As NY1 marks Black History Month, the station is taking a look at the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, and former City Councilman Charles Barron and the Rev. Herbert Daughtry had different takes on the policy's effectiveness. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
In reference to the War on Poverty, President Lyndon Johnson said, "We want to open the gates to opportunity."
He said that in 1964, when he created the federal program to help the poor. Today, former Brooklyn City Councilman and community activist Charles Barron says the initiative didn't work.
"Fifty years later, we have some of the highest poverty in the richest country and the richest city in the world," Barron said. "27.4 percent of the black community is impoverished."
The Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the House of the Lord Church in Downtown Brooklyn has a different take. He says that 50 years ago, he led a group called Youth in Action that was a recipient of some of the federal money.
"I would think that there are many people who received their education as a result of the program. Housing. In many ways, it helped," Daughtry said. "I mean, it didn't kill the enemy, but it wounded it."
Both Daughtry and Barron say that the issue of poverty is tied into the civil rights movement.
"We realize that a part of the racism was directly related to the conditions of the people," Daughtry said.
"Martin Luther King didn't have a dream. He had a radical vision," Barron said. "In 1968, he was launching a poor people's campaign, including everybody, poor Latinos, poor Asians, poor whites, certainly poor blacks. He was fighting poverty. He was fighting against capitalism and its greed and its structural unemployment."
King was killed that year, never realizing that vision. Barron says that it's up to black leaders today to make a local impact. In Brooklyn, there are currently 19 black elected officials.
"We can have 17, 18, 19 black elected officials in Brooklyn, but what would that mean for East New York and the poverty in East New York, the unemployment in East New York?" Barron said.
Both Barron and Daughtry say that success in the ongoing War on Poverty will ultimately be measured by how the masses of black people are doing.