Durham Faith Summit on Child Poverty

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In January 2013, clergy, ministerial leaders, and the faithful gathered in Durham to generate solutions to Durham’s child poverty crisis at a Faith Summit on Child Poverty. Organized by the Durham Partnership for Children, summit co-chair and planner Winnie Morgan believes this summit will not only be significant for Durham; it may create a model for gathering community resources around solving the challenges of child poverty in other cities, too.

The Summit was attended by hundreds, and more than one hundred individual promises to make a difference on child poverty, in whatever particular capacity that individual was able, were made at the conclusion of the summit. “The turnout for the Summit was remarkable, both in numbers (about 450) and in the breadth of groups represented. I am grateful for the many Durham congregations with ties to the NC Council which took part; several of them were held up as examples of work already being done to address causes of childhood poverty,” said George Reed, executive director of the North Carolina Council of Churches.  Click here to see pictures from the Summit.

Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness traveled to North Carolina to speak to and accompany participants at the Summit. He encouraged people of faith to take a role in building children’s self esteem, as well as “training a whole family about what they ought to be to one another – building a loving bond with relationships that will be significant to that child’s future.” Nelson said that poverty and unemployment create anger, violence and depression among young people, and he looked at the audience and said: “The question at the end of the day is: What in the world are you going to do about it?”

Rev. William Barber, president of the NAACP in North Carolina, explained the rationale for holding the summit: “We need to open our eyes, and stop the Sunday-morning denial” that 25 percent of North Carolina children live in poverty. “That is a moral disgrace,” he said. “We commit ‘attention violence’ against the poor every day, because we don’t even say the word ‘poor’,” he said. “Martin Luther King said that when you ignore the poor, one day the whole system will collapse.” Politicians seldom talk about the poor, Barber said, but say that focusing on the middle class will help everyone. But Barber recalled the time his grandmother told him that a house should never be moved from the middle, but from the foundation. “If you try to move a house from the middle, that does not work,” Barber said. “You will tear it apart. But if you move it from the bottom, then everybody in the house gets blessed.” Barber said the nation has reached “a moral crisis” on the poverty issue. “When we decide to accept that some communities are going to have 12 to 20 percent poverty and that there’s nothing we can do, we must remove that blind spot,” he said. “If we don’t address it, the cost to our souls and the state will be too high.”

The event was co-sponsored by the Durham Public Schools, Dept. of Social Services, Durham Congregations in Action, Durham CAN, NAACP-Durham branch, Duke Medicine, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Duke Chapel, Duke Divinity School, Healthy Families Durham, East Durham Children’s Initiative, Partnership for a Healthy Durham, United Way of the Greater Triangle, Living the Word Ministry-Durham, the NC Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Methodist Federation for Social Action (The Jack Crum Conference on Prophetic Ministry), and the North Carolina Council of Churches.

Resources/Strategies for reducing child poverty in Durham
Winnie Morgan, Faith Initiative Coordinator for the Partnership and Co-Chair of the Faith Summit, put together a growing listing of opportunities for faith involvement with agencies, non-profits, and community groups that work with underserved children and families in Durham.  Some of the many strategies/needs on the list include: donating blankets and diapers to Durham Connects; volunteering with “Get Set, Get Ready, Let’s Read” with the Durham County Library; donating safety kits, health kits, and parent/child interaction kits to the Exchange Clubs’ Family Center; and mentoring young pregnant women through Pregnancy Support Services.  Please contact Winnie at winniewmorgan@juno.com if you have needs to be added to this list. 

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