Originally posted on 20 Lines A Day:

Today while visiting a great farmers market in East Harlem I noticed a wonderful poem in one of the booths and I asked the owner if she wrote it and she said yes. The poem entitled Life was written by Moma Grace from Ghana who formerly worked in her country’s version of the FBI! She said the poem was given to her in a dream and that she reads it everyday after her prayers. I feel so blessed to live in a city where you can run into wonderful people like Moma Grace! Read her poem below to be inspired!

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City Sabbath

If you can’t physically commune with  nature mediate on a beautiful photo, it works wonders!

                                         Saas-Fee, Switzerland

 

Grow Deep Roots in God

Grow deep roots in God and stand firm as your most authentic, loving & courageous self, this is the way to resist the winds that can knock you off divine balance.

Link Love!

My article Romney vs. Reality: A Social Worker’s Perspective has been shared on a couple of great sites and I am so grateful so I wanted to pass on the link love and share some articles I love with you.

I am now a Huffington Post blogger thanks to Rev. Jennifer D. Crumpton  who passed my article on to the editor of Huff Post Religion! She has a great blog on Patheos.

My article was featured on:

Faithful Democrats

Sojourners Emerging Voices Blog

For Harriet (where I remixed the post for Black women): The Economic Myths That Keep Us Chained: Romney’s 47% vs. Reality

Huff Post Religion

Link Love

My cousin’s challenging reflection: Nice Guys Finish Last….

Fat Fem Pinup’s thought provoking post Love: The Myth of Instant Gratification

Black Energy News always comes with practical but deep knowledge here is her most recent post: How to Duplicate Things You Appreciate in a Relationship

LA Liberal Evangelical Examiner ask Whose Religious Experience & Politics

I hope you enjoy these post as much as I did, share and follow these great blogs!

My Belated 1980’s Birthday Bash!

I believe that celebration and laughter can be revolutionary, we need to praise God for each year, month, day, hour, minute and second of life! Last weekend I went to the Culture Club with some friends to wear a great thrifted red 80’s dress and dance to cheesy music. Below are the pictures, enjoy!

With Tammy, Kelly, Dolleen, Nina, Ayana & Peter “Get into the groove Boy you’ve got to prove Your love to me, yeah….”

My Switzerland Birthday with my Swiss Friend Dina!

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A Great Blessing & A Great Responsibility: Sojourners Emerging Voices Project!

I am humbled and blessed to be apart of Sojourners Emerging Voices Project which is a  initiative that aims to raise the voices of new leaders for faithful justice. I found out about this in the spring but the project was officially launched yesterday. God is hilarious because a few years ago I  complained to friends and God about the lack of women and people of color speaking, leading and writing in the faith-based social justice world. Often when we complain about something that needs to get done God will point back at you and say “why don’t you do it?” In 2007 I was discouraged about the lack of concern for justice I observed in the church, had recently left a really bad church situation and was praying and crying about the gap between my reality and the church. During that time after a fast I learned about Sojourners from a email to Union students inviting us to apply for a scholarship to the Pentecost 2007 Conference (which I thought was a Black Pentecostal Social Justice Conference, one of my girlfriends even thought I was going to meet somebody there, LOL). I attended the conference and found a community of Christians striving for justice nationally but more importantly in NYC. At the conference I met Lisa Sharon Harper (a fellow Emerging Voices member), Rev. Peter Heltzel and Anna Lee Winans all founders of NY Faith & Justice. I returned home fired up to organize people of faith for social justice. A year later I was able to intern at Sojourners as a Beatitudes Society Fellow and began writing for the magazine and blog. I never expected to have these opportunities but God does hear our spoken and unspoken prayers. Those who know me know that I come from very humble circumstances and I was not raised in church, all I have to qualify me for this work is God’s grace and the words of my testimony.

