Experts on Poverty Send Wave of Reality to the Media
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on RESULTS’ blog on November 21. Advocacy of all kinds, including Letters to the Editor like those described below, will be critical in the coming year. That’s why we hope you’ll join us on Friday, Dec. 16 at 12pm ET for a webinar on expected cuts to human needs programs in the new Congress and how you can use advocacy tactics to fight back. All members of the advocacy community are invited to hear from Rep. Jim McGovern, one of the strongest, most effective low-income advocates in Congress; the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Ellen Nissenbaum, a renowned expert on the congressional budget rules; Ellen Teller from the Food Research and Action Center; and CHN’s own Deborah Weinstein. Register now!
Qiana Torregano had a look of deep concentration on her face. She was mulling over a line, a few words in the draft of her Letter to the Editor urging her Louisiana representatives to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for those workers who were taxed into, or deeper into poverty and left out of one of the most powerful anti-poverty tools we have in America. Qiana knows first hand what it’s like to work hard, to have advanced degrees, to educate the children of her city of New Orleans post-Katrina. She also knows what it’s like to struggle to feed her children, and that far too many others face the same. Every word in her letter was important.
Over the weekend right before the election, many of our incredible Experts on Poverty gathered in Washington, D.C., for an intense media training. Facilitated by the RESULTS Communications team, we dove into the nitty gritty of working with the media, one of the most effective tools RESULTS uses to engage with and influence policymakers.
Learning how to write for the media is a vital skill for advocates. Developing a clear, concise letter or op-ed with local facts and data and a strong call to action is essential to getting published. But the one thing that made this weekend truly inspiring was the power of storytelling. There is a plethora of statistical information out there; numbers, fact sheets, percentages. What is too often missing are our stories, the voices of those who are the real experts based on lived experience. Putting a face, a human life, in front of the numbers and our issues is the key to creating real change.
At the end of two days of training, thirteen of our powerful Experts on Poverty hit send simultaneously on letters to the editor to their local papers. To know that editors across the country were about to receive the powerful stories and strong calls to action from real people who shared about their own experiences of poverty was an electric moment. The collective power in a small, hot conference room can truly change the world.
Since then, six of the Experts have had LTEs published: Dawn Pierce from Idaho, Pamela Covington from Virginia, Yolanda Gordon from South Carolina, Asia Bijan Thompson from Pennsylvania, Kevin Pearson from Indiana, and Kali Daugherty from Wisconsin, and they are editing longer op-ed pieces and outreach emails to journalists now. We urge you to read through all of their pieces, with powerful reflections such as Asia’s:
Imagine looking into your children’s eyes and explaining that you have no place to go, nothing to eat, and no money — again. My kids know the reality of homelessness and hunger — the truths of sleeping in a car for heat and being so hungry that sleep is the only respite. I long for the reality that many believe to be completely ordinary, a moment in which my kids see their new home, with food on the table. For us, it would be extraordinary, but the tax credit helps make it possible.
In this season of giving and thanks, we have the greatest gratitude for these courageous advocates sharing their stories and their tireless fight to end poverty.