The Poverty + Racial Injustice Stories Project

Welcome to the Poverty + Racial Injustice Stories Project. Our nation is experiencing an awakening, and for some, an introduction to the injustices that Black people have been facing in this country for decades.

We are dedicating this project to the stories of AmeriCorps VISTA members whose work goes beyond the VISTA mission to eradicate poverty. These stories will show how their work in tackling this mission intersects with combatting racial injustices in the communities they serve.

Our hope is that 1. VISTA members will be seen and celebrated for their work, 2. The stories will provide a blueprint for others to follow, and 3. By sharing stories from areas including housing, literacy, and nutrition, readers will get a glimpse into just how far reaching the effects of racial injustice can be.

Kurtis Edwards can’t recall how he found the AmeriCorps VISTA program, but after almost two years of service, he feels lucky that he did. In addition to serving in communities and combating poverty, Kurtis joined AmeriCorps because he wanted to build his management and leadership skills. As a “white person, who is also male, who is also gay,” he wanted to have legitimacy in the mission he felt called to: to talk to other white people about the systemic racism steeped in this country.

As a Navy brat, born on a Hawaiian base, and having lived in a number of different places, these experiences informed Kurtis’ desire for a career in antiracism, working in interracial dialogue, specifically speaking to white people about white power structures. As he completes his second year of service, he is even more resolute in his determination to “work tirelessly at a career in human service and community building.”

Kurtis Edwards Washtenaw Literacy Ypsilanti, Michigan. Position: Program Coordinator from Aug 2018 – Aug 2020

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Characters of White Supremacy

This is a short piece on the main characteristics of white supremacy culture. Below there are 15 characteristics, but I want to talk about perfectionism, sense of urgency, individualism, objectivity, either/or thinking, power hoarding, progress means bigger, and fear of open conflict. This is not a narrative on white culture or identity. Anyone or any one group that utilizes these characteristics to value or compare another person or group is also acting through the components of white supremacy culture.

Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones

Perfectionism has less to do with being precise and exact and more to do with the value you place on things that you consider less-perfect. I know on a personal level, the constant anxiety to be perfect or ‘ideal’ is exhausting. Imagine being an employee that has a manager who is a perfectionist. My gut tells me to run from that employment because those who always demand perfection never seem to be satisfied. I’m no Ph.D., but that screams to me that perfection isn’t real. Not to mention, I am always going to be a lousy employee because I can’t produce something unreal. I am a musician, and much of my experience creating music has been in search of perfection. I’m one of those types who often think the more simple the song is, the harder it becomes because the sound must be perfect. Maybe that’s true, but it takes so much time to get things perfect that there is little energy to spend on the emotion and performance of it all. A lot of lessons learned in realizing music is all about the emotion and performance and little to do with the perfection of sound. Maybe that’s why there isn’t a #1 single to my name.

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