Sounds of poverty; We were strangers when we came, part one
Another category of anxiety I have is very very practical like you know I had been around babies for a long time and what I do if the baby wet you know I'm holding that are you know we were at a conference in Ripley West Virginia early this year. Last year owners of pets in the United States spent more money on pet food than the government allocated to the Office of Economic Opportunity. We're 30 miles from Charleston and dead center in the heartland of American property. This is the other America which you've heard from here too hopeless is around the corner and the distance to the mainstream of American life is a million million miles. We're close to where the first shop of the American Revolution was fired. I'm Brooke Baldwin executive producer of this program series and I'm narrating this program because I was there when the events here took place. I was there for what may well be the beginning of another American Revolution a continuation of the first. The second
revolution marks the return of the Appalachian of young people young people with their vitality and energy and stamina. Young people returning to an area from which for decades young people have fled. We're engaged in an educational experiment behind this experiment to countless hours of staff time and effort time spent by teachers and sociologists by the staffs of action for Appalachian youth of the Jensen foundation of Racine Wisconsin a West Virginia State College of the Appalachian volunteers time spent planning how in just a few days to take 100 students on a trip from the here and now all of their lives to the grim despair of life as it is lived in these barren hills like problem you've been talking about that everybody's had here is a circular one. It seems like it is caused by a lack of education or no education or lack of it. Industry means jobs and I lack a way to reach the people.
Well if you can't meet people how you can educate them if you can educate people how you're going to bring in industry. So then it comes back around goes in a circle where in a circle. Have you started and how you started and where can we take it and in working in that the questioner is a student of this conference we're attending the answer comes from Dom Turner a local community organizer a man whose job it is to help poor people help themselves. You start walking up the green trees. You might be lucky enough the first time you stop they want except you need to do when you've got to go back home. The just because of the first half you can't do one except you and you got to go on to the next. Fan one on this particular village if you. Can. First thing in all all I'm an exception. We had 10 volunteers from the University of Ohio and this past week working on a
role in Grange is just about impossible to get it nailed. And nobody knew any of them. But right now we're going to say one word about any of them they'd probably shoot you. Because the people this I mean you. Know once they found out you try to do something for them then the only exception. But you walk up a creek and say you've got to do this. What would happen. When the. Kids of all why university first came up. With a problem buying a place from the state. This one one payment took in five. Two days everybody in the whole community want to keep this conference brought together 100 students from 29 Appalachian colleges federal state and local officials concerned with the problems of the poor of Appalachian told them about the history of the area about the sociological
dynamics of the problem about the meaning of living life here life in the other America far from the mainstream of life as it is lived on the college campus. Formal speeches were presented the group dynamics were carefully planned unstructured time was left for informal talk. Community leaders and local poor people were presented so that they could talk to and with the students. The approach was a radical one. They were people of Appalachian don't take easily to strangers despite the fact that among them were some of the most gracious and hospitable people we have ever met. There was anxiety on the part of the staff and the students and the people as all watched each other to see if this experimental mix would gel. In this second program of our series a series be called the sounds of poverty that are once more no actors only people. The series was produced for the Johnson Foundation of Racine Wisconsin one of the sponsors of the conference. There was no script. Where the students or the staff and the people were. We were with our microphones and tape recorders.
As the students and teachers concerned worried over the experience we were about to share. Two days of living with poor people in the hills and hollers of apple each year. We share their fears their expectations. They are concerned over whether the students would be accepted by the people. The people worried about how the students would view them. Early in the conference as the students talked about the doctors and sessions and in problem meetings and about what they expected to happen. One of them summed up the meaning of the experience in a way that provided us with the title of this program. She said we were strangers when we came. She implied that they no longer were motivated as they were towards a common goal sharing as they did a common and deeply moving experience. Last year owners of yes in the United States spent more money on the keynote speaker was Richard Goodwin the executive director of the citizen's crusade against poverty. Poverty has many faces. It is not simply a question of
money. Although I believe that money is basic. And I'm suggesting that you take stock in the next several days no matter how sophisticated you are no matter what expertise you have already brought to the field as anti-poverty fighters are warriors. And look again at the question of what poverty is and go beyond that simple economic definition. Of course it's hunger but it's also powerlessness the inability to in any way control one's own life. And to effectively fight against injustice for Justice and its uselessness. People who are no longer huge store valuable. The very old. Are useless in our society. Poverty is ignorance the denial of a quality education. In a society which shows a direct correlation between
education and income. And finally as we have known as a result of the last summer and several summers previous. Certainly poverty is anger its riot its hopes dashed. And the reaction of people. Who feel that we have no right to deny them opportunities which are common to most of us every day. We have yet as a nation to make a real commitment to abolish poverty. The abolition of poverty is not a national priority. Dealing with poverty means that the poor must vote. To deal with poverty the poor must be offered jobs which produce a living income. I did deal with poverty those who cannot work or should not work. Must have incomes regardless of whether they work or not.
