kym and her firm have long collaborated with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. Within Chicago’s historic Pilsen neighborhood, deep in the heart of a sprawling warehouse, Kym’s office loft space provided the perfect backdrop for guests to engage in an energetic and powerful conversation on poverty. Kym’s Justice Dinner marked just the 6th of 50 dinners that will be held across the nation in celebration of the Shriver Center’s 50th anniversary.
Attorney Paul Goodman began the discussion by cautioning guests against defining poverty narrowly. He reminded us that poverty takes many forms and that, while Chicagoans often associate poverty with the city’s predominantly African American South and West sides, there are people of all types all across the country who experience poverty, too. Still, Caronina Grimble, a program officer at Woods Fund Chicago, and Mackenzie Spear, one of three Shriver staff members in attendance, noted that the data paint a clear picture of who experiences poverty most. While in real terms the majority of those living in poverty are white, when compared to their percentage of the overall population a disproportionate number of people of color live in poverty. This truth, the group acknowledged, is critical to identifying and eliminating poverty’s root causes.
But identifying the causes of poverty isn’t enough, and the guests at Kym’s dinner were eager to discuss solutions. Bill Brichta, managing partner at Shape Strategies, lamented recent national and state political trends and resolved to supporting thoughtful political actors who, instead of selling false promises, honestly engage in the legislative process. Some pushed back, arguing politics and politicians are not the answer. Instead, they said, change must happen locally and from the bottom.
Trinita Logue, the founder of the Illinois Facilities Fund, urged guests to pick a handful of organizations that advance causes they care about and then to engage regularly with those organizations. She said change happens, albeit slowly sometimes, but that we must continue fighting. By choosing one or two organizations and investing your time and dollars in them, progress is made. If the guests there, all of whom cared about ending poverty, were wondering which organization they ought to pick, by night’s end the answer was clear: the Shriver Center.