Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

See the Bigger Picture on Public Housing in Mandarin

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

See the Bigger Picture on Public Housing in Mandarin

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee, Times-Union columnist

After a lifetime of enduring arrests, assaults and bomb threats for demanding that African-Americans not have to live their lives confined to the back of society's bus, Martin Luther King Jr. was about to put himself on the line again.

In 1968, the civil rights icon had emboldened himself to take on another injustice: poverty. At that time, one in eight Americans was poor, and King was in the throes of the Poor People's Campaign. King called poverty "a kind of strangulation in the air." Said that "in our society, it is murder, psychologically, to deprive a man of a job or income. You are in substance saying to that man that he has no right to exist."

But before King could get going on that one, he was killed. And from the looks of things, it seems that part of his legacy -- his empathy for the poor -- is dying, too.

Don't look to Mississippi for examples of that. Look no further than Jacksonville.

In Mandarin, some people are using every contrivance possible to stop the Jacksonville Housing Authority, which is under a court order to establish public housing in predominantly white areas of town, to keep it from moving poor people into an apartment complex in their neighborhood. At first, they didn't want it at all. Now they say they'll accept it, but only if about 25 percent of the tenants are public housing clients. They found their voice when it came time to fight against the voiceless, not for them.

No spirit of King there.

What they don't seem to care about, however, is the fact that some of the tenants who are poised to move there have been waiting for decent housing for years. Nor do they realize that if a person is able to afford a decent place to live, then that person is in a better position to pull himself out of poverty.

They also don't seem to care about the fact that by depriving struggling people of a chance to have affordable housing, they are saying poor people have no right to exist. …

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