The Poverty and Privilege Dilemma: 10th Annual Poverty under the Stars at SJSU

10th Annual Poverty under the Stars

By: Paige Combs, Sociology Community Change Major at SJSU

I attended my first Poverty under the Stars event at San Jose State on November 12, 2015, but for many others it was their tenth. That evening represented a very important time for individuals working on efforts towards equality and it supplied a history of what members of different organizations have accomplished to get where we are today.


Photo in solidarity by Scott Myers-Lipton

Professor Scott Myers-Lipton organized this event with the assistance of San Jose State students and faculty. It was already a cold evening when I got there at 6 PM, but everyone was bundled up to keep away the autumn chill. The tents surrounding the sculptures of Tommy and John were already pitched, with the chairs molded around the grassy lawn facing our guest speakers. Professor Myers-Lipton greeted everyone accordingly. The event felt more like a reunion, where people were able to share their stories of the past and the future for efforts against homelessness and poverty.


Photo of audience by Scott Myers-Lipton
We had several speakers and organizations to contribute to this event, one being the Cesar Chavez Community Action Center, representatives for Sacred Heart Community Center, the individual who started the first Poverty under the Stars Rochelle Jackson Smarr, an organization fighting for the rights for student immigrants, and many other speakers that struggled and survived homelessness, as well as advocates for offering Silicon Valley residents an equal right and equal opportunity for success that is obviously lacking. Statistics offered at this event showed that many students are going hungry, and that although many individuals in this area have a median income of six figures, many are still left in poverty. With such a successful area the question we ask is, “Why is there so much poverty and how do we remedy this inhumanity being done to our people?”
Photo of organization Fighting for Student Immigrants by Scott Myers-Lipton
Photo by Scott Myers- Lipton
Photo of Rochelle Jackson Smarr by Scott Myers’-Lipton
Poverty under the Stars is a call to action. It’s to bring efforts, of any kind, towards bringing the “minority” up to be in equal standing with the alleged “majority”. It’s to bring homeless individuals, individuals of every class, of every race, of every gender and of every relationship status up to equal standing with the rest of the world. Poverty under the Stars truly represents a larger message that a homeless individual stated so eloquently, “let us be productive citizens”, let us be empowered. When assessing issues like homelessness he admitted that, ” [The homeless] feel like those benches outside. The bench represents us being stuck as life passes us by. We appreciate hot meals, clothes, but we want jobs and employment. Let us give back. . .Don’t walk for me, let me walk too.” This is the Sociologist’s perspective enveloping this idea that the Band Aid is not the solution. That providing clothing and providing food only solves a problem if only for a moment. Rather than spending money on things that solve an immediate need, solve a problem that ends poverty indefinitely.
A special thanks and recognition to all our speakers and attendees:

And finally, to all the students who slept out in solidarity with the poor and people without homes.

Thank you!

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