Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Solidarity with Rev. Larry Rice and St. Louis Homeless

If we do not take a stand against the national crisis of homelessness, poverty, and growing income inequality, we all suffer. We have nothing to gain and everything to lose.

In this first piece on homelessness, I will introduce the background story about why I first started feeling compelled this year to stand in solidarity with Reverend Larry Rice who is St. Louis’ most famous advocate for people experiencing homelessness. I hope to shine light on the shadow elephant in the room by providing a different story than what the mainstream media says about homelessness and their advocates. This is the first of hopefully many essays to come.

In May of this year, I started observing the escalation of heated interaction between the city and Reverend Larry Rice of New Life Evangelistic Center. It was clear to me then that the city had begun to wage a war against the homeless.

After I received an alert via status update from Occupy St. Louis back in May, I participated as an observer in the publicized event at Vandeventer and highway 44. Rev. Rice had legally leased this land with the intent to be a homeless encampment for people who were kicked out of Hopeville. 

'Hopeville' homeless camp in St. Louis comes down

[Hopeville was a tent city by the arch that was demolished. To quote an excerpt from the article, "Attorney Mark Schulte said the Rev. Larry Rice's plan to open a new homeless camp 'needs to be strangled in its bed.'" This is another great example of the media's destructive and violent language.] 

St. Louis Public Safety Director, Eddie Roth from Mayor Slay’s office, showed up like the dutiful official he is, along with a swarm of police cars. Rice defended his right to peacefully assemble, and was arrested in an act of civil disobedience. The city proceeded to haul him off to a cage, and Larry has since sued the city over First Amendment rights violations.

Since then, I have been keeping my eye on this ongoing story. As I dig for more information as to why the city is at war with people experiencing homelessness and homelessness advocates, I become more enlightened as to what we are experiencing as a culture. We are conditioned to not care, to not show solidarity and compassion, and instead maintain the status quo through our compliance to the destructive capitalist powers that be.

In my own life journey, I have been on a path to self-actualization. That being said, I have always been fortunate to have my most basic needs as a human met: food, shelter, and dry clothing. While on my path of awakening, I can’t help but think of all the people who don’t have their most basic physiological needs met. How can I ever truly reach self-actualization when my sisters and brothers are sleeping on the streets, hurting and hungry? How can I continue to ignore the nausea that builds up inside me when reading articles about public officials’ plan to “flush the streets and sidewalks” in an attempt to end homelessness? Does this language not sound like genocide against the poor? Criminalizing homelessness & poverty attempts to cover up the surface of capitalistic problems, but falls short on solving the actual issues at their root. The city shuffles people around through the system and puts more people in jail. What good does that do anyone?

No matter how much the city tries to put the blame of St. Louis’ homeless problems on Reverend Larry Rice, the problem still remains: thousands of women, children, and men are sleeping on concrete without food every night. Currently, there is simply not enough supply of beds in shelters to house these people.

In closing, I have decided to take it upon myself to go beyond the surface junk corporate media and actually get to know St. Louis's most famous homeless advocate and his team at New Life Evangelistic Center. Larry Rice cannot be expected to solve the issue of homelessness on his own. Homelessness and perpetual poverty runs so much deeper on a systemic level, that it is completely unfair for any one person to not accept personal responsibility. An injustice to one is an injustice to all. 

To be continued....

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