Brian King is the director and co-founder of the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission Street Saints. He grew up in poverty on Chicago’s South Side. Brian served as a member of California’s statewide Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force that created the End Child Poverty Plan. As our CEO Conway Collis said, “It’s with Brian King’s leadership that we’re going to get this done.”
Brian joined us for the entire 2019 End Child Poverty in California Bus Tour, and spoke multiple times, including this powerful speech in front of his hometown crowd in Fresno.
Praise God. I’m appointed to speak to you guys first about what I’m experiencing. So first without any further ado, let me give thanks to God for me even being here. It’s only through Him that I’m here. You know, they wrote me off and said I would never live to be 15, but it’s only thanks to God that I’m here a couple ticks away from 60.
Then I want to give thanks to my mother and mothers like her who went to bed hungry so that we couldn’t taste what poverty felt like. And so for the mothers who have put themselves in those positions and continue to do so to this day, I want to salute you guys: mothers who have went without so that we can.
I want to talk to you on a couple of deals – with two hats – the first hat is poverty. I am a direct descendent of poverty. I have experienced all the DNA of poverty. I’ve went from an 8-year-old gang member, to 14-year-old drug addict, to an incarcerated teenager, to a 21-year-old homeless addict walking around on the South Side of Chicago just waiting to die.
I have cleaned up, and went back to the streets and became one of the most significant and largest drug dealers in the city of Chicago. I have everything that’s made up of a young African-American male that’s walked the impoverished community.
But then I came to Fresno and I found a man name Jesus. And now the other hat I wear is a battle against poverty.
And my question to us in Fresno is “How do we feed the world, but starve our kids?”
It is a tragedy that we live in the second highest concentrated poverty area in the nation. And we’re not alone. In our travels, I’ve been able to go through San Diego to here. And what I’ve seen has really broke my spirit. I met a young 26-year-old lady in San Diego named Monique that has all the DNA that I have from these impoverished neighborhoods. But she has a 4-year-old kid that she’s trying to raise on $540 a month.
But she’s fighting.
And she was so excited to see the [End] Childhood Poverty bus come up that she encouraged me to keep on. Because sometimes this deal gets hard. But as we continue to go on, I’ve seen the governor come to a community where the community came around and said, “No more.” We’re going to stand, and we’re going to fight, and we’re going to figure this whole deal out.”
Then we went and met a senator that’s working with a group of ladies that held hands and talked about how we can overcome.
And so as we continue to walk through this path of created suffering—through Pomona and through our travel halfway across this state, I’ve been able to sit an hour with people on the bus and sit in hotels in the evening and just look at the glimmer of hope that we come together to try to end poverty throughout the whole state.
There is a battle ahead of us. But coming from impoverished neighborhoods, we battle every day.
And we know this ain’t nothing but a step. So we’re here today to say, “Fresno, we need you. We need you to go out and use your influence. We need you to begin to go. And those of you who’ve not registered to vote, we need you to go register. We need you guys that sit in City Hall and that sit in these lobbying seats to begin to lobby. We need our elected officials to come together and hold hands with San Diego, with L.A., with Weedpatch.
We were there this morning. And I sat there and I watched a community that had almost nothing, give us their best. They cooked breakfast burritos for us. They had chips for us, water for us, and they don’t even have their own clean drinking water. But they took part, and they took place in this fight that we’re having.
And so as we begin and continue our journey, I want to first salute you guys for coming out and taking time out your busy days to be a part of this deal. And from our Fresno Street Saints family, I love you guys. Thanks for showing up for us.
We are truly in a time and space in history, that we can right it. And so as you continue to hear the speakers that’s coming up today, I ask that you open your hearts, that you listen, because this is a message that’s coming from across the state – a universal message that we have to begin to save our children. And like all you guys, I am 1,300% with us lifting our children out of poverty.
But again, my biggest concern is our children are dying poverty. So we just ask that you listen patiently, and that you hear that there is a solution, and we want to give you that solution.
California has 450,000 children living in deep poverty. We’re also the only state with a plan to END it. Already in 2019, $3.4 billion has been put toward the End Child Poverty Plan in the 2019-2020 state budget. Investments to end child poverty will pay for themselves over time as parents and children become healthier in body, mind, and spirit, and are able to have higher lifetime earnings.
There’s more work to do. We have the research, the plan, and the momentum to end child poverty. Now we need the political and moral courage to see it through.
Join the movement: endchildpovertyca.org.