Building Community at Survival News
Claire Cummings and Betty Reid Mandell
THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA LIES ABOUT WELFARE MOTHERS. THEY feature stories about mothers who neglect and abuse their children, mothers who have large broods of children, mothers who take drugs, and third generations of welfare mothers. They imply that these are typical welfare recipients, thereby feeding the prejudice that already exists in the public mind. By planting these prejudices in people's minds, they ensure that there will be no large-scale resistance to the current assaults on welfare.
What can we do to resist the media attack on welfare mothers? One thing we can do is to create our own alternative media where the voices of the poor can be heard. Some of us did that when we created Survival News, a lively activist welfare rights paper that focuses on Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), but also covers news about survival issues for all low-income people -- Social Security Insurance ( SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance ( SSDI), nutrition programs, housing, health, childcare, social services, and General Relief. 1 Most important, it features the stories of the survivors of poverty themselves.
Suivival News is unique in another way -- it unites low-income and middle-income people in a sustained cooperative working relationship, while leaving majority control in the hands of low-income people. It got its start at the University of Massachusetts at Boston (U-Mass/ Boston), in the office of Advocacy for Resources for Modern Survival (ARMS). ARMS is a welfare rights group made up of students who are current or former welfare recipients. It is a chapter of the Coalition for Basic Human Needs (CBHN), a statewide welfare group composed of welfare mothers.