On January 18th, CAFI joined social service agencies across the county in celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There is an especially close link between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Community Action Programs centered on a shared commitment to addressing pervasive poverty in the United States.
For Dr. King, ending poverty and income inequality were cornerstones of his Civil Rights mission from the early 1960's until his assassination in 1968. in that same period, President Lyndon B. Johnson launched his "War on Poverty" with the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. This act created Community Action Programs, Head Start and other anti-poverty programs.
While they were equally committed to ending poverty, Dr. King and LBJ differed on how to address the problem. Dr. King believed President Johnson was taking an indirect approach by focusing on the symptoms of poverty. Dr. King proposed a more head-on approach to fix poverty itself. Dr. King's ideas included a guaranteed livable income for Americans, which he argued would allow those in poverty to invest back in their communities, purchasing goods, finding reasonable housing, and having the means to living a better life.
Despite these differences in strategy, Dr. King provided ongoing support and advocacy for LBJ's "War on Poverty." Dr. King's efforts sparked a national discourse on the importance of economic equity that, along with LBJ's anti-poverty programs, resulted in a lower rate of poverty and a more narrow income gap. Data indicates programs like Community Action and Head Start were effective in reducing poverty in America from 20% in 1965 to 11% in 1974. Many believe that a reduced commitment to funding such programs has led to the rise of poverty rates and income inequality back to past levels.
We can only imagine the profound impact Dr. King would have continued to have on the fight to end poverty and economic inequity in the United States. He was committed to helping all Americans, of all ethnicities, rise out of poverty. CAFI is honored to continue this work in Georgia.