Monday, September 14, 2015

Follow the Leader(s): Connecting the Dots.

I attended an event on Saturday at the James Jordan Boys & Girls Club, which was led by Tavis Smiley, a well known Black entertainer. This was one of many visits to different cities, where he's drawing attention to poverty and inequality, not just focusing on Black Americans, but on all who live in poverty in America (read more). Much of his focus is on inequality for Black Americans, which is a huge issue for Chicago and other major cities. His closing message was that we need to get this into the 2016 presidential campaign debates, and that will happen on January 17, 2016. He encouraged all of us to use #2016povertydebate often in our social media to build attention for the debates, and to draw viewers to his web sites.

Over the past year I've found a few other highly visible people focusing on inequality. Robert Putnam wrote a book titled Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis which he promotes with his Facebook page. Robert Reich has a website and Facebook page, and is releasing a new book this week, titled “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few,” Hedrick Smith is now on Facebook and has a web site titled Reclaim the American Dream.

Are these guys talking to each other? I can't find links on their web sites pointing to each other.

When I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 I could have created a web site with just my ideas, based on 20 years of leading a tutor/mentor program in Chicago. Instead, I said "let's build a library full of ideas from anyone who is working in this arena". The map below shows the many different sections in my library. In this link, I've posted links to the men mentioned above so that anyone who visits my library, can find their ideas, too.

This link points to a map of the four sections of the graphic above. Open each, and you'll see sub sections. Each has links pointing to dozens of web sites.  (note: in January 2016 I created this blog article, with links to individual sections of my web library and to articles I refer to often.

This has two purposes.

One, it enlarges the pool of ideas anyone draws from to fight inequality in America, or the world.

Second, it is an attempt to connect all of these people and organizations to each other, in on-line, on-going, conversations that might actually generate enough support to change the public will and generate the resources needed to help close the opportunity and inequality gaps we face.

There were nearly 200 people in the audience Saturday. During the 30 minutes question and answer session a few had the opportunity to ask questions. Most used the time to offer their own self-promotion and/or opinion. Out of 200, perhaps 15 had one chance to talk. Even the panel members only had a few opportunities to offer their own ideas.

I'd love to go to Tavis Smiley's web site and find links to the web sites and blogs of each panel member, just so I could reach out and learn from them and try to connect where it fits. I do encourage you to visit his site and many others in my web library, then organize a discussion group at your faith group, school, business, etc,. and start a real discussion around the ideas you're going to find.

I created this graphic many years ago to show how any one of us can invite people we know to talk about ideas that help improve equality and opportunity in America. One of the panel members on Saturday, a young man named Jamal Cole, said "Every one of us has agency. There is something we can do."

I agree. Everyone can pass on information to others about ideas and web sites where we can learn, gather, share and innovate solutions to complex problems. Furthermore, we can build upon what we're learning, and create new ways of understanding.

This graphic was created a few years ago by an intern who first looked at the graphic I posted above, then created her own interpretation. This is in two parts. Below is the second. Student in schools, non-school programs, universities and/or faith groups, aided by adult mentors, could be creating their own interpretations of these ideas, in a collective effort aimed at building the public will needed to turn ideas into solutions that reach into every high poverty area of the country.

I hope that the people who I point to will apply some of these ideas on their own web sites. I'd like to become an important resource and part of their own conversations, not just someone who follows their lead.

2017 Update - 
Since I wrote this Donald Trump  has been elected President of the United States and the anger of a neglected rural and small town American population has began to come into view.

My work has focused on urban poverty, focusing first on Chicago, then on other cities. The issue of urban poverty in Chicago is shaped by long-term segregation between classes and races, with a large African American population living in high poverty neighborhoods. Much of the research in my web library focuses on this population and the reasons youth and families need the extra help offered by organized non-school tutor/mentor programs. 

I created the graphic at the right to show that while all youth need help, kids in poverty need extra help.  I think I'll update this to show that the size of your geography, big city vs small town, also offers difference in terms of needs and challenges.

I'd like to find people building web libraries like mine who are focusing on this population.


Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Go to the Reclaim the American Dream site at and look at the in-depth information and focus on local organizing. Also go to the Bernie Sanders site and see how he provides info on issues. Both are really good, but cover some different issues and offer different forms of involvement.

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Here's another web site, focused on ending police violence in America, with a detailed agenda and a focus on enacting legislation from the local to the federal level.

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Here's another resource, called Crowdpac, that can be used to dig deeper into issues affecting America, regardless of what side of the political fence you sit on.

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Here's a link to a "progressive summit" web site, which is focusing attention on Congressional races throughout the country where progressive candidates seek to get elected.

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Here's a link to a page created by Bernie Sanders and others, titled Brand New, which focuses on electing progressive representatives to Congress and to local state legislatures.