Forum Shows Impact of Economic Inequality On Diverse Communities

The past, present and future of diverse communities across the U.S. merged into one call for economic equality at Pomona College’s Rose Hills Theatre March 31, as four speakers presented on how economic inequality affects different sectors of the U.S. population.

The forum, titled “The Impact on Diverse Communities,” was the second and last in a lecture series on “Economic Inequality in America” hosted by The American Institute for Progressive Democracy, a Claremont-based non-profit public policy think tank. The first forum, which focused on “Causes, Consequences and Remedies,” took place on March 3.

Speakers for the second forum included Marybeth Mattingly, Director of Research on Vulnerable Families at the University of New Hampshire; Tomás Summers Sandoval, an associate professor of history and Chicano/a-Latina/o Studies at Pomona College; Larry Smith, co-producer/co-host of Native American Airwaves on the KPFK radio station; and Michael D. Lacy, President of the Board of Transcendence, a local non-profit organization dedicated to helping underserved youth.

Lacy, who presented on “An African-American Perspective of the New Economic Playing Field,” said in an interview with TSL that he valued the overall theme of the forum on how “economic inequality affects all of us no matter what your background is” even if each community struggles with it in different ways.

“The point of it was to educate and inform the public of those specific challenges and also to start discussing what do those remedies look like,” he said.

Sandoval, who talked about the economic and demographic changes the Latino population has been going through since the 20th century, noted the importance of education and its affordability as a key to economic growth.

Pablo Ordóñez PO ’18, who attended the second session, wrote in an email to TSL that he was inspired by Sandoval’s “dedication to his research” and that his work is “vital to the Latino community.”

Isaac Tucker-Rasbury PO ’18, who was also at the second forum, said that he decided to attend after he heard about it from Sandoval, who had taught his Critical Inquiry Seminar class last semester. Tucker-Rasbury said that Mattingly’s presentation, which looked at the impact of poverty using various statistical measures, “personalized” the topic for him.

“She was pretty detail-oriented, and she spoke to a lot of the causes and to a lot of demographics that poverty affects,” he said. “She broke it down in terms of white, non-Hispanics, Hispanics and African-Americans, which personalizes it [for me] because the African-American demographic was one of the groups that was consistently on the worse end of the poverty scales that she showed.”

Lacy, who currently works as the Senior Enterprise Account Executive at TIBCO Software, said that economic inequality is something he has witnessed in both his personal and professional life.  A Pomona native, he said that attending Pomona High School and seeing the “challenges of my friends and some of the things that affected them” impacted him greatly, motivating him ever since to serve his community. 

“I wanted to always contribute, give back to the community and create opportunities to help those that were less fortunate than me,” Lacy said. “So that’s where it really comes from. It’s really out of my experiences, my desires to help others and not be selfish with my time.”

Joe Eyen PZ ’15, who has worked with the American Institute for Progressive Democracy since last year to work on its website and promote its conferences at the Claremont Colleges, wrote in an email to TSL that the organization seeks to educate the public in issues relevant in today’s society.

“The severity of America’s economic inequality is at one of its greatest points in its history, and so many other problems, like social inequalities, are compounded by the economic problem,” he wrote. “One of their goals was to present a conference series that covered as many of the affected groups of Americans as possible.”

For those interested, recordings of the two forums will soon be available on taipdconference.com.

Lauren Ison contributed reporting.

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