It means that the poor must have quick and easy access to entitlements. Including legal services. It means that the children of the poor must have access not to education but to quality education. Not to a diploma but to an education. And finally and little stated I believe that to deal effectively with poverty that as people move out of poverty they must have the right to contribute to the common good. How does this relate to where the students sit in the conference center in Ripley West Virginia. How does this relate to an audience some of whom were sent by the school administrations. Some were old hands with the problems of Appalachian. Some of them just came out of curiosity out of a desire to channel their own restless tribes into some constructive aliens. Some whose families had been poor Some had never seen poor people. Who were just intrigued by a notice of the meeting on a school bulletin board. How does a
conference relate to the people of Appalachian the people who live where the paved roads and how does this relate to the desire of the young people gathered here to be of service to their fellow man. Ed Sanford is director of the Community Action Project in northern Kentucky. As a professional. Horse you. Know fine you just tend to stick to those goals you set. Or to. Use an expression that Perry Connell frequently uses to describe these counties there are counties. And therefore you're side tracked constantly by the access or visibility and by me fantastic Impac that you personally are always subjected to by confronting the poor person. He's not an abstract individual he's right there in front of you and
he's got an immediate and pressing problem here manner and you can spend lots and lots of time on this person. It's almost criminal not to spend time. You get into. You continue to do this very quickly into a purely paternalistic approach to community action and to the overall problem which you are professionally hired to redress. I find that this is the most difficult single problem to deal with and that is knowing full well. What the priorities are because they're self-evident to you as a professional and even to the extent you've got your board to
buy them. What do you do how do you turn a poor person off when he's not on that wavelength as far as priorities he's got his own set up right there. Point now relevant to his life. In part. Your program's going to fail if you can't make your priorities will see his priorities. In a feed. Also what your parodies be influenced by the. UK. This is a much easier thing to do with abstract poor people it is real life for people right in front of you. Chris West Virginia State Office of Economic Opportunity. I think that. This gets to the question of the basic nature of the poor person. What it's like to be in poverty. I think some of the symptoms you find there are the people who are withdrawn and. They're not social beings. In a sense that. That those of us who do
have real freedom of choice and. Adaptability and ability to move around. In in the social structure have. But I don't think it's an impossible matter. I don't think it's impossible at all and I think we have many examples. In community action programs which have. Gone about things in an imaginative and resourceful sort of way you know way that is responsive to the needs of of poor people and it has not. And it's something down in the paternalistic Big Daddy sort of fashion. To show us that. More people will respond. They will come to grief problems. And they will begin to do something. If they're really given the options perhaps the the key to good community action is a sort of constructive listening. To poor people and what their aspirations are. The ways that they see it possible to commit themselves.
To their own betterment. Dom Turner a community organizer hired from among the local poor a man who'd once left the barren hills and returned to help people help themselves. I have went to people one time you don't do any good. When it going team time. Just because you go one time. People don't want to. Cooperate with you don't mean you know the stuff. Or talk about poor people or you talking about poor people going to come back to it. 86 percent of the people Danny. That's the poor people that make under three thousand dollars a year. What makes you finally come around. Well the. One reason two or three years ago people that were here to let this go. In there's probably. Maybe people just didn't hear that. In the beginning it's like that you never can put it through and take your long time woke up every Greek to him. People would come from who he was not to go to one third of.
