• Center for Community Change

Campaign Actions: Youth Poetry Slam Supports Funding the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund

Housing advocates in Louisville, Kentucky continue to call on Louisville Metro Council members to provide dedicated public funding to support the city’s affordable housing trust fund.  CLOUT (Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together), a local faith-based affiliate of the DART Network with thousands of members across Louisville, has been central to this on-going campaign. The Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund has only received $1.5 million in general funds since its inception in 2008.

Advocates are calling for $5 million to be moved from the General Fund this year and $10 million in annual dedicated funding to support the trust fund. In Louisville, nearly 60,000 households spend more than a third their income on housing. CLOUT collected 1,200 cards urging the mayor to invest in the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

CLOUT recently pumped up their campaign by hosting three high-school students to present their view of the housing crisis in Louisville through a poetry slam at a City Council meeting.  See the video here:  http://louisville.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=4546&meta_id=555846–the poetry slam starts at 6:45 into the video.

The Council meetings are frequently filled with advocates showing support for funding the City’s trust fund, holding signs and testifying—and they did again in support of Mackenzie Berry, Jalen Posey and Jasmine Frederick as they voiced their support for finding a dedicated source of money for the city’s affordable housing trust fund through their own powerful poetry.

Berry used striking facts in her poem emphasizing the thousands of families seeking an opportunity to move into affordable homes.  She criticized City leaders for their funding priorities: “If our city were whole, it would be able to be called home by all of its people, instead of temporary.” Posey’s poem hit hard: “The only sight I see, is politicians climbing money trees …We all know hope doesn’t pay the bills, poor people never get the mortgage deals.”  And Frederick’s poem shared a heart-breaking story of how devastating the lack of affordable housing can be.  She concluded with: “This is a true story about how unaffordable housing destroyed the life of Jamal Brown—a man with aspirations and high thinking.  Open your eyes people and you will see what is forced upon you to be unseen.”  The impact of the poetry slam was visible on the faces of City Council members … how can you ignore the voice of youth in your community.

DuPont Manual High School senior Mackenzie Berry is founder and executive director of Young Poets of Louisville, a nonprofit organization for young people ages 13-19.  Young Poets of Louisville’s vision is to develop socially active and artistic leaders with literary, public speaking, and performance skills.  The poetry slam in Louisville met every expectation of this potential.

“This is a perfect opportunity to use our skills in advocating for something that can make a huge difference in our community,” Berry said.  “As we delivered our poetry to Metro Council, it is our hope that we are the last generation of young people living in this city with a lack of access to affordable housing.”

By Mary Brooks, Senior Advisor, Center for Community Change–Housing Trust Fund Project