In response to the country’s new federal administration, the leaders behind West Philadelphia’s Witness to Hunger introduced their first gallery exhibition and open community forum to highlight poverty in the community.
First established in 2008, Witness to Hunger fights against hunger and poverty through both photography and discussion.
Panelists at the first gallery exhibition included Angela-Nike Sutton, Jumoke Dada, Laniece Williams and Sofiya Ballin of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
EAT Café, Philadelphia’s first pay-what-you-can restaurant, played host to the panel and gallery.
The café’s walls were lined with photos taken by the real experts of poverty – mothers and caregivers of children who have experienced poverty and hunger first-hand.
Each of the women on the panel spoke about their own experiences of adversity, leading the conversation with community members.
“Photos put an actual story behind numbers, so you can actually see what is effecting everyday life,” said Sutton. “A lot of times, politicians and legislators don’t have a clue what it is like to live in poverty, and they have this misconception that we want to be in poverty.”
For these panelists, what makes West Philadelphia an important location for a discussion on poverty is the growing change in the area. What interested Williams about the West Philadelphia community is the potential of forgetting the issue of poverty with new construction in the area.
“We see the area being built up, and new properties coming about that it is easy for people to forget about this issue,” Williams said. “The fact is so many people, especially women of color, are very much affected by poverty.”
Each of the panelist stressed the power women hold in improving a life that has suffered from poverty.
“We hold a lot of power, especially Black women,” Ballin said. “I think that they are proclaiming something, they are being vocal about the issue, but I think that they aren’t always herd. I think that when it come to black woman, their voices are there. It is just a matter of listening.”
-Text, images and video by Kate Reilly.