Occupy the Safety Net | The Nation

15 Dec

Here is where the movement to end poverty could gain inspiration from the proudly unprofessional activists who have seized spaces and occupied the national discourse these past few months. Historically, like OWS, successful poor people’s movements have preferred justice to charity, pursuing goals set not by policy shops but by the people who know most intimately what kind of change they need, and on whose vigorous participation the movement depends. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964 as part of his War on Poverty, it contained a provision calling for “maximum feasible participation” of the poor—a provision that “grew out of the mass civil rights mobilizations in the 1950s and early 1960s that, with blood and sacrifice, had won basic political rights for African Americans across the South,” writes historian Annelise Orleck in her introduction to The War on Poverty: A New Grassroots History, 1964–1980. The law secured funding for more than 1,000 community action agencies across the country, which helped engage and politicize poor mothers, who fought many battles over the ensuing decade for better food, schools and healthcare for their families (and won some of them). Imagine that: a president signing a law that asked for, even paid for, grassroots participation to shape policies and decide priorities. It sounds utopian now—even under a president who once worked as a community organizer—but as OWS has reminded us, sometimes the size of the demand is the measure of a movement.

via Occupy the Safety Net | The Nation.

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