Repairers of the Breach: How the Conservative Movement Can Help Restore America's Inner Cities

Repairers of the Breach: How the Conservative Movement Can Help Restore America's Inner Cities
February 16, 2017 12:00 ET

A first step to have a substantial and sustainable impact in addressing poverty is to accurately diagnose the problem. While situational poverty caused by a setback such as a job loss or death of a breadwinner needs temporary assistance until families and individuals can regain their footing, the most entrenched and devastating form of poverty is rooted in something deeper than financial loss and requires a restoration of vision and values before funds or programs can make a significant difference.

The spiraling trend of family dissolution and an attendant rise in youth violence, crime, and substance abuse is rooted in the poverty programs of the 60s, which incorporated disincentives for marriage and work (the key stepping stones to self-sufficiency), detached work from income, and diminished the role of the father. The notion of "welfare rights" and legal challenges to expectations of accountability displaced a longstanding tradition of personal responsibility.

To this day, responses to poverty from both the Left and the Right are limited to the materialist mindset that emerged fifty years ago. Inner-city neighborhoods continue to decline and the poverty rates have not budged, in spite of $20 trillion expenditures for the programs of a massive, and continually growing welfare bureaucracy.

The good news is that -- unheralded and working on shoestring budgets -- community leaders throughout the nation have shown that lives can be reclaimed and communities can be revitalized through the personal outreach of men and women who live within the neighborhoods suffering the problems, are committed for the long-haul and have a firsthand knowledge of the problems they address. Through their transformative outreach, gang members have become ambassadors for peace in their neighborhoods and alcoholics and addicts who were once considered beyond hope have emerged as reliable employees, successful entrepreneurs and responsible, caring spouses and parents. If conservatives are to help restore America's inner cities, they must be willing to learn from those who have proven they can make a difference in the lives of the poor.

Join Robert L. Woodson, Sr. and Rev. Dean Nelson as they share how the conservative movement must identify, recognize, and support these agents of individual and community uplift and provide the resources, expertise and funding that can strengthen and expand their transformative work.

Robert L. Woodson, Sr. is Founder and President of the Woodson Center. Often referred to as the "godfather" of the movement to empower neighborhood-based organizations, Bob Woodson's social activism dates back to the 1960s, when as a young civil rights activist, he developed and coordinated national and local community development programs. During the 1970's he directed the National Urban League's Administration of Justice division. Later he served as a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. For more than four decades, he has promoted the principles of self-help and neighborhood empowerment and the importance of the institutions of civil society.

Dedicating his life to helping low-income people address the problems of their communities, in 1981 Woodson founded the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (known then as the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise) for the purpose of strengthening and advocating for those neighborhood-based organizations struggling to serve their communities. The Center has provided training and capacity-building technical assistance to more than 2,600 leaders of community-based groups in 39 states. He was instrumental in paving the way for resident management and ownership of public housing, and brought together task forces of grassroots groups to advise the 104th Congress on welfare reform. The youth violence reduction program he created, called the Violence-Free Zone, is effectively reducing violence in many of the nation's most troubled schools.

He has profoundly influenced the way people think about the strengths of low-income people. But more than just philosophy, he has promoted measurable results and living examples that provide proof of his principles in reclaimed lives and restored communities.

Woodson is the only person ever to have received both the liberal and conservative world's most prestigious awards -- the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation Prize, as well as the Presidential Citizens Medal. Among numerous other awards, Woodson also holds an honorary doctorate from Colorado Christian University and the University of Cincinnati.

He is the author of Youth Crime and Urban Policy, A View From the Inner City (1981), On the Road to Economic Freedom: An Agenda for Black Progress (1987), A Summons to Life, Mediating Structures and the Prevention of Youth Crime (1988), and The Triumphs of Joseph: How Today's Community Healers are Reviving Our Streets and Neighborhoods (1998, reissued in paperback in 2008). He has also appeared on major network television talk shows including: Meet the Press, Nightline, and the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Rev. Dean Nelson is the Senior Fellow of African-American Affairs at the Family Research Council. He is also the Chairman of the Board for the Frederick Douglass Foundation. He has worked for other major pro-life and Christian organizations including CareNet and Global Outreach Campus Ministries. Rev. Nelson also served as part of the Wellington Boone Ministries' senior strategic planning team, which planted ministries in capital cities like Richmond, Virginia, Atlanta, Georgia, Raleigh, North Carolina and the greater Washington, DC area.

Dean is an executive leader and organizational consultant with over twenty years of experience in ministry and over ten years in political activism on local, state and national levels. He is a sought after speaker for churches, media outlets and other organizations, giving frequent interviews on ABC and NBC affiliate networks in the Washington, DC area and has also appeared on the 700 Club, CBN News, and MSNBC. He also is a frequent guest on Christian radio programs including the Bott Radio Network and American Family Radio.

Rev. Nelson is a licensed minister from Salem Baptist Church and an ordained pastor with Wellington Boone Ministries. He is married to the love of his life, Julia Nelson, who works as a freelance writer. Dean and Julia have three godly children who they are very proud of.

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