A year of behind-the-scenes work is culminating today in the City of Kalamazoo's first event as part of its new Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo initiative aimed at reducing poverty, especially among children. At 7 o'clock tonight, officials invite the public to hear a message of hope and strategy from Richard V. Reeves, a senior fellow in economic studies at The Brookings Institution. He speaks at the Fetzer Center on the Western Michigan University campus.
On WestSouthwest today, WMUK's Earlene McMichael talks with initiative member Tim Ready, director of WMU's Lewis Walker Institute of Race and Ethnic Relations, about what the city hopes to do through the initiative to reverse its poverty numbers. The institute is a partner on the project. According to Ready, 37 percent of Kalamazoo residents live in poverty. The city's impoverished included 6,345 children between 2010 to 2012, two-thirds of whom are African-American and Hispanic, says Ready. He tells McMichael that poverty adversely affects a child's chance of academic success in school and thus attainment of post-secondary degrees. The result is reduced access to high-skill, high-paying jobs. He adds that some low-income youth turn to crime, which later makes it difficult to find legal work because of their records.
Reeves' address tonight, billed as the inaugural event for the initiative, will focus on "how America is drifting further away from the ideal of equal opportunity and what local communities can do to reverse this trend," according to a university press release. Reeves researches social mobility and inequality, particularly as they relate to children and families. His talk is free, and pre-registration is not required.
In January 2014, the Kalamazoo City Commission unanimously voted to take a leadership role in reducing poverty with particular attention to children. The action came around the time of the disbanding of the decade-old nonprofit group, the Kalamazoo County Poverty Reduction Initiative. The new Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo effort is led by Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell.
In addition to Hopewell and Ready, those collaborating on the initiative include Kalamazoo City Commissioner Don Cooney, WMU associate professor of social work and associate director of the Walker Institute, and Laura Lam, Kalamazoo director of community planning and development, as well as several Western interns. For more information and for future Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo events open to the public, visit www.kalamazoocity.org/sharedprosperity.