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Wash U’s Clark-Fox Policy Institute Talks Poverty And Race In Speakers Series

Wes Moore (left), author and CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation spoke with Charli Cooksey (right), CEO of WEPOWER about ways to dismantle poverty not only in St. Louis, but nationally.
Andrea Henderson | St. Louis Public Radio
Wes Moore (left), author and CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, spoke with Charli Cooksey, CEO of WEPOWER, about ways to dismantle poverty not only in St. Louis but nationally.

Poverty and racism should not be discussed separately in St. Louis, author Wes Moore said.

“You can't look at a region like this, and you can’t look at places like my hometown of Baltimore and think that the reason that we have the racial wealth gap is just simply because one group isn't working as hard as the other,” Moore said.

Moore is CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization, and the author of several young adult novels, as well as his bestselling biography, “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.” 

He spoke Monday morning at Washington University’s Clark-Fox Policy Institute. It’s part of a speakers series the institute kicked off earlier this month to promote social justice and equity in the St. Louis region.

“You can't look at the fact that we have vastly different areas of unemployment, economic opportunity, health disparities, and just simply believe it's just because one group needs to run a little bit faster,” he continued.

In order to have these honest conversations about racism and poverty, Moore said the country needs to use data to address issues and then have a comprehensive discussion to advance equity and dismantle poverty.

Charli Cooksey, the CEO of WEPOWER, a nonprofit that works to make St. Louis racially equitable, interviewed Moore onstage and provided data about St. Louis. She referenced the Equity Indicators Baseline Report that was released in 2019 to quantify racial equity in St. Louis. Based on the report, the city received a 45.57 out of 100, with 100 being a perfectly equitable score. And when it comes to child well-being, the city received 26 out of 100.

After hearing the numbers of disparities in St. Louis, Moore said the hard questions the community should be asking, particularly regarding children of color are, “What is it that you actually see? Do you see hope and promise? Do you see unbridled opportunity? Do you see something we should be rooting for?”

As for the philanthropic community, Moore said each organization must look at poverty holistically. 

“Oftentimes [people in] philanthropy are having conversations about how to deal with the issue of poverty without actually bringing impacted peoples into the conversation,” Moore said. “And frankly, we are never going to get to solutions that we need to get to if only a sliver of the population is actually part of the conversation.” 

Andrea Y. Henderson is part of the public-radio collaborative Sharing America, covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Hartford, St. Louis, Kansas City and Portland, Oregon. Follow Andrea on Twitter at @drebjournalist.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.