The students had been sitting for hours when they were asked questions the questions came fast and hard. Why I asked one that doesn't seem the political empires are built on county school systems in the Appalachians. Richard Bowen answered Well there are a lot of reasons but two of the reasons are that the school systems. In many of the Appalachian counties particularly in eastern Kentucky represent the biggest payroll in the county. It is this it's the education business. And having the biggest payroll in the county and the largest single inflow of money into the Park County means power. And politicians who don't have power want it. And politicians who have power want to keep it. And this is one of the reasons the county superintendent and many parts of the Appalachian area particularly the eastern Kentucky area. Are part and parcel of political machines in those counties. They either operate the pick of the
political machine or are a part of it. There are often kickbacks paid by teachers who are working in the system. And of course the hiring practices of many of the schools in these areas are directly related to political patronage. Is it only this way in Appalachian. Is the other America found only in the middle of the Cumberland Plateau. Kathleen the staff has talked in poverty in northern style in the teeming ghetto that is New York City's Harlem. It seems to me just from my experience here. And other places that the problems of poverty. Are similar and universal wherever they appear. The kind of. Little. Quirks like in West Virginia need to islands and how many towns. Already have rooms in a minute. Just the particular service which isn't being given them sometimes varies. But. Probably they need good schools in Minnesota in there. Where you see. What's going to change education not just the south. I don't think.
I think. Politics to demand skills be taught in economics. So there are jobs everybody can. So. Then they have to be educated by the times they are just being educated to stay off the streets and. Otherwise they would know how to read when they were in seventh grade and they had the education mustache and had made a point worth restating Epperly is an illustration of poverty. The details of history of geography like the dialects of the people changed if we went instead to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. To the impoverished towns of the Mexican-Americans in the southwest to the migrant labor camps of New York. To the Indian reservations almost anywhere. Underneath the differences rungs reality segregation for the mainstream of affluent American life. Failure to be provided with an adequate education likely of economic opportunity political expediency and
governmental indifference. We experienced all of these realities and happily. They are the truths of poverty in anywhere USA. I think generally. In poverty areas of Appalachia. This is the poorest class white poor societies. And. The most obvious absence of the kinds of teaching materials of the 20th century and that it has come to think of as being basic you know. The rector of the Appalachian volunteers the avi is a local and student shorthand. One of the planners of the conference one of the avi's Jack Revill one of their workers copes with a student question and Appalachian Dhanteras field man works with rural communities in eastern Kentucky West Virginia Virginia.
Basically on community development on the items that the community is interested in I as a community many times have been. Stymied in getting whether it be in a better teacher better school an improved road. A water system incorporation papers for the area recognition in the county seat. A true vote for their one of the better candidates. Maybe improvement of some of the candidates that are in office whereby if they realize that the majority of people are thinking differently from them that they will change their way of operation if not to try to bring change about. The Appalachian Mountains. I have worked with over 150 rural mountain communities. And the major areas of success I think are. Probably in a way that we have been able to relate. The college students and the staff relate
with a mountain people and really wipe out some of the old time stigma as it existed whereby people said a mountaineer will not accept you if you're a foreigner. Other than where. The foundation succeeded in basically working with the row communities and improving their schools. Obtaining satisfaction and improving their roads. Providing a better atmosphere and a better environment for learning for their children. And possibly in many areas the first time ever real community action jek revote is close to student age. He found in his own college experience and experience closely akin to that undergone by those attending the conference. Some answers and no answers right answers and wrong ones. He explains I was raised in New Jersey and a low income area. You know I've worked in the state of Kentucky for eight years nine years as a student and as an operational interest him ever
the reason didn't for staying in it in the Appalachian area basically are the majority the people that you work with not work for you know the people you work with are real. They give you straight answers. You don't get a line of bull that you receive in a northern city. You can approach them as an individual one and the joy of time expect an honest answer from them without being put off or run around a bush and you can become close to an Appalachian type person a very very quickly. I feel to college students that are here that are going out a lot of apprehensions that are real but that don't find it are groundless and baseless when they get their people or people down here in Appalachia. I'm sorry to say in many other areas they're not. I was studying for a profession but. Found out that the way that the profession is run by. Those who didn't take part in the service. Basically the
church would not allow a person who hopes to be an individual in society to work with all type groups all denominations all colors and Appalachian volunteers came along at a time in my college career and I was looking for something definite. That was me and I found this working with people in a program such as a volunteers an Appalachian person can feel us up. If you're a phony and if they feel you're sincere they'll work with his heart as they can. I see possibly the best future for people business people is possibly training others and working with others so that they can realize how they too can be involved in the people business. This is part of the reason why this conference is being held by students in poverty
so that some of the students may realize it may be their middle class homes and or upper class homes. And the way that their parents say I know you would want to teach in a slum area you want I want to teach a mountain county that some of this. Sting The stereotype is that their parents have to be wiped out a student. I see myself being involved in this kind of intervention I. Don't recall voices the underlying fear of the students gathered here to participate in an experience they still cannot visualize completely. Remember the wide variety represented here students from all backgrounds racially ethnically economically. In the halls and corridors a conference center. Coffee breaks in wherever the students gathered this was often expressed this in terms of a simple will I succeed. I hate to judge people and infer Sam but I think we all there some of us are not as terrible as others. I think we'll have a picture of Will Succeed health failed.
