A Legacy of Combating Urban Poverty

As both a citizen and politician, Robert F. Kennedy “had a real affinity for the hurt people of the world,” according to American author and critic Gore Vidal. In cities throughout the United States, this dedication to equality manifested in a commitment to alleviating urban poverty. Guiding his work was a belief in the power of community organizing, a process that would allow members of affected communities to play a role in creating change and that would provide both resources and political influence to communities that had been excluded. Particularly in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a Brooklyn community where extreme affluence and poverty were close neighbors, Kennedy coalesced a group of politicians and leaders from the business community to implement community action plans that would address poverty in black communities.

Addressing the issue of poverty and disinvestment in urban communities, Dr. Rami Nashashibi focuses on fostering health, wellness, and healing. Dr. Nashashibi organizes for social change, cultivates the arts, and operates holistic health centers in Chicago and Atlanta. As a community leader building bridges across racial, religious, and socioeconomic divides to confront the challenges of poverty and disinvestment in urban communities, Nashashibi has successfully unified a diverse set of constituencies around a shared focus of social justice.

In this lesson plan, we explore Robert F. Kennedy’s legacy of urban economic justice through the work of Bedford-Stuyvesant Youth In Action and Dr. Rami Nashashibi, and help students begin thinking about how they can contribute to efforts to alleviate urban poverty. As teachers build a bridge between the past and the present and reflect on the work of the advocates of then and now, educators should keep one question in their students’ minds: What do we do next?

​​Bedford-Stuyvesant is a historic Brooklyn neighborhood of brownstones, cultural diversity, restoration, and renewal. The neighborhood has anchored New York City’s Black community for just shy of a century.

Dr. Rami Nashashibi is a Palestinian American sociologist and community leader. He is dedicated to building bridges across racial, religious, and socioeconomic divides to combat urban poverty and promote justice.

Because all the activities involve independent or group research that can be done online, this lesson plan fits into either virtual or in-person classrooms, with opportunities for discussion and collaboration on Zoom or with classmates.