When I became poor, I learned that there are big jars of sugar and entire pitchers of milk available free to anyone who buys a cup of coffee. You can add enough sugar (carbohydrate) and milk (protein and fat) to relieve your hunger for a couple of hours.
One in three women on earth — a total of one billion — will be raped or beaten in their lifetimes. We carry the torch for all the women whose voices were silenced by rape and murder. We are their voices now and we will never again choose silence and fear.
Elvis had been homeless in this neighborhood for over 15 years. His broken, tired, ravaged body provided sad evidence of what that was like. But he never complained, and didn’t see himself as a victim. Despite the toll taken by living on the street for so long, Elvis was unfailingly friendly.
This man with the weatherworn face made me realize that people living in extreme poverty have to make a strong effort to dispel the darkness, especially now that our rights are being systematically stripped away. There’s an urgent need for us to speak up whenever and wherever we can.
The streets where I lived were ruthless and frequently violent. I often suffered from hunger, and would go days without something to eat. There was violence almost every night — from shootings to robberies and rape. This caused me extreme fear. Every little noise, you wake up.
The connection between homelessness and animals arose for me when I found my dog Clair on the street in downtown Berkeley’s business district after she’d been dumped out of a car. We found a home together. Clair was home to me for 17 years, and I was home to her.
The problem is that the one percent has learned ways to tweak the business and economic environment in such a way that they can receive massive amounts of wealth while depriving others. Why do people continue to behave in this way, amassing piles of wealth while others go hungry?
Narayan Desai taught us about nonviolent resistance in Birmingham, a city notoriously known as “Bombingham” because so many churches and homes were bombed by the forces of racism. We saw the parallels between Gandhi’s embrace of the risks of prison and police attacks, and the courage of Birmingham’s civil rights activists.
As one of Kurt Vonnegut’s characters in Slaughterhouse-Five says, “It’s a crime to be poor in America.” This is a truth my brother Larry experienced for decades. Larry taught me that everyone matters, and this lesson fueled a longing for a world whose policies and conditions reflected this basic fact.
There is no excuse for political leaders and for the wealthy people who influence them to allow widespread poverty, hunger and disease. The starvation and disease that continue in many places would not exist if the people who hoard most of the wealth cared about helping their fellow human beings.