‘Poverty is violence against the poor’

Bomani Williams
Mobile, Alabama 

This testimony was given at a forum of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

Greetings, my name is Bomani Williams, and I’m originally from Southern California. I’ve been living in Mobile, Alabama for the last 5 years, where I’m raising three wonderful children, with my beautiful wife Sheena.

I’m here today to talk about violence against children and families in poor communities.

First I will talk about Environmental and Climate Injustice violence. Poor Communities in Alabama, as well as across the nation, are forced to live by toxic waste storage facilities, railroads that carry this waste, and toxic waste dumps. Toxic waste is created by companies that have practices that poison us and the environment. These practices also accelerate the rate at which our climate warms. As a result, warmer climate equals more severe weather each year. Weather that compromises these toxics waste dumps and storage facilities, poisoning and displacing the poor communities they’re allowed to operate next to. This is violence.

My family lives in a community as such, a community surrounded by water contaminated by big business. A community where the city is responsible for allowing millions of gallons of sewage to overflow into local waterways. A community that is surrounded by hundreds of toxic chemical storage tanks and toxics dumps, just sitting there waiting for the next weather crisis to hit the Gulf Coast, which will release those harmful chemicals into the community and environment. My back door is about 50 yards from a railroad that transports toxic waste. I often worry about the health effects my family will have to deal with later on in life because of all this.

The second type of violence I would like to discuss is state-sanctioned violence perpetrated by the police that occupy poor communities.

Poor communities are disproportionately targeted by police.

Poor communities are more likely to experience police terrorism. I call this state-sanctioned violence because in many cases we see no accountability for police officers’ actions when they act outside the law, especially when it comes to poor communities and communities of color.

I live in a community as such: A community that has seen innocent people murdered and assaulted by police with no repercussions, as in the case of Lawrence Hawkins, Michael Moore, Chikesia Clemmons and Quinn Austin-Pugh. A community where citizens are terrified at the sight of police, where the police act more like gangs than community servants. My wife fears for the lives of me and our friends every time we walk out the door.

The most affected group in our poor communities, who also happen to be our most vulnerable and precious, the group that’s most worth protecting, are our children. Our children shouldn’t have to grow up dealing with the adverse effects of poverty or being poor.

We shouldn’t have to worry about our children being poisoned and displaced by companies and their inhumane practices. We shouldn’t have to have these “when you get pulled over” survival talks, or constantly worry that if our children come into contact with the police that they will be harmed, criminalized, or murdered for an officer’s misjudgment. We shouldn’t have to worry if our children are going to travel the school-to-prison pipeline.  We shouldn’t have to worry about our children becoming victims of violence in our communities. We shouldn’t have to worry about those things, but poor families do every day. Poverty is violence against the poor.


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