Tavis Smiley, Cornel West bring ‘The Poverty Tour’ to Bob Graham Center

Published: January 12th, 2012

Category: Announcements, InsideUF, Top Stories

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — TV and radio host Tavis Smiley and best-selling author Cornel West will bring their anti-poverty activism tour to the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida on Jan. 20 in an exclusive interactive forum that will combine live audience participation with the formal unveiling of the center’s new Civil Debate Wall.

The event will begin at 6 p.m. in the Pugh Hall Ocora. It will be a frank discussion on poverty, homelessness and the impact of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The event is free and open to the public.

The theme of the evening will be the question that Smiley and West are posting on the Civil Debate Wall: “Do you think that Occupy is the Civil Rights Movement of our time?” The Civil Debate Wall — or The Wall, as it is to be known — is a series of interconnected touch-screen devices that allows students, teachers and citizens to share ideas and solutions to some of the most pressing political questions facing the nation.

The event will be the latest stop in Smiley and West’s joint project, “The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience.” The tour, launched last year, was a trip across the United States to examine poverty and, in the best tradition of American civic activism, find solutions. It was the focus of five special episodes on Smiley’s PBS program in October.

Poverty is especially acute in Florida. According to data from the U.S. Census and Pew Research Center, since the recession began in 2007 the state has had the largest increase in the poverty rate in the nation. The poverty rate rose to 14.9 percent in 2009, while the child poverty rate rose to 21 percent. The housing crisis wiped out decades of efforts to expand minority homeownership. Black wealth dropped by 53 percent between 2005 and 2009, and the black-white wealth gap is now higher than it was in the 1980s.

Smiley, a longtime broadcaster, author, publisher, advocate, and philanthropist, is the host of the late-night television talk show “Tavis Smiley” on PBS and “The Tavis Smiley Show” from Public Radio International. With West, Smiley is also co-host of the radio program “Smiley and West,” also from PRI.

West, the Class of 1943 University Professor at Princeton, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in three years and earned his master’s and doctorate in philosophy at Princeton. He has also taught at Union Theological Seminary, Yale, Harvard and the University of Paris. He has written 19 books, including the best-selling “Race Matters, Democracy Matters,” and his new memoir, “Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud.” He appears frequently on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” “The Colbert Report,” CNN and C-SPAN.

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Shelby Taylor, 352-273-1086

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