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Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West come to Cleveland

On Wednesday, Sept. 12, Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West came to Westfield Insurance Studio Theater at Playhouse Square to continue their Poverty Call to Conscience Tour 2.0.

Television and radio host Tavis Smiley has teamed up with Princeton University professor Dr. Cornel West to tour through Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The purpose of the tour is to make sure that impoverished people of all backgrounds are not forgotten in the midst of the tough economic times. They believe that ending poverty in the United States should be a more prominent and urgent concern for Americans.

On the Poverty Tour 2.0 website, Smiley talks about how the issue of poverty is not addressed by the presidential candidates. He points out that, in both the previous and current election, no debates have contained the words “poor” or “poverty.”

The two men embarked on a similar Poverty Tour in 2008, during which they visited 18 cities throughout America, with the goal of voicing the struggles of the 150 million Americans that are poor or near poor.

That number is the highest it has been in five years. They believe that ending poverty would be a huge milestone in American history, similar to the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage, and labor rights.

Case Western Reserve University freshman Kenya Coleman Tejero said, “The topic seems captivating because it is encouraging to see that there are better individuals that are willing to take on the initiative to diminish the poverty rate in our country.”

While touring, Smiley and West are also promoting their new book “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto,” which was released in April. The book is an examination of poverty and how it can be eliminated as the American middle class begins to deteriorate.

Smiley and West want Americans to build on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy and tackle the eradication of poverty by reexamining preconceptions and overcoming fears. They also present 12 poverty-changing ideas to help confront the fear of poverty. Previous to this, both men have individually authored other New York Times bestsellers.

Freshman Anjana Rao said, “Hopefully this gets enough support for their plans to put them into action. Their solution is a long-term one that will benefit the generations to come.”

Together, these men also host their own radio show called “Smiley & West” on Public Radio International. Their show had a four month pilot period before it officially became a part of the radio program.

On their show, Smiley and West discuss the latest news and interview well-known people. They have already interviewed comedian Garry Shandling, bluesman Buddy Guy, Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai , funk artist George Clinton, and playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. Smiley and West have also dissected issues such as education reform, mass incarceration, and the Great Recession with prominent theoreticians on those topics.

The show has spread to major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. “Smiley & West” has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter and more than 150,000 Facebook fans.

Freshman Annabelle Davey said, “I definitely believe that the eradication of poverty is essential to our political agenda. I do not believe it is addressed enough.”

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