BY CHRIS KERR | January 21, 2014
I’ve been browsing the various service programs around the country in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his holiday this year. The list is impressive – and disturbing. I find myself hoping that the volunteers had a wonderful experience and took away from their day of work a bit of anger that sprucing up a school or feeding hungry people had to be done by volunteers – and had to be done at all.
And I hope it has sent the students back to their schools curious about what is causing the hunger or the neglect of buildings and services – and concerned enough to get to the bottom of things. Why are there so many poor and hungry people now – not just in this town but across the country and around the world? Why have almost all economic gains over the last 40 years gone to the wealthiest 1% or 2%? Why do 400 billionaires have more wealth than all African Americans combined?
The poverty rate in the census tract where I live in Adrian, MI, is 29.1% and just four blocks off the Siena Heights college campus here it is 46.6%. One day of cleaning the neighborhood or working in a soup kitchen can be very informative for those who do it, but what about the next day? And the day after? These services can provide a welcome respite for the people in that kind of poverty. But they can’t overcome the lack of jobs out there since the 2008 recession or the cutoff of unemployment benefits prolonged now in the U.S. House of Representatives.
To truly honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we need to be blessed with some of his moral outrage at all that is wrong, his creative imagination for shaping a different Dream and his passion to work day after day for the common good of everyone.
Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.