I know the challenges that Arizona faces. I have read the countless reports outlining the investments our state needs to make if we are going to have a bright future: education, business, infrastructure, research, transportation and job creation.
We need to maximize our resources, develop young talent and keep that talent in Arizona. We need to overcome our political differences and abandon our extreme political positions. We need more voter participation. We need to protect our families and assure that our tax funds are used wisely.
Sadly, I do not believe that this is enough.
I work for a statewide organization dedicated to ending poverty in Arizona. As I work alongside poor communities — folks working hard and still struggling to pay the rent, put food on the table, and just hoping to catch a break — I am reminded that for all of our courageous efforts to make Arizona a better place, we are failing.
More Arizonans live below the poverty line than ever before and now one out of every four kids in Arizona goes to bed hungry. And it is not just poverty where Arizona falls behind. In almost every key indicator of a healthy society, Arizona consistently finds itself near the bottom.
And so what do we do about it?
Fundamentally, we need to stop and realize that we cannot “do” our way out of this situation unless we are willing to address at least four (there are more to be sure) major hurtles to social change.
First, we need more voices represented in our decision making, voices that are true representations of the diversity of our state. We need more voices of color, of poor communities, of students and the elderly, more Latino voices and more Native Indigenous voices.
Secondly, until we are willing to face the racism, marginalization and exploitation that weave through our history and continue to appear — consciously and unconsciously — in our decision-making processes and the power structures of our state, we will fail in our well-intended efforts to make our state better.
Thirdly, we must accept that we cannot create change alone. We are not isolated individuals living completely apart from everyone else. We are all connected; so when one of us suffers injustice, all of us suffer injustice.
Finally, we need new understanding, new tools and new partnerships. We need to come together and craft a vision of our future that is built upon equality and justice for all peoples.
With the faith that we can find ways to address these issues, Arizona Community Action Association has organized Gathering Justice, a full-day conference on Oct. 5 in Mesa to explore the challenges and opportunities in Arizona, connect partners, develop tools and develop our vision of an Arizona built upon justice and equality.
As we work together to make our state better, we must create more opportunities to listen and be changed by one another. We need to recognize that we are not alone by developing allies.
We need opportunities to stand in solidarity with one another and grow together.
Gathering Justice is a starting point for making deep social change in Arizona possible. Gathering Justice is for all of us. By taking this step, we can address our future together.
• Luke Black is a staff member at the Arizona Community Action Association. For more information, visit www.azcaa.org.