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Romney vs. Reality: A Social Worker’s Perspective

On September 17, the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street instead of hearing about the 99% we heard about the 47% who according to Mitt Romney:

“will vote for the president no matter what… are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.”(Ezra Klein; Washington Post Wonkbook )

As a social worker and faith-rooted community organizer I have to say that this 47 percent is a myth. Due to arbitrary sanctions, agency errors, onerous application requirements, long waits to apply for services, failed communication systems, arduous work requirements  and punishment within the welfare system low-income people are not receiving much needed services (Guilty Until Proven Innocent Report 2012 FPWA). The myth that welfare and government assistance is easy to obtain and maintain has been pervasive since the 1980’s “welfare queen” character was created by President Ronald Reagan.  The welfare queen much like the loch ness monster is seen by a privileged few but no one can actually prove its existence. Now we have a new mythical monster the 47 percent who are an entitled class. The reality is that our entitlement system underserves many needy individuals and families. According to the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies(FPWA) Report Guilty Until Proven Innocent:

“One of the primary functions of the welfare program is to alleviate poverty by providing essential income support to families who qualify  but in 2010 the program only served 27% of families living in poverty, a 41% decrease from 1996 when the program served 68% of families living in need.”

The harsh reality is that many people who are qualified to receive government assistance such as SNAP (Food Stamps) are the working poor who do not apply because they cannot take time off of their low-wage jobs to undergo the long and confusing application process. If someone is able to find out about assistance, endure the confusing and long process of applying and is actually approved then they can look forward to the possibility of receiving a sanction which is a process in which your benefits are called into question for some transgression as petty as missing an appointment because you had to work. “According to the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) from April 2006 to through April 2009, 25% of New York City family cases with at least one adult or minor teen head of household were sanctioned or in the sanction process.” (Guilty Until Proven Innocent). Sanctions usually punish the poorest who most need social services.

Though I use New York as an example these issues are prominent across the country, especially in rural areas were application centers are further away and lines to apply can stretch around the block. This reality is unknown to many who assume that it is easy to apply for assistance programs because unless you are in need or a social service provider you will not see the maze that is the American social service system. Furthermore, there is such shame around needing assistance that many keep silent about the dehumanizing process.  I know firsthand of this dehumanization not only as a social worker but as a person who grew-up poor. I can remember accompanying my mother to appointments for assistance and waiting for hours; the assumption being that poor people’s time is not important.  This approach keeps the poor person in a Catch- 22 because if you want to attend school or work to better yourself you do not have the time to do so because of the countless hours spent waiting for services you desperately need. During the application process you are shuffled with disdain from appointment to appointment by low-paid caseworkers who are usually one paycheck away from being in your position. I remember feeling ashamed and dehumanized by this process, but through the assistance of many people and programs such as grants for college I am now able to stand alongside other poor people to organize for justice.

Unless you have experienced the social services system you may believe the myth that low-income people are entitled, but as the ranks of the poor grow to include the formerly middle-class we have to let go of this myth just as a child has to let go of Santa Claus when they reach a certain age. Though myths maybe comforting to our egos ultimately they stunt our development. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “when I became a man I put away childish things.” If we are going to survive as a country in the face of growing economic uncertainty we have to put away these childish myths of the welfare queen, the 47 percent, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and rugged individualism. The fact is from the Homestead Act, to the GI Bill and legacy admissions at top colleges many Americans receive entitlements based on wealth and race privilege. We are all standing on the shoulders of someone who helped us along the way; no one is successful through their hard work alone.

I do not write this to endorse either candidate or to sway your vote but to bring a dose of reality to the way we think about poverty in America. So what does this mean for people of faith? I think that as people of faith we need to prioritize and not demonize the least of these. We cannot “conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2) which is to disregard the poor.  As people of faith we should weigh every theory or political statement against the word of God; which speaks up for the poor and states that they will be leaders in the rebuilding of our society (Isaiah 61: 1-4).

For more information or to obtain a copy of the FPWA Report Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Sanctions, Agency Error and Financial Punishment within New York State’s Welfare System visit FPWA Policy, Advocacy & Research.

Onleilove Alston, M.Div, MSW was born and raised in East New York, Brooklyn. When she was 10, she felt led to pray and read the Bible though she was not raised in the church. Four years later she walked into a local Baptist Church where she had a life-altering conversion experience that not only saved her soul but her life from the effects of poverty. Currently, she is the Faith Based Organizing Associate at The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, blogs at Wholeness4Love and tweets @Wholeness4ALL.