Address to College America (Full Text)
On February 3, 2011 the University of Alaska, Anchorage (UAA) hosted a Black History month event co-sponsored by Diff3r3nt by D3sign (DBD). Anchorage-based poet, Free Thought the Black Verb brought up nationally acclaimed poet, B YUNG, from HBO’s Brave New Voices. Working through DBD, Free Thought desires to establish a local chapter of Brave New Voices, giving Anchorage youth a safe place to shape and develop themselves as spoken word artists.
Since Free Thought is extremely community conscious, he invited the By2015:AMERICA movement to address the UAA audience. The following is the full text of that address given by lead organizer, Kokayi Nosakhere.
Address to the College America
The following message goes out to all 301 million Americans – or at least the ones we can count: if you are skilled at written or oral communication – if you are gifted at organizing – if you possess charisma and people are influenced by your personality – this is an urgent call to arms! Wake up America. Your children are hungry. Wake up America. This should not be happening. For 16.7 million children to be hungry the social safety net is shredded. The Recession hurt us. 1 out of 4 children are hungry. I don’t understand why that fact doesn’t move us.
As I speak 16.7 million American children are experiencing hunger. That is a staggering number in my mind. Every time I share this with another American, I watch as their eyes glaze over. They don’t know what to do with that number. They are overwhelmed. Tonight, I would like to deal with that emotion. Because we have got to get past the shock of that number. We have got to get into action. Every day that goes by is another day, that cannot be gotten back, of a child’s mental development! We gotta feed out children.
Since this is Black History Month, remember when Hillary and Barack were fighting over the nomination for the Democratic party? The governmental records counted 12.6 million children hungry in America. The anti-hunger community wasn’t happy with that number, however, no one could argue that it wasn’t proportional to the population. Some people, no matter what we do, are going to be poor. However, the Recession came.
The Recession wiped out enough of the working class in America to almost erase the middle class. It has plunged 1 out of 7 Americans into poverty – against their will. I repeat, against their will. I refuse the argument that most of those swindled in the housing crisis were ignorant of real estate law. I think the commission that just dropped the Financial Crisis report might agree with common sense Americans.
Consequently, after the election the number went up to 12.8 million. In the Spring it went to 13.3 million. Come fall 2009 14.1 million. At this point, the anti-hunger community started sounding the alarm. The number is holding steady at 16.7 million, however, it all depends on what governmental report that you read. Regardless, all those numbers add up to our children are hungry.
Please note: it’s not the President’s children who are hungry.
It’s not the Supreme Court’s children who are hungry.
It’s not the Congress’s children who are hungry.
It’s our children.
It’s not Bill Gates or Donald Trumps or Jay-Z’s children who are hungry! Wake up America. Your children are hungry!
In Alaska it is estimated that 33,000 children are hungry. In Anchorage, that number is 13,910 (at last count). That’s 4 out of 10 district wide or 13 in every classroom. As formidable as those numbers are: the reality of those numbers looks like Mountain View.
Mountain View is a neighborhood where 1,154 children are hungry. Mind you, we are counting just the two elementary schools and the junior high. The high school is not in that count. 1,154 children: two elementary schools. One junior high. No wonder George Bell and the Childrens’ Meal Mission operate there.
See, my personality is such that I cannot bear to hear those numbers and not do something to change them. The numbers clearly reveal that – for the immediate at least – the social safety net needs the community to come together and take care of the community. Personally, I consider myself too privileged to sit back and do nothing with the information that a solution exists. At 6 feet 260 pounds I am too healthy. With a college degree I am too intelligent. With my work ethic, I am too talented. And with my network, I am too connected. I feel too privileged to know that 1,154 children are hungry in Mountain View and do nothing about it.
So we organized. For the past 13 months I have livicated every spare hour that I could towards address child hunger. On March 2, 2010 we outlined a grassroots plan to address child hunger. Then, we went about implementing said plan.
Thanks to help from numerous organizations, we hosted two peanut butter drives: one led by DJ Jose, another by K-FAT 92.9. We have over 700 pictures on Facebook thanks to love from all over the United States and even London! The third largest newspaper in Alaska, The Anchorage Press has bravely published articles about our efforts. And, we are obviously getting someone’s attention. They keep trying to slander my name on-line every time we published. We must be doing something right!
Don Burrell Jr. came over and with some help we found a board and institutionalized Childrens’ Meal Mission with a 501 (3) C. They are getting ready for summer meals and I wish George Bell the best of luck. He’s in charge of operations. Meanwhile, we are working on a letter campaign in support of Senate Bill 3, which proposes a state matching rate giving a 15 cents increase in reimbursement rates for school Lunch and 35 cents for school breakfast. The bill helps school districts statewide cover the cost of providing meals twice a day.
Meals that are needed. When holidays occur, and the school closes down. So do those meals. On December 21, 2010 – on winter solstice – UAA student Stephanie Santos organized a street demonstration. We stood out in the cold for an hour waving signs. Why? It was day 5 of Christmas Break hunger. By proxy, it was also an anniversary for Fred Hampton Jr. California college student, Kawanus Bailey wrote up a blog entry for us inspired by our bravery.
I possess an action-orientated personality. I want to things move. I want change to actually occur. We can defeat hunger. It is easy. You just feed the children. Getting the food is the problem.
Here is what you can do to help us.
1) Take a picture with a cardboard sign. Like this one. Send it to by2015america at gmail dot com. We will add it to the collection and as soon as we get time, post it on flicker. The sign campaign is how we get people past the shock of the numbers. It starts here, with awareness of the problem.
2) Conduct a peanut butter drive. Go to by2015america the blog site. On a tab are instructions of how to conduct a peanut butter drive. Peanut butter is food bank gold. It flies off the shelf for a reason. If you do not like peanut butter, conduct a child food friendly drive.
3) Make a donation of your time, talent or money to an activity within your community which serves the anti-hunger community. In America, the infrastructure is in place. What we need are the resources to flow through that infrastructure.
Lastly, you can support our efforts directly by going to the table in the back and writing a letter to the Senate in support of Senate Bill 3. And you can purchase a booklet because we need to travel. Book us for presentations. We are campaigning people. And we are serious.
My name is Kokayi Tehuti Nosakhere. I am a community activist from Fairview. And, to the children of America, I am reporting for duty! Divine intervention is coming.
(Kokayi Nosakhere is an entertaining, Anchorage-based community activist, lecturer, and author. He seeks to raise awareness of the grassroots solutions available to address child hunger in America. To bring Nosakhere to your college campus contact him via phone: 907-884-4710 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org)