This week, if you happen to catch me on air, or see me out and about in the city, I invite you to do one thing:
Ask me about my little black dress.
There’s nothing remarkable about the dress itself. It’s not created by a big-name designer, nor does it have any noteworthy embellishments. In fact, quite the opposite.
But this dress has a story.
There is an epidemic in our city. It’s hit 24 percent of our city’s population, according to 2013 data. African-Americans and single mothers are most at risk. Even young people can’t escape: 38 percent of children under 18 are affected. And for those caught in its unforgiving grasp, it’s a dismal cycle that is not easily, if ever, broken.
Generational poverty. To read about it is one thing: a sterile list of numbers, statistics, possible contributing factors. Perhaps a map or two.
But for those living it, it means surviving on as little as $2 a day. Going hungry so your children can eat dinner for the night. It means unstable housing, washing and re-washing the same clothes to wear day after day. And it means living with the fear that at any moment, an unexpected emergency – something as simple as a sick child or a late bus – could cost your job, spelling disaster.
Identifying generational poverty is the easy part. But the task of climbing out, of moving beyond these circumstances can often prove insurmountable.
This week, the Junior League of Atlanta is working to raise awareness and funds for Atlantans trapped in this vicious cycle. All week long, members will participate in “The Little Black Dress Initiative” – a campaign to wear the same black dress every day for an entire week, along with a simple button: ask me about my little black dress. For many women living in generational poverty, varied clothing options are simply not an affordable luxury. The weeklong campaign culminates in a community event Saturday morning at Georgia Tech.
As a Junior League member, I’m proud to take part in the campaign. Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t pretend to be so naïve as to think a week of black dresses alone can eradicate the issue. Nor do I pretend that my choice is even close to the struggles these women face daily. I’m very fortunate: as I prepared for the week, I sifted through at least 5 different “little black dresses” in my closet. I can add a necklace or blazer here, change shoes and lose a belt to give the dress a different look all week. For so many women, there are no such luxuries.
So this week, I invite you again: ask me about my little black dress. The dress has a story – not mine personally, and likely not yours. But as long as hundreds of Atlantans remain trapped in the web of generational poverty, this is a story that belongs to all of us. And once we realize that, only then can we work to bring it to an end.