There were a bunch of scared people when they first came sort of like freshman year in college first day on the big campus as they come to know one another and it was a special group beautiful by a young lady Yeah we were all strangers only got here and we gain got together in two days. So I think we can thereby say that we will get to know the people we'll be living with in two days which I think is very good way to look at it. Right now there's a bunch of scared volunteers to because I just don't know what they're expecting some of them have no idea of what our own type setting is. Some have no idea what a low income family life is like. And I think after they come back Thursday it will have a bunch of people who are inspired to the point of. If they don't turn their college upside down which in many cases can be done at least will turn in their own lives upside down. Not all of them but at least some of them. The educational system the United States has always seemed to reproduce what I tell you rush you're going to get a failing grade and many times is carried over into
real life where a volunteer quote unquote. Feels that he has to succeed in ways that he's used to being rewarded many times on tears come straight from a educational type atmosphere where every six weeks it was a grade issued and they were thrown into a situation where Buddy you don't get no grades Charlie. All you got is the satisfaction of working with people. Maybe little successes by like having school there steps the XT or working with the farmer who is sick or teaching a kid how to write his name for the first time when he about 9 years old and the small successes should be enough to build on but quite a few volunteers don't see this they want to turn the world over. They want to be a success they don't care about the future of the people they're living with and many of them impose their own ideas their own goals upon the people that they're living with.
And give the people they're living with and not an opportunity to actually show the volunteer what they really want and I think it may go on to say on this count it's very funny how a lot of education type people namely college professors and teachers etc. give a great community people don't give grades a community person many times will sit you down and tell you what's wrong. Many times this is the best learning lesson without a grade being issued. It's possible I can say right now that some of the volunteers that are here all will fail but I can say that many of them right here now are too much of a good do gooder attitude and a pretty nice guy saying and I think that this will be found out by the people that they are living with very shortly. I'm only saw it only been there two days because they were there a little longer I'm sure the folks they will be living with would feel that they had a right to tell them off and say look man you're you're way up in the clouds.
This may not have been the cause of the shortness of time. Maybe it's cruel to say that sometimes the most educated person is really the least educated possibly a senior in college. In many instances has more to learn than a freshman who is full of them in their current vitality because a freshman can go out on a situation full of gung ho rah rah. And learn faster man I got the wrong idea as I've got to change my approach much faster than a college senior or a graduate student in many cases has been stuffed by a sociology professor. To believe that the textbook is right and there's a no deviation to the push to the point of ruining his own effectiveness by the book. Some of them will fail. The very fear the students have been fighting has finally been voiced the fear of failure the fear of acceptance. As the formal meeting structure comes to an end as the experience of going where the people are comes
closer. Lever belies their ages ideas and their reactions to what has happened up to now. Oh I thought the speech is pretty good. The keynote speech Mr Boone was was I saw I thought but I'm going to leary of all the talk and I'm waiting for it to go a little a little scared on a sign I don't know but I definitely want to get some contact of these people before he plays with all this talk. I'm always anxious when I meet new people. I do want to say I say yes but I especially people warn I'm not used to this type of class and only uses words with this sort of people. Well maybe often are just people but I so I hope not but I guess mostly just because a new and it's also in a way different. I mean I just I'm not that worried about it because. I'm from a
- Sounds of poverty
- Producing Organization
- Johnson Foundation
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- This program, the first of two parts, presents interviews centered on the subject of life in the Appalachian region.
- A documentary series featuring interviews with rural Appalachia residents by one hundred students from twenty-nine colleges, meeting at Action for Appalachian Youth Conference at Ripley, West Virginia. The series is hosted by Bert Cowlin.
- Social Issues
- Media type
Host: Cowlin, Bert
Interviewee: Berger, Kathleen Stassen
Producing Organization: Johnson Foundation
Speaker: Boone, Richard W. (Richard Wolf), 1927-2014
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-Sp.18-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Sounds of poverty; We were strangers when we came, part one,” 1967-10-24, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 22, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-5t3g2h76.
- MLA: “Sounds of poverty; We were strangers when we came, part one.” 1967-10-24. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 22, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-5t3g2h76>.
- APA: Sounds of poverty; We were strangers when we came, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-5t3g2h76