Every attitude, every gesture has to fight poverty and exclusion. There are many ways to act, regardless of our skills and availability. These messages, these testimonials reflect. Feel free to contribute.

Testimonies are published under the responsibility of the author. They are subject to validation: these will be published only if they comply, in form and substance the spirit of this day as defined in the International Charter for October 17.

 

Message of Activist, Stacy White, October 17, United Nations HQ, New York

Good afternoon,

People in poverty are not the lowest of the low.

I live with my daughter in a shelter in Queens, New York City, and I am doing my best to look for permanent affordable housing to stay outside of the shelter system. I currently have twelve weeks to find an apartment based on a voucher provided by the City of New York. Throughout my life, I have lived in poverty-stricken areas. 

For me, poverty is about neglected areas — areas that are not taken care of, where there are no resources for families like libraries, good schools, or even good stores. 

In the stores, most of the groceries are expired, including potato chips and sodas. The store owners think that we’re content with living this way because they think we do not have a voice, but that is not the case. People living in poverty have this fear that if they open their mouths, then action will be taken against them, so nobody says anything. So, we’re going to continue to have stores like that, unless people living in poverty let their voices be heard, so others are stopping to take advantage of them.

In these places where sidewalks are cracked and infrastructures are broken, it's important that we stand up for our rights and that we voice our needs — make noise to get what we have the right to have.

We have to make noise. I don’t mean being loud, being violent, cursing people out, belittling people. I mean going to meet people. Because a piece of paper is just not going to work, you have to go down there and stay in their face and keep staying in their face. You have to claim your right.

It’s important to be heard because it’s only right. Everyone should have the right to speak, to say how they feel about what is going on in their life. It’s a human right to be heard and to listen to someone — to communicate with one another.

A lot of times I had the feeling I was not heard. When I went into the shelter system, I told them I wasn’t giving them any false information, but they weren’t trying to hear that, talking above me and raising their voices.

They don’t listen because a lot of people go by status. If you have a job and I don’t, I’m lower; if I live in the projects and you own a home, I’m lower; if you have better shoes, I’m lower. So, if we’re not on the same level, people don’t want to be bothered.

Often, I get the impression that some people are not properly trained for their jobs. When you’re working a job that requires customer service or dealing with people, you have to be trained to deal with it all.

Inside poverty-stricken neighborhoods, to stop the violence, people need to bring it out into the open and stop keeping it inside. If we don’t get together and say something about it, violence will keep happening.

We, in our community, only make noise if a black person is killed by a police officer. We don’t say anything when we kill each other. In the neighborhoods where I’m from, this happens every day, every other day, but we don’t say anything. Because, first, people are scared of retaliation. And, second, some police officers think, “Let them kill each other.”

We need peacemakers in our neighborhoods because some people don’t feel secure enough or safe enough to tell the police. We have to find someone we can fully trust who will listen to us, and then maybe someone the police will listen to, because they’re not going to listen to the people in the neighborhoods, people in poverty. My mother would play that role.

My mother didn’t care what color you were — if you’re in trouble, you’re in trouble and that’s it. That taught me to raise my kids with respect, and that’s why I have respect for everyone. She had a lot of impact on me.  Now, if I see somebody fighting, if it’s not a violent fight, but something I can resolve, I try to resolve it.

Nobody deserves to be put down because of where they are from, what color they are, how much they make, or what they eat. I don’t feel disrespected too much. When someone tries to disrespect me, it feels like I have a raincoat that gets wet and the rain rolls off. Because I know who I am, I know where I came from, and I am proud of who I am.

Respect starts at home with a very caring adult. Kids are bullied so much. If you tell your child, you stand on your own two feet, and you are perfectly fine the way you are, when he’s being bullied, he will just walk away with a “Please, get out of my face with that.”  But if a parent or a caring adult doesn’t let them know that, then that child is going to absorb the bullying until the pressure becomes too much. Let’s see what their art and their talent is. You have to help your child be confident.

It's the same for our LGBT young people.  A lot of them are killing themselves, turning to drugs, or living on the streets because their parents are not accepting. When you have a child, your love is unconditional.

Homeless people also deserve respect. Anyone who has any care in the world for people should let them know where they can find help. I tell people where they can find support. Also, simply saying hello to someone makes a world of a difference. 

Everyone can and should come together. All it takes is one person to take the first step. Usually, another follows behind. It’s not too hard to follow someone else’s steps. What is hard is to take that first step to tell other people. So, today, I am telling you: “Don't be afraid to take that first step, and let's come together to make a difference.”

This testimony is linked to the event: 
Video: Commemoration at the United Nations Headquarters
Genevieve Tardieu