AS movement against poverty makes headway

On Monday evening, Santa Monica College students attended a panel discussion about the movement against poverty.

Approximately 30 students joined Green Party vice president nominee Cheri Honkala, activists Niki Okuk and Daniel Lee, and Matt Sedillo, a two-time national slam poet and author of "For What I Might Do Tomorrow."

Parker Jean, Associated Students president and host of the discussion, saw this event as an opportunity to raise awareness among students and to offer them the chance to learn and to challenge the different perspectives of the guest speakers.

"I feel that poverty is a topic that's hidden and I wanted to get a discussion to open people's eyes," Jean said. "A lot of these problems are intertwined. I wanted to show the students the connection between these problems. But I also wanted them to be able to challenge the speakers and all the different viewpoints, which is what we are supposed to do at a college."

The main issue that was addressed during the discussion was the country's current state of poverty and the unproportional power and wealth of corporations.

According to Honkala, the current government sets wrong priorities for the country.

"There is no reason for poverty, hunger and homelessness in one of the wealthiest places in the world," said Honkala. "We learned to use the term human rights' violations. Everybody has the right to not only the basic necessities of life butthe right to thrive."

According to Occupy activist Okuk, poverty and injustice mainly affect low-income communities and people of color, particularly in the enforcement of foreclosure.

"This is not about people making bad decisions," she said. "It's about people being served bad products."

Lee, an activist for Move to Amend, a movement to amend the constitution, recognized a possibility for a social and political change in the limitation of corporations' influence.

"Corporates' rights have to be eliminated," Lee said. "It is not a solution, but it gives us a start to create the type of democracy and society that we actually deserve."

Honkala emphasized the importance of students' involvement in the movement against poverty.

"It is incredibly important that students are at the forefront of this fight for the next generations to come," she said. "They depend upon each and every one of us beginning to become active participants in this movement."

As stated by Honkala in an interview after the discussion, students can get involved by spreading the word, participating in occupations or representing the movement through their art.

Honkala set an example for her audience by helping people around the country to move into abandoned buildings and to defend themselves from foreclosure.

"We think it should be against the law to have empty houses when people are living on the streets," she said.

One of the examples for art expression of emotions and thoughts related to poverty was Sedillo, who performed two of his poems during the event.

"A social movement is alive when art and culture are at the center of it, particularly in such a multi-cultural college," said Honkala. "There is a way that art and culture can build bridges and connect commonalities. We are all artists and need different forms of expression. It's a way to knit a very diverse campus and a very diverse country together."

According to Honkala, students can find events and opportunities in which they